“Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). These oft-quoted words remain a favorite of Generation X and millennials, but what do they really mean?
The term “judging” is used by my generation with an almost universally negative connotation. “Don’t judge.” “Only God can judge me.” “Don’t judge me if you don’t know me.” What we’re really saying is, “Back off. Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” Or, more specifically, “Regardless of consequences, no one can inform me about my individualistic expression.”
Western cultures highly value autonomy. The more time I have spent in Africa and the Middle East, the more I have seen how individualistic, by comparison, the West truly is. What’s that really mean? “I make my own rules and my own decisions,” our culture and laws seem to say. That’s because, in Western cultures, generally … the individual is god, immutable and autonomous.
Does this shock you? It shouldn’t.
Continue reading only at your own risk, and just watch out . . . your homeboy hipster Jesus may be in danger.
. . .
The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines judgment as, “an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought . . . the ability to make good decisions about what should be done.”
Reading through the Sermon on the Mount, I see judgment everywhere. Matthew 5:13: “But if the salt loses its saltiness . . . It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:23: “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:25: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court . . . or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” All this is implicit, of course.
The fact is, though, Jesus is a Judge. We see this clearly in Matthew 25:31-32. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
“Well, of course He can judge,” you may say. “He’s perfect, and He is God, right?”
What if I told you He instructs believers to make judgments, too?
As recorded in John 7:24, Jesus states, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” Oh, my! Jesus actually commands people to judge. What a wrench this throws into the nominal Christian selectively-Bible-quoting millennial’s self-justifying individualistic theology.
Furthermore, Jesus says in Luke 12:57, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”
Maybe judgment isn’t such a bad word after all. What, then, could Jesus mean by His words in Matthew 7:1? (to be continued . . .)