Today’s post promises to be interesting, to say the least, as we tackle one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented passages in all of Scripture: Matthew 7:1-6.
One of the hallmarks of postmodern thinking is the theory of relativity. No, not the one Albert Einstein developed. Rather, this theory of relativity suggests that because there are no universal authorities on truth and morality, no one has a right to judge another for the choices he or she makes. In denying the traditional arbiters of authority that power (the church, parents, schools, government), our society says that ethics, morality and truth is simply “what I say it is.”
That theory falls apart very quickly, not just biblically, but practically. No one who is a victim of violent crime practically believes in practical moral relativity. They want justice. You stole my car? I press charges for theft. You assault me? I press charges for assault. You murder my family member? I argue for the death penalty. But in arguing for the punishment of this offense, I have deemed the actions of another wrong, so wrong, in fact, that they merit punishment.
Unfortunately, this theory has crept into the church through the misunderstanding of what Matt. 7:1 says, and has led to some Christians thinking that all judging is wrong, and that there is no place for church discipline or a personal rebuke. This leads to an affirmation of sin by silence–Though I may see my brother or sister in sinful action, I “can’t judge them because Jesus said so,” so I have to let them continue on their destructive path.
Brothers and sisters, the Bible is clear: God never affirms sin. He never lets sin go unpunished. That may strike us as odd, because we know and rejoice that as Christians, we’re forgiven of our sins. But how are we forgiven? By trusting that Christ endured God’s judgment in our place! We have not been saved by God lowering His holy standards–we’ve been saved because Jesus lived perfectly for us and took our rightful place on the cross. Judgment has been carried out, but praise God that for those who trust in Christ, that judgment was satisfied at Calvary.
Because Jesus has died for our sin and called us to follow Him, we cannot tolerate our sin, and because we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot tolerate sin in their lives. But we can, and are indeed commanded, to judge each other rightly, with humility and grace. Praise God that He has told us how to do this in His Word:
“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. 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. 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.”
Here’s what Jesus is NOT saying: Don’t judge. Jesus never says, at least not the way 2015 America interprets it, to not judge others. When we examine what Jesus says in context, it’s clear that Jesus is warning those who would judge out of pride and hatred of their coming judgment, telling them that the way they judge others will be the way God judges them.
Jesus is telling His audience, which includes self-righteous Pharisees, to not judge in a way in which they themselves would not want to be judged. Essentially, He’s adapting the Golden Rule to the way we are to judge one another: Judge others the way you would want to be judged.
I’d be willing to bet that 100% of people would rather receive constructive, helpful, humble criticism than a scathing, unkind, angry review. Would you rather be yelled at and told that you’re worthless, not as good as the one criticizing you, hopeless…or would you rather someone tell you the truth, but in a way that is helpful, edifying and constructive, though at the time it might be painful? You’d probably choose the latter, right?
When Jesus calls sinners out, He makes it abundantly clear that sin offends God, and all who sin deserve hell. There is no playing around with the wrath and judgment of God. However, here’s the beautiful truth about Jesus: As He calls us out in our sin, and destroys any sense of pride and self-righteousness before God, He invites us to turn from our sin, trust in Him to be our Lord and surrender to Him, and receive His forgiveness and His righteousness.
And as He calls us to go and tell others of the coming judgment and warn them of their need for repentance and faith, He would remind us that it is only by grace that we know Him and have salvation. He would have us practice repentance and faith, before going to call others to it, so as to avoid hypocrisy and pride.
Before we go and confront a brother or sister in sin, we are commanded to examine our lives. Is there sin I need to confess to God? Is there something I’m struggling with that I need to take to Jesus and ask for His help and grace with?
When we get real with God about our own sin, and trust Him in repentance to help us follow Him, and receive the good news of the gospel, we are driven to others to share Jesus with them, helping them to see both their sin and the glorious Savior. But if we don’t reveal sin, Jesus doesn’t look glorious. If the bad news isn’t bad, the good news isn’t good. If sin isn’t a big deal, then Jesus’ death means nothing and there is no reason to worship Him. But if the Bible is true, and Jesus is able to save sinners, then godly judging between brothers and sisters in Christ is a gift from God that allows us to help each other pursue Christlikeness even as we rejoice in the gospel.
The goal of godly judging is not score-keeping. The goal, as Jesus makes clear in this passage, is not to make myself feel better than my brother or sister. The goal, for all believers, for those who give and for those who receive loving rebukes and admonishment, is holiness, to the glory of God. The goal is to be who we are in Christ.
Lastly, Jesus says something that is not easily understood at the end of this passage (Or maybe it’s just me). But, in verse six, Jesus says: “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.”
The sad truth regarding Christian discipline is this: Some will not accept it. Some will not receive godly judging, and by so doing prove themselves (if it continues throughout the remainder of their life) to be lost, unsaved, with no part in Christ. True Christians endure persecution, suffering, and the discipline that is often hard to take. No one likes being told that they’re wrong. While I’m grateful for the gift of repentance, it’s not fun. Admitting our faults and asking for help never is fun. But it is worth it, and it is commanded.
While we pray for those who reject discipline, who reject the gospel, Jesus makes it clear in verse six that we are not to continue “throwing pearls,” that is, the Word of God, the truth of Jesus, to those who refuse to receive it. Sometimes, we have to move on, as painful as it is, to those who will receive the truth of Jesus. Jesus told His disciples to do this: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”
I remember being on a mission trip where our ministry was to go to people’s homes and offer to teach the Bible to them. Unfortunately, not everyone jumped for joy when they heard why we were there. Not all of the people received us. Jesus’ command encourages us that while we hurt and are burdened by those who rejected us, we can move on and share the Word with those who will receive it.
So, in conclusion, let’s judge each other. But let’s do it with humility, with grace, with a life that both practices and preaches repentance and faith. Let’s help each other be more like Jesus.
Lord, may we be like you and judge each other rightly. May we not downplay the seriousness of sin nor the glorious work of the cross. May we love each other enough to hold each other accountable, so we can be more like you. May right, godly judging be used in your church to make her more like you.