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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Best Known Verse in All the Bible

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 ESV

Matthew 7:1 may be the best-known verse in all the Bible. On any given day, in any number of different conversations, you will encounter people who haven’t opened a Bible in years quote its basic message: “Do not Judge.” Christians will usually, in turn, respond with “You’re taking that statement out of context,” or “that is not what that means.” But are they always?

Certainly, the context of Jesus’ command is much more nuanced than the blanket application used by those who simply throw it out to stop any sort of correction. Jesus Himself goes on in the passages that immediately follow to suggest that when you have dealt honestly with your own sin, you can then see clearly to deal with someone else’s (7:5) and that one can know the authenticity of others by the fruit they produce (7:16). Neither of those is even remotely possible if we are not exercising judgment between what is right and wrong. Add to these passages Jesus’ calls to us to confront those who have wronged us (Matt 18:15-20); Paul’s guidance regarding how to treat one who refuses to repent of sin (1 Cor 5:5); and John’s advice to evaluate the source of received words in order to evaluate their authenticity and you have clear biblical commands instructing us to identify and speak when sin is present. Indeed, the very nature of the Good News (Gospel) is first dependent upon the realization of the bad news of our lostness (Romans 1-3).

But I also believe that Christians, perhaps more often than not, find ourselves on the wrong side of the matter of judgment when we are interacting with people. Why? Because we ignore the heart of where Jesus is going with His command in Matthew 7:1.

Jesus has just expressed what authentic discipleship looks like in terms of our own personal relationship to God – give, pray, fast, and live with thoughts solely on our relationship to the Father (Matt 6). Now He begins to express what discipleship looks like when practically lived out in a world full of darkness, culminating with “The Golden Rule” in Matt 7:12. His instructions in Matt 7:1-12 can be characterized as call to avoid judgmentalism, avoid hypocrisy, remember that apart from redemption people won’t hear what you are saying properly and so practice wisdom in what you say and when/where you say it, and remember that all you have is the result God’s gracious gift. In other words, treat others as you would have them treat you, remembering that the only good in any of us is present because of God’s grace.

And that is where I think we as believers too often miss the mark. The goal of every judgment rendered in the instructions from Paul, John, and Jesus is redemption and restoration. Too often our motivations are merely condemnation or an attempt to communicate our own holiness (often our judgment involves things that we have attached to Scripture, rather than the Scripture itself). In truth, although we are not as blatant in our self-appreciation as he is recorded as being, we are more like the Pharisee of Luke 18:9-14 in our attitude than we care to admit.

But we can’t just remain totally silent. We are called to speak the truth in love and to shine light into the darkness. So, what can we do to help avoid the type of judging Jesus prohibited while still addressing sin? We can:

- Evaluate our mentality: it all starts with the recognition that apart from God’s grace, we are all sinners. Grace then should guide our words.

- Evaluate our motive: Are we seeking to restore and redeem, or simply make certain everyone “knows the truth?” “Truth without love is brutality!” (Wiersbe)

- Evaluate our message: Are we communicating truths that are clearly outlined in Scripture or are we more about our own way of doing things?

- Evaluate our method: Are we speaking to someone the way we would want to be spoken to?

It is not love to ignore sin, but neither is it love to point out sin without mentioning the possibility of forgiveness. And we can only mention the possibility of another’s forgiveness properly when we do it with a spirit that acknowledges the high cost that was paid for our own forgiveness by God.

God’s grace is not just transformative of our past mistakes; it is transformative of our present interactions.


Anonymous said...

BOOM! Well written Tim. -petro

Randy said...

Good to see you blogging again. I always look forward to hear what you have to say. Take care......randy