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TEXT: Matthew 7:1-5
SUBJECT: Church Discipline #8: Are We Judging?
Today we move on in the study we began a couple or three months ago on Training in Godliness, and, in particular, the church's role in helping its members on our way to heaven. Most of this help is enjoyable, both to give and receive, but some of it isn't. At times, we have to correct each other, and-putting myself first on the list-nobody likes that. Like it or not, though, we all need to be corrected now and then. Sometimes God does it all by Himself and sometimes He does it through other people, and not least the church. This is what we've been working on for several weeks, and we'll continue today and for another week or two, I believe.
When you correct other people, the first thing you're likely to hear from some of them is-Stop judging me or some variation on it. What the Seven Deadly Sins were to the Medieval Church, Judging has become to us all rolled into one. We work with Christians who are proud, envious, angry, lustful, lazy, gluttonous, and greedy; but judgmental? We cannot put up with that!
Of course we don't want to be judgmental, but to not be that way, we've got to know what it is. Does any and every judgment you make make you judgmental? Is this what our Lord means when He tells us to Judge not?
Last week, we looked at the topic of 'judgment'. Now, we'll take a close look at the verses most often quoted against it.
First we have the command, v.1a-
The grammar is worth thinking about for just a moment. The words are in the second person, plural number, present tense, active voice, and imperative mood. In plain English, this means-
I command all of you to quit judging.
The One issuing the command is our Lord Jesus Christ, and whether He cares if unbelievers judge each other or not, He doesn't say. What He says for sure, though, is this: My disciples must stop judging each other.
What does it mean to judge each other? The basic meaning of the word is to form an opinion. At first glance, then, it seems the Lord does not want us to form any opinion of any kind on each other.
Is this really what He means? Or is the word colored by its context, the general teaching of the Bible, and common sense? Of course He doesn't mean it in an absolute sense; if He did, the rest of the Bible would become nonsense!
To form no opinion on anybody would mean the atheist would be as welcome into the church as the Christian or that the heretic would be as free to preach as the man who preaches Christ.
No one really believes this; the most inclusive person in the world excludes some people from some things. Laymen from performing open heart surgery, for example! Or clumsy, careless people from plutonium recovery! Or nudists from coming to church with no clothes on!
What, then, does it mean, to judge not?
Let's answer that by asking two other questions: 'Where is this teaching in the Bible?' It's in the Sermon on the Mount. What's the whole Sermon about?
Positively, it is about living in the Kingdom of God. The disciples of Christ are not going to live pretty much like everyone else; they're going to be radically different from both the pagans and the Israelites. They're not going to be cleaned-up versions of their former selves; they're going to be new creatures in Christ.
This bright picture of Kingdom life is set against the dark background of another kind of life. It would be comforting to say the Lord doesn't want His people to live like pagans, but what He wants, in fact, is for us to not live like. Pharisees, Matthew 5:20-
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
This makes me think that the kind of judging our Lord forbids is the kind of judging the Pharisees practiced. That can be summed up pretty well in two words, harsh and hypocritical. The Pharisees condemned everyone outside their own circle, but the One they most judged was our Lord Jesus. If you've read the Gospels, you know how hasty and mean their judgment on Him was. When He healed a man on the Sabbath, rather than praising God for this good work, or sincerely asking Him how He could square this work with the command to rest that day, they attacked Him as a Sabbath breaker! They were vicious in the judgment. Remember how heavy handed they were with publicans and sinners and even people who didn't wash their hands the way they told them to! Harsh.
These rash and hateful men were also phony! They lambasted every sin but their own. If an Israelite forgot to tithe the spices in his garden, they were all over him, while at the same time, they forgot 'little things' like faith, justice, and mercy. They jumped on people who accidentally stepped on a grave while they themselves were swindling old ladies out of the money their late husbands left them. The judgment they passed was hypocritical. These are the very things our Lord warns against in vv.2-5.
In summary: Is our Lord forbidding any and every judgment? Or is it only the judgment the Pharisees were so prone to passing? It seems clear to me He was telling us to not judge as they do-harshly and hypocritically.
If it doesn't mean that, you've got to explain John 7:24-
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with a righteous judgment.
THE FIRST MOTIVE
Why shouldn't we judge others the way the Pharisees do? What's so wrong with snap judgments and severe condemnations? Many things are wrong with them, two of which our Lord names.
First, what goes around comes around, vv.1-2-
Judge not that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
We should judge others as charitably as we would be judged. If you're in the wrong, would you rather be pulled aside privately and talked to gently, or reamed out in public? I'd rather be talked to than roasted alive. If that's what I want others to do to me, it's what I must do to others. The wheels of judgment have a way of rolling back on the people who push them hardest.
This is a very strong incentive for not being too hard on others, but there's more to it. When I pass a hasty and mean judgment on others, I not only run the risk of them returning the favor, but the Lord doing it too! Matthew 18:21-35 is the scariest passage in the Bible. It's a parable of a man who wants to be forgiven a very great debt, but won't forgive his friend a small one. What happens?
So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
What do you want from the Lord-justice or mercy? An easy judgment or a hard one? If, like me, you need mercy for yourself, give it to others. Otherwise, you will not have it, you cannot have it.
THE SECOND MOTIVE
A second motive for not judging with pride is this: pride disqualifies you from passing judgment on others since it's far worse than the sin you're judging in them. The Lord compares the sins the Pharisees judged to specks in the eye. It ought to be taken out, but the Pharisees weren't the men to do it because they had planks in their own eyes. If they really want to help others to repent of their sins, they ought to repent of their own first.
This doesn't mean you have to be perfect to call people on their sins, but it does mean, you have to be even harder on your own.
At times, the church is required to call a straying sheep back to our Shepherd. Most of us would rather not do this; it's hard and embarrassing, and it makes us feel like Pharisees. But do it we must-because our Lord tells us to, and because our friend's soul is in grave danger.
But in doing passing this kind of judgment on our brother or sister, let us be sure it is the Lord's judgment we're passing on him or her and not the Pharisee's.
This means we cannot be hasty; it means we cannot be harsh; most of all, it means we cannot be arrogant as though we're not as prone to sin as anyone else.
Let us, therefore, humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that we can train ourselves and each other in godliness.
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