I read an article a short time ago that I agreed with, but it stopped short of the truth. On the website www.gotquestions.org/do-not-judge the question was asked “What does the Bible mean that we are not to judge others?” the short answer was “This is an issue that has confused many people. On one hand, we are commanded by the Lord Jesus, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’ (Matthew 7:1). On the other hand, the Bible also exhorts us to beware of evildoers and false prophets and to avoid those who practice all kinds of evil. How are we to discern who these people are if we do not make some kind of judgment about them?”
I agree that we are to form judgments, not only about who, and who are not, Christians, but also about the lifestyles and choices of professing Christians themselves. As spirit filled Christians we are to discern good and evil and to differentiate ourselves from the world based on our kinship to the Lord Jesus, but is that all that is encompassed in Jesus’ command not to judge? As a matter of fact the verse quoted, from Matthew 7:1, I do not believe addresses the issue of personally judging another at all.
Because most Christians believe that their Christianity relates only to personal salvation and not to public and political questions, they are freed to only stop the condemning of sins that pertain to another’s salvation, but enthusiastically embrace public and political activity that would condemn another, as a corporate action, in league with the state. This problem occurs because of a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and because of the false teaching of the Church for many hundreds of years. So, what did Jesus mean when He commanded us not to judge?
The whole answer lies in the clear and simple words of Jesus in Matthew 5:39, “Resist not an evil man.” With these words a definitive line is drawn in the sand, a line most Christians will not cross to come over to Jesus. Many Christians, maybe even most Christians, are in agreement that all that is meant with these words of Jesus is to practice Biblical discernment; but what if we are asked to serve on a jury or to serve in the armed forces and by so doing judge and condemn? Has Jesus excluded this meaning from those words “Resist not an evil person”? Or, is this meaning the very core of what Jesus was addressing? I believe it is the very core.
The problem is that Christian’s lives are interwoven with the world and the general life of the state, and it demands of me un-Christian activity, contrary to the law of Christ. Since the time of Augustine and Constantine, in the fourth century, these words of Christ have been turned upside down. With the advent of Christian patriotism and the universal obligation to serve on juries every man must take up the weapons of condemnation and murder or at least support those who do the condemning and killing. Every citizen must play his or her part and show up at the courthouse and participate in those things which Christ repudiated: to put on trial, to condemn, and to punish; that is to say, he must condemn Christ’s law about not resisting an evil person. In this regard, are we not actually condemning Christ all over again?
In Luke 6:37 the words of Christ in Matthew 7:1 are made crystal clear.
“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:”
Christ here is saying that not only are we not to judge our neighbor in things personal, but we are not to be in league with the state in condemning and killing. Jesus makes this obvious in His dealings with the woman caught in adultery, John 8: 1-11
“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
Jesus obeyed His own teaching that we are not to resist an evil person or to use the law as a means to skirt around tough situations. The law of Christ stands, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Christ gives us this command because we are not fit judges of other’s actions when we are just as guilty before a perfect God. It is God who is the Judge, as stated in James 4:11-12
“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against (katalalew, i.e. indicts) a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?”
The Greek work above “katalalew” rendered “speak against” can also be rendered “indict” as in the legal sense of accusing or charging with a crime. The sense of indicting a fellowman fits the meaning better than any other. Some will ask, how do I judge the law if I speak against my fellowman? I guess a good contortionist could twist a mean out of this some way, but it is very clear that if we indict our fellowman and bring him into the courts then we consequently judge the law of Christ as being insufficient. By doing this I am not obeying Christ’s law, but constitute myself as a judge of the law. The Holy Spirit, through James, declares that there is only One who can save, or destroy and condemn, and that One is Christ. By an individual Christian serving in the capacity of judge, juror, soldier, policeman, or the like, we are placing ourselves in a position that only Christ can occupy; by making ourselves instruments of government and the courts we reject Christ and His commands.
As Christians we are not sent in to the world to judge or condemn, but to follow the example of Jesus, who showed mercy, who forgave, who refused to condemn, and died exhibiting these “Christian” characteristics; can we do otherwise and still claim to follow His example?