Okay, maybe judgment isn’t such a bad word after all. What, then, could Jesus mean by His words in Matthew 7:1?
Well, first, who is Jesus talking to in Matthew 7:1? Check the context. Four verses later, He addresses his audience as, “You hypocrite.” Now, I will be the first to admit that I and everyone I know struggles with a little bit of hypocrisy, but to truly understand what a hypocrite is, we must dive into first century Hellenistic culture. In the illustrious tradition of Greek theater, a hypocrite was a word simply used to describe an actor who wore a mask. It was someone whose appearance did not match his identity. An actual hypocrite, then, is a poser–a complete fake, and, in our case, one who is not a true believer in Christ. To those who are trying to appear as someone they are truly not, it makes sense to ban judging.
The reason for this is further explained in 1 Corinthians 2. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God . . . and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things. . .”
Paul expands this idea in 1 Corinthians 6.
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
That’s right. We had a better practice making some good judgments, or we won’t be ready to judge angels in the coming age! Wow.
. . .
Earlier, I said that in Western cultures, generally, the individual is god. “You can’t tell me what to do,” springs from the understanding that I’m not accountable to anyone. “Don’t judge me” assumes a world with no community or family, only sovereign and disconnected individuals. Righteousness doesn’t enter into it because the goal is not really right relation with a real God, but individual expression. It assumes that no one knows what to do in my situation any better than I do because I hear from God perfectly.
But what if none of us hear 100% perfectly from God? What if, in the Kingdom, rather than a bunch of sovereign individuals, God . . . is God? What He says is the objective standard against which we measure actions and motives, not our relentless pursuit of individualistic expression? Saying, “Don’t judge me,” or, “Only God can judge me,” is the most arrogant thing a person could possibly say. It assumes he has an untouchable relationship with God and an authority greater than any other leader on earth.
Luke 17:3 Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” You can bet that, in the Kingdom, I’m going to judge you, and you need to be judging me. Why? Because this is a family. Because all of us are part of one another. In a family, the actions of one affect the outcome of all. Jesus didn’t live in or deliver His gospel in an autonomous culture, but a community-oriented one.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 shows us what the point of judging in the biblical way really is. We all stumble in various ways, and sometimes we need brothers and sisters around us who care enough about us to grab us and yank us up sometimes.
I, for one, am grateful I have leaders who question me, friends who are not impressed by me, and mentors who tell me what I don’t want to hear. Perhaps they are my greatest assets on this earth.
Don’t judge me? “Only God can judge me?” No.
Feel free to judge me … so, together, we can enter the Kingdom of God.
Stay hungry, friends.