Tired Of People Flippantly Saying, "Judge Not"?

Text: Luke 6:36-42

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

I am so incredibly tired of hearing today’s Gospel Reading quoted by pagans, the portion that says,

“Judge not, and you will not be judged.”

In other words, this verse in the Bible is right up there with John 3:16 and Psalm 23, as one of the most recognized passages in all the Bible, by people who have never gone to church or really studied the Bible. 

Indeed, pagans seem to quote this verse a lot.  And when they do, they say it with confidence and boldness while rarely understanding the true meaning of this verse. 

So, what is going on? 

Well, quite simply, when pagans shake their finger at us Christians saying, ‘judge not,’ they believe that this verse prohibits the Christian from judging anyone in any sense.  According to their logic, since Jesus is speaking these words, ‘not judging’ is a holy attribute of Jesus.  For them, Jesus never judged but was only about gushy love and acceptance. 

And so, to the point; this verse about not judging is quoted back to Christians to infer that judging is a sin.

Now, is judging a sin?  I hope not.  If it is, then Jesus was full of sin because He certainly judged. 

Remember that time in the Bible where Jesus told a group of people they were a bunch of hopeless frauds? 

Remember that time where Jesus accused the Pharisees and Sadducees of being full of arrogant stupidity?  

Do you remember that one time Jesus called the religious elite offspring of the devil?

If you don’t remember, the majority of pagans don’t remember either.  In fact, pagans conveniently avoid the portions of the Bible where Jesus judges, as well as the other 42 times where Jesus talks about hell.

There is more, though. 

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians,

“It certainly is [the Christian’s] job to judge and deal strongly with those who are members of the church.”

And the Apostle John says,

“Don’t always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test it first to see if it really is.  For there are many false teachers around.”

Dear friends, contrary to what Pagans say, you and I are certainly called to judge.  Even though pagans often quote the words of Jesus to “judge not,” we need to judge. 

But how do we make sense of all of this, especially Jesus saying, “Judge not?”  How do we understand Jesus’ words?

As is the case in the majority of misapplied verses in the Bible, the context of the reading from the Gospel of Luke helps us out tremendously. 

In our reading from Luke chapter 6, Jesus also says,

“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

In other words, when Jesus tells you and me not to judge, He is prohibiting the kind of judging that proceeds from hate, not love.  He is forbidding the kind of self-righteous-holier-than-thou-judging that comes from prideful elevated noses in the air and not from humble hearts of mercy.  Jesus is calling out hypocritical judging.  He is telling us not to judge others more severely than we judge ourselves. 

But this is hard, dear friends, isn’t it?  We typically like to apply mercy to our failures but wrath to everyone else’s failures. We have double standards; mercy for us and wrath for everyone else.  We laugh at our failures and dismiss them quickly. Oh, but how we love to talk about everyone else’s failures and problems with friends at the local restaurant.  Truth be told, we are actually sad when a particular drama is settled because we worry about running out of gossip. 

And this is why we need to hear the Eighth Commandment over and over again.  The Eighth Commandment chimes in on our Gospel reading as well. It says,

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

The Eighth Commandment forbids us from overtly harsh judgmental talk about our neighbor.  It calls us to put the absolute best construction on our neighbors. 

But, again, we must keep in mind that the Eighth Commandment is not forbidding us from making a judgment about our neighbor. But instead, it is calling us to explain everything in the kindest way about our neighbor – to be merciful in our words and judgments.  The Eighth Commandment is calling us to not rush to judgment and not to form opinions about others unfairly or with prejudice but to assume the best scenario. 

In a word, we Christians are supposed to be critical because we live in a very complex, troubled, and hard world. We Christians are not supposed to be na├»ve, dumb, and obtuse.  We are to discern what is right.  We are to test what is authentically right.  But again, our criticalness needs to be wrapped in mercy for our neighbor.  Mercy does not allow us to be hyper-critical.   

An old theologian has said it best.  When Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged,” He is essentially saying,

“Knock it off.  Don’t play God, or you will set yourself up for others to play God with you.” (Harold Buls)

And now it all makes sense.  Does it not?  When we put ourselves in the position of God, we judge everyone else around us, thinking that we don’t sin, but in reality, we do. And that is why we are hypocrites. 

Lord have mercy on us for playing God.  We don’t have the right to play God, and we certainly look foolish when we do because we sin much in thought, word, and deed. 

Dear friends, when we are critical, we must be critical of ourselves first. We must guard ourselves against wanting mercy for ourselves and wrath for everyone else.  We must continually realize that God has shown us mercy – not treating us according to how we deserve – which is the same mercy we need to extend to others when they sin, just like us.  

Baptized Saints, if someone falls into sin, you are called to mercifully restore them – not with a spirit of vengeance but a spirit of redemption.  We are called to apply criticism to ourselves first before we dare speak critically to others.  And then, in humility, mercy, and dependence on Christ, we stoop down and reach out to those who are trapped, burdened, and overwhelmed by sin.  We are to share their burdens. 

Now, if you think you are too good for all of this, you are deceived.  You do not understand mercy.  You do not understand the mercy of Christ.  If you cannot see your sin but see everyone else’s sin, you are a prideful, arrogant hypocrite that is divorced from reality.  Repent. 

Dear Baptized Saints, learn to see your sins as immense oak trees and your neighbor’s sins as tiny splinters.  Learn to aggressively confess your sins and delicately show your neighbor their sins.  Learn to beat your chest in contrition and gently hold your neighbor’s hand in sorrow.  Yes, learn to do this because this is what Christ has done for you. This is what you have been redeemed into as a Christian.

Baptized Saints, your Jesus descended into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized in a baptism of repentance for sin  – your sins.  Your Jesus ascended to Mt. Calvary to die a bloody atoning death for sin – your sins.  Your Jesus took what was yours and considered it His; He took what was His so that you might consider it yours.  We deserve hell; He mercifully gives you and me heaven.  We are captive to death; He mercifully gives you and me life. We are poor, naked, hungry, but He mercifully feeds us, clothes us, and gives us blessings.  He does all of this because He is merciful to you and especially me.  He withholds from us what we deserve and gives us what we don’t deserve.  He does this not only to redeem, forgive, and claim us, but He does this so that we can be of some use to our fellow neighbors. 

Mercy – that is the key to understanding our Gospel reading from today.  Mercy received; mercy given – all because of Christ. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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