We interrupt this series on "Great Explorers" (I will be writing on Amelia Earhart, Ibn Battuta, and Sir Edmund Hilary soon), to talk about something that's been bugging me for some time now. It's about the most abused verse in the Bible. Most of our culture knows something about John 3:16 (we see it at sporting events often), and we're somewhat familiar about Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd"), but there is one verse that is constantly thrown in the face of any and every professing Christian the moment they say something is sin.
It's Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, lest ye be judged (KJV)." If I say that any kind of behavior is wrong, immoral, sinful, twisted, whatever. . . I immediately get this verse thrown at me (usually by people who don't read the Bible). And often, I hear, the mere mention of this passage freezes many Christians in the tracks. . .paralyzing them from any further commentary about current social or political ills.
So, when Jesus said, "Judge not. . ." is that all He said? Did He absolutely prohibit all of us from EVER judging anything? (I hope not. . .we do have judges in this country hopefully judging things well in order to keep the law and peace. I would hope that God is in favor of that, at least.)
It helps if we look at the next few verses, and compare them with other things Jesus said. Look ahead at Matthew 7:2-5: "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank inyour own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from our eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypcrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Did you catch the last part of v5? Jesus does indeed want us to remove the speck from our brother's eye, doesn't He? (That would be judging, I think, in a good way.) But first, He says remove the log in your own eye. Don't hypocritically judge. If you are committing the same crime, first confess and get rid of that issue in your own life.
Does Jesus ever tell His people to judge? He sure does. John 7:24: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." Judge with righteous judgment. God does indeed tell His people to judge, to show discernment, to point out righteousness and sin. To speak the truth in love. To do it without hypocrisy and according to His revealed righteous standards. Tall order. But He says to do it.