The Ferndale Fortitude (Vol. 2 No. 3, May 17, 2022)
Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” (Matthew 7:1). Maybe you’ve heard a friend or family member quote these words. Maybe you’ve said them yourself. They’re often used to get Christians off our backs. We’re sinning and a Christian brother identifies our as such and then offers correction from God’s Word (1 Timothy 3:16-17), but because he went to Scripture as an authority over our lives, we pull out Christ’s words like a shield, deflecting any accusation of sin back to the killjoy who dared speak from a place of objective truth. “Who do you think you are, hypocrite?!”
This sin shield lets us continue in our error and, if used well enough, not only will it silence the Christian, but it might get him to join us in our heart-hardening happiness, at least that’s the subconscious hope, isn’t it? (1 Peter 4:40).
Jesus’ words shut down the conversation simply because He says them, and even in our godless age we still recognize that it’s always good to listen to what Jesus says.
But we must actually listen to what He says—all of what He says.
Matthew 7:1 isn’t a stand-alone statement. Jesus didn’t dish out disjointed truths on individual pieces of paper stuffed into cookies to delight His disciples when they had finished their Kung Pao Chicken. No, Matthew 7:1 is followed by four more verses about judgment as well as a conclusion statement, not to mention that its part of God’s 66-book library (the Bible) that clearly, repeatedly, and emphatically instructs God’s people to use His Word to judge their neighbor’s behavior for their neighbor’s wellbeing. Christ’s opening line catches our attention and then He explains:
“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:2-5 (emphasis mine).
Jesus is teaching us not to judge our neighbor from a place of hypocritical self-righteousness, but in humility, as a fellow sinner, seeing our own sins as far worse than someone else’s. In other words, we’re to be like St. Paul who said, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost,” (1 Timothy 1:15). St. Paul acknowledged the log he needed to take out of his own eye, and he did. The act is called repentance. And because he was repentant, he was able to judge the sins of others. The New Testament is full of examples of the repentant apostle removing specks from the eyes of his neighbors!
Jesus didn’t tell us not to judge our neighbors’ sins, but to judge them according to the same objective Word of God by which we judge ourselves. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31). We’re all in need of Christ’s crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins.
Christians don’t cherry-pick Jesus’ words but listen to all of His teachings. This is how the apostles were able to tell us that, “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Tim. 3:16). These things involve the act of exercising judgment.
Christ said to His disciples, “Pay attention to yourselves!”—the Church. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,” (Luke 17:3). Contrary to the popular misuse of Matthew 7:1, Jesus literally instructs repentant Christians to judge one another. It’s a loving thing to do. Christians, if they are truly Christians, receive correction from Scripture with thanksgiving to God. Do you?
If you would like to find out more about judgment, repentance, and the orthodox understanding of Scriptural doctrine, I can be reached via the contact page.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Tyrel Bramwell
2 Corinthians 12:10