The New John 3:16

by Nick Lotter on November 13, 2012

JudgingAs the title suggests, our culture has embraced a new John 3:16. For as long as I can remember, there has always been one verse that everybody knows, and that almost everybody can recite – even unbelievers. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But the modern era and the modern culture has embraced a new verse; one that everybody can recite – even if they don’t know where the verse appears in the Bible: “Judge not, that you be not judged.

Everybody knows that verse. It is possibly the most recited verse in the Bible these days. It is kept like a gun in a holster on a belt tied around the waist, ready to be pulled out and fired when we feel threatened.

“Why are you dressing in such revealing clothing?” … Don’t judge me!

“You know, you really shouldn’t swear…” … Judge not, that you be not judged!

“Brother, the Bible says that we should not have sex outside of marriage” … Well the Bible also tells us not to judge!

Don’t judge me is our first line of defence against correction. We don’t want to be put on the spot. We don’t want our actions to be under the spotlight. We don’t want to be wrong. Nobody wants to be wrong, so our society is blurring the line between right and wrong so that nobody can be judged as wrong.

A) Our schools no longer encourage grading a child’s performance. Gone are the days of A+ and C’s and F’s. Now it’s competent and “almost there”.

B) Parents and teachers are no longer allowed to spank or discipline their children.

C) Youth workers are no longer allowed to suggest certain lifestyles and behaviours are unacceptable.

The culture today demands that there be no objective standards by which things should be judged. Moral standards are being questioned. Taboos are openly practiced and are no longer shocking. Right and wrong has given way to relativity, so that now it’s said that what is wrong in your eyes is not wrong in my eyes. What’s true for me may not be true for you. There is a fear of judging. Nobody has the right to call anything evil or wrong, and if you do, you are branded with that most horrible title: YOU ARE INTOLERANT!

A classic example of this is the latest debacle over Lady Gaga’s planned tour of South Africa. Christians and churches, unhappy about the country hosting an artist who clearly has satanic influences as well as satanic and Illuminati symbolism in her music, have taken to Social Media sites like Facebook to petition against the tour and gather enough support to have the tour cancelled. In response, the secular population (even some who call themselves Christian) have reacted angrily. Facebook pages and groups created to gather support against the tour have been stormed by angry Lady Gaga fans belting out criticism against the Christians. Their main complaint? The Christians are judging and being intolerant! If you want to see secular unbelievers quote Scripture, just visit one of those groups. You will see them quoting “Judge not, that you be not judged” all over the place.

This modern attitude has crept into the church as well. For the sake of unity, nobody is allowed to have an opinion. If you dare to challenge popular thought or church customs, you may be accused of causing division. We must be tolerant of each other’s beliefs and never bring anything into question. We must be tolerant of everybody’s lifestyle choices and never criticize. We must never discuss theology and doctrine, because that may lead to calling somebody’s views wrong, and that would be judging! I mean, who are we Christians, that we dare to determine what is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is lies!? [Read: sarcasm]

The result is that nobody points out error anymore; nobody corrects a brother or sister who has fallen into any sort of sin, because we are afraid that if we do, we will be told we are judging, judgmental or intolerant. And yet how ironic is it, that for somebody to tell us we are judging and are judgmental, they first need to judge our behaviour themselves in order to make that judgement? If you accuse me of judging, you are judging me!

But we are not supposed to judge. Well I am going to say something now that most people in our culture would probably disagree with. We have a problem – the world is sliding into anarchy and immorality, and the problem is not that there is too much judging, it is that there is too little judging.

Let me clarify: There is too little of the right kind of judging.

You see, there is a right way to judge and a wrong way to judge. We have to understand exactly what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:1, because if Jesus is saying that we should never judge anything at all, then that would be in direct contradiction with the rest of Matthew 7. Let’s look at this Scripture now:

Matthew 7:1-6  “Judge not, that you be not judged. (2) For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (3) 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? (4) 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? (5) 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. (6) “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

In verse 6, Jesus says “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs”. Now how are you supposed to follow that advice without making some sort of negative judgement?

 Also in the same chapter, Jesus tells us “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”. He goes on to tell us how to tell who the false prophets are. Again, for us to follow Jesus’ advice, some judgement has to occur!

But nowadays, whenever we call somebody out as a false prophet, even other Christians tell us we are judging. Ask me, I should know! One day this year, I made a post on Facebook calling Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer out as false teachers who should be avoided, and I was attacked from all sides. And yes, I was accused of judging and being judgmental. And that was from Christians.

Tell me, if we are never supposed to judge anything at all, then why on earth did God give us the spiritual gift of discernment? The gift of discernment is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to Believers to help us distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, truth from lies. It helps us to make good judgments in order to protect the church, yet society today has rendered this gift completely useless and we are even rebuked if we dare to use it.

If Jesus was saying that we never judge anything at all, then the Apostle Paul would have been contradicting Jesus, because Paul taught that there are occasions which call for good Christian judgement. Paul writes to the church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 5:11-12“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

What Paul is talking about is accountability. He is saying that Christians should be accountable to each other, so that we keep each other honest and not allow each other to fall into sin. When our Christian brother sins, we should warn him. When he won’t listen to the warning and continues in sin, Paul says we should not associate ourselves with him. Why not? Well, if we continue to associate with somebody who is in continuous sin and is unrepentant, are we not appearing at face value to condone his sin? If it appears that we are OK with that sin, then the whole church looks as immoral as that sinner. So Paul tells us to judge each other in this way, to be accountable to each other.

I submit to you that we are being hypocritical about the whole issue. I mean, if we are never supposed to judge, then there should be no such thing as grading of students exams. There should be no jury in court. There should be no prisoners – how can we judge people for their chosen criminal lifestyle? No dictators should be brought to account. Osama Bin Laden should not have been tracked down and killed. There should never be any reason for apologies or forgiveness, because that would imply that a judgment has occurred which calls a certain behaviour bad and unacceptable. Parents should just go into retirement and allow their kids to run wild.

As parents, we have to make judgments every single day. We judge our children’s actions, attitudes and words every single day. That is how we discipline them when they are wrong, encourage them when they are right, and teach them how to live a good Christian life!

I think that by now we should recognize that it is wrong to make “Do not judge” a blanket statement and to say that it applies to all kinds of judgment in every situation. There has to be circumstances and parameters within which we have to make judgments, or else we become spineless people who tolerate everything and oppose nothing. Clearly we must make judgments. But there is a wrong way and a right way to judge. Let’s look at what Jesus is teaching us.

What Did Jesus Mean by “Judge Not”?

Now firstly, the Greek word used for “judge” in Matthew 7:1 is KRINO, which means “to act as a judge”. It specifically means “to announce a verdict” and “hand down a sentence”.

What Jesus is warning us against is the sin of condemning somebody, or pronouncing judgement in a final sense. It is a warning against placing yourself on the judgement seat of God, and declaring somebody to be condemned. We have no right to condemn anybody or call them condemned, or to attack their character or person.

We often do this when we criticize the behaviour of a person, and then also criticize and condemn the person too. It is this kind of judging that we are not to do.

The key is love.

When Jesus was asked what the two most important commandments are, He said “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). Your number one motivation and guiding rule must always be love.

Those with the judgmental attitude that Jesus is warning against, fail to show love. Love is patient, but a judgmental spirit is impatient. Love is kind, but a judgmental spirit is unkind. Love is never rude, but a judgmental spirit is always rude. Love is not easily angered, but a judgmental spirit is easily angered. Love protects, trusts and hopes, but a judgmental spirit attacks, never trusts and hopes for the worst. It is this kind of judgmental spirit that we are not to have.

Jesus Warns Us To Be Careful How We Judge

In this passage in Matthew 7, Jesus lays down some warnings that tell us to be careful how we judge. First of all, Jesus says:

Matthew 7:1-2 “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.”

If you condemn others, then you will be condemned. God will judge you with the same severity that you judge others. This is a warning that people who are quick to condemn others will be judged according their own standards. If you are quick to condemn others for greed, then God will put on display all the greed in your life. If you are quick to condemn others for sexual immorality, then God will put on display all the sexual sin in your life. But if you are slow to condemn and quick to forgive, then God will deal with you in the same way.

Jesus says this more explicitly in the next 3 verses when He says:

Matthew 7:3-5 “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.”

This makes Jesus’ warning against judging even clearer.

Jesus is warning us against HYPOCRITICAL judging.

If you have a log in your eye, will you be able to see? No, of course not. If you cannot see clearly, then you will not be in a position to guide anybody else. It will be a case of the blind leading the blind. And when the blind leads the blind, both fall into the pit. If you are not able to see clearly, then you are not in a position to make good judgments. If you are blind to your own faults, then you cannot be a good judge of others’ faults. This is what Jesus means by using the example of having a log in your eye.

The best way I can explain this is to say that we should never be judging others without first judging ourselves. In this way, we can never think ourselves to be higher or better than another Christian who is also struggling with sin in their lives. When we recognize the sin in our own lives, then we will be more careful and mild in our judgement of others. In this way, when we have to warn a Christian brother or sister of a certain sin in their lives, we are not doing so as one who is higher or better than the other, but as equals – as fellow sinners, and doing so with love as our main motivator.

You will remember the incident when a woman was brought to Jesus one day and accused of being an adulterer. The Pharisees wanted to stone her, but Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Before we are quick to condemn somebody else, let us always remember that we are ALL sinners; there is nobody better than another. We are all equal. Let us not be hypocritical. Let us first deal with the sin in our own lives before trying to deal with the sin in somebody else’s life.

Jesus said 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. First deal with the sin in your life, and then you will be in a good position to help another Believer who is struggling with the same sin.

Before you point out to somebody that the clothes she is wearing are too revealing, first make sure you are not wearing revealing clothing yourself. If you see fault with her wearing clothes that are too revealing, then you should definitely have a problem with wearing them yourself. Before you point out to somebody that his language is shocking, first remember that incident this morning when you swore at the taxi driver who cut you off. First take care of the sin in your own life, and then you will be able to see clearly, to point out the same sin in your brother’s life.

You see, Jesus is not restricting us completely from pointing out the sin in other people’s lives. He is telling us to be careful how we do it and to not be hypocritical about it. Jesus taught and Paul taught, that once you are able to recognize your own sinfulness and your own need for forgiveness and humble yourself, only then can you be in a position to talk to somebody who is in the same state. Because then your dealing with them will be in love and in understanding, rather than from the position of a throne or judgement seat.

And we are to do that – we are to keep each other accountable. This is how the church is kept pure. If we go about it the right way, and we are able to sit down quietly with one another and have a discussion about our walk with God and the sin in our lives, then we are loving each other, encouraging each other and keeping each other on the right track.

I believe that the twisting of Scripture and taking this verse Matthew 7:1 out of context to mean that nobody should ever judge another person in any way, is a trick of Satan to get people to leave each other alone and let struggling sinners fall into the pit of deception, rather than to be encouraged by others and kept on the right track.

Satan doesn’t want us to keep each other accountable. He doesn’t want us to be encouraging each other this way, or warning each other of danger. He doesn’t want us to be working together as a team, because he knows that when we do and we are accountable to each other, then we are stronger and are walking in righteousness. We are much more threatening to Satan when we do this.

On 4 occasions in the New Testament, the apostle Paul encourages us to correct each other and accept correction from each each other.

Acts 20:29-31 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (31) Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

1 Corinthians 4:14  I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, (13) and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (14) And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. (15) Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Wow… Paul would have been accused of judging and branded an intolerant fool if he had said these words today! But he was right, a loving brother admonishes or rebukes a brother when he falls into error. He warns his brother when he is in danger.

If you see your friend walking in traffic, listening to music on his Ipod, unaware of his surroundings, and a car is coming straight at him at 120km/h, are you going to shout and try and warn him of the potential life threatening danger, or are you going to stay quiet because you don’t want to judge him for listening to music in traffic?

Every one of us would be running to him screaming our lungs out. Why? Because we love him!

We would even be prepared to run and tackle him to the tarr and risk hurting him in order to save his life. Maybe even at the risk of losing the friendship when he realises you broke his Ipod in the tackle! But it would be worth the risk to save his life.

We may run the risk of hurting a loved one when we try to talk to them about some sin or error in his or her life. We may even run the risk of losing the friendship. But why are we prepared to risk all that to save a friend’s physical body, but not prepared to risk those things to try and save his eternal soul? Should it not be more important to warn a friend or a brother about something in his life which is not just a threat to his body, but a threat to his eternal soul?

Let us love each other enough to care. Let us rather learn to encourage each other, to be accountable to each other, to be humble, to accept correction gladly from each other.

Proverbs 27:17  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

By having close and honest fellowship with one another and being accountable to one another, we will inevitably grow stronger in our faith and in righteousness.

Jesus warned us against judging others hypocritically, in a harsh manner and in condemnation of others. We will be judged according to the same standards by which we judge others. However, there is a Biblical precedent for judging righteously and within the parameters of Scripture. There is a difference between making a judgment, and passing judgement on a person. We have been given the spiritual gift of discernment so that we may be able to judge right from wrong, good from evil, truth from lies. We find in Scripture instructions that there ought to be discipline in the churches and accountability between Christian brothers and sisters in order to keep the church pure and guard against false gospels. The apostle Paul set the example, calling out false teachers by name (1 Timothy 1:18-20; Galatians 2:11-14) and admonishing or rebuking erring Christians (Acts 20:29-31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Paul did this to keep them accountable and to keep falsehood out of the church. If he had let  things slide, things would have very quickly got out of hand. We are to do the same thing today, admonishing each other, warning each other and gladly and humbly accepting correction. We are to do this within the parameters of Scripture, like Paul, with love and tears.

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