Here Come Da Judge

The oft quoted and ever misinterpreted Matthew 7:1, the infamous “judge not” passage is arguably the most recognizable passage in the Bible save John 3:16.  I can understand why non-Christians are ignorant of the passage’s meaning since I do not expect them to read the Bible in a meaningful way.  But the passage as a whole is really is not difficult to understand when you continue reading.  The verse is used to “remind” someone who is passing a moral judgement on another, that they ought not be offering judgements on moral issues.  However, when read in context the passage is an admonition of hypocritical judgement of others, rather than a normative command to withhold making moral judgements all together.  For example, if I am an adulterer, before I can rightfully rebuke you for your adultery, I should address my own.  So, non-Christians get a pass the first time they mis-apply the verse, and integrity should dictate they never do it again.

But what about Christians who (ab)use this passage?  They should know better.  There are professed Christians who deploy Matthew 7:1 on a fairly regular basis.  This is the last refuge of the professing Christian who seeks to be sheltered from their sins being addressed and rebuked.  It can be any sin in particular; anything from adultery, lust, homosexual relationships, etc.  I am not singling out anything specifically since the tactic is not sin-specific.

The first stage of deflection is to claim the Bible is silent on the particular behavior as being a sin.  There will be any number of ways their situation is different and does not qualify as what is being addressed.  Inevitably there will be passages which in clear terms describe their behavior as sin. The next step is to linguistically attempt to figure out a way to understand the passage which proclaims their behavior as sin, to mean the opposite of what it actually says*.  With a little investigation and a cursory reading of the surrounding context, there is usually little room afforded to the one seeking to escape judgement.  The final arrow in the quiver is Matthew 7:1, “judge not”.  “Jesus said not to judge!”  As noted above, that is not Jesus’ message.  But is the concept of not judging found in the Bible?  Do we see a pattern of the prophets and apostles admonishing others who make moral judgements on their fellow-believers?

Unfortunately the professing Christian has no refuge in not being judged.  In fact, 1 Corinthians 5 is entirely dedicated to recognizing, exposing, and condemning professing believer’s sin.  See also: 1 Corinthians 15:34.  In fact, the Old and New Testaments are thick with believers judging each other’s sinfulness.  Just a few examples:

  • Samuel judges Saul: 1 Samuel 13:13Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. 
  • Nathan judges David: 2 Samuel 12:9Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight?
  • Elijah judges Ahab: 1 Kings 18:18 — He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. 1 Kings 21:20Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD
  • Ezra judges the people: Ezra 10:10Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.
  • One thief on the cross judges the other: Luke 23:41 — And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds
  • We are to judge other believers: 1 Timothy 5:20 — Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

Unfortunately for the professing Christian, you cannot make an appeal to the Bible to not be judged by others for a persistent sin in which you are engaged.  Not to mention you are to be setting a moral example to non-Christians.  Attempting to manipulate the Bible to coddle your sin is not missed by the world, and is held up as reason to discredit Christianity.  It is the responsibility of fellow Christians to confront you about the issue.  Likewise, it is the responsibility of the elders and pastor of your church to do it: Titus 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:2.  So I urge any professing Christian who has attempted to end a debate with another Christian by playing the “judge not” card–to reconsider, and make a firm decision to whom your allegiance lies; God, or your own pleasures.  The issue is the behavior, not the person recognizing, exposing, and condemning it.

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* This is common among Christian Cults such as the LDS church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the area of theology.  For example, both LDS and JW affirm a degree of works based salvation (salvation must somehow be at least partially earned by the individual by doing good things).  However, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 4:1-5 declare in explicit language, salvation is not earned by performing good deeds, but is rather the result of faith alone.

Comments

  1. rautakyy says:

    Why is this particular interpretation of the bible important to you John Barron jr? Is it only covinient to give you the right to be judgemental about others?

    This question is in the heart of the values christianity represents as a religion. Is it a religion of moral spies and judgement, or is it a religion of forgivenes?

    If your interpretation is true, then christianity truly seems to be, as many atheists would describe it, a religion for the bigots. I would say this only proves that the bible is so much a subject to interpretations, that it should not be used as a basis for morals. Any kind of moral can be based on it.

    • No, actually it shows Christians are to be held to a higher standard, and if they are to claim it for themselves they are not immune from examination of their professions.

      The only way to reasonably understand the passage as other than hypocritical judgement is to ignore the entire passage in context. Are you suggesting there is a better understanding?

      This is an “in house” discussion either way. I find it humorous that you would somehow find an objection to me suggesting Christians hold themselves to a higher moral standard, and that Christians should not be hypocrites.

      • rautakyy says:

        It is nice to read you find my comments amusing. When one tries to make a point in such short phrases, things easily come out rather blunt.

        I have allways had a high regard of the liberal and forgiving mindset of most christians I personally know. However, there are also a lot of christians that use their religion as a base to attack the faith or lifestyle of other people even other christians with different interpretations of their religion.

        It may be an “in house” discussion. I only try to give you an outside wiev of it. On the other hand, if you christians are expecting the western society to bend to the rules of your particular supertition, then it becomes conversation for us all, to know what are your morals based on. It seems however, that you are not at all such a homogenous block you would believe or have us others believe.

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