Stop Saying, "Judge Not," If You Don't Know What It Means


Text: Luke 6:36-42

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

For the last several years, a popular 'go-to' verse for pagans is the verse where Jesus says, 

"Judge not, and you will not be judged."  

That is right, if you have a challenging conversation with a pagan – or perhaps a very na├»ve and uneducated Christian – they will eventually quote this verse to you. They may even wag their finger at you while saying, 

"In my study, never once has Christianity said to judge other people or condemn another person because they do not believe as you do. Besides, Jesus tell us not to judge?"

Now, what is happening is that they are attempting to use this verse as a trump card against your judgment. By telling you not to judge, they are trying to kill your judgment so that whatever you have said that opposes their point of view can be easily dismissed. They are telling you that you do not have the right to weigh in on a particular subject. They are essentially telling you to keep your mouths shut – judge not! You can't speak!  

Now, it used to be that we could all agree to disagree and go our separate ways. Or, we could simply disagree with each other and still be civil and friendly. But now? Now it seems that nobody is allowed to disagree with the world and culture. Everyone must adhere to the talking points of the culture, and if you don't, Jesus' words are taken and shoved in your face, "Judge not!."

To play this out, it is important to ask a couple of questions. Do Jesus' words only apply to Christians, or do they equally apply to pagans, misguided Christians, and the rest of society?  

Since so many people seem to be quoting this verse, it would only seem logical that this verse applies to everyone. Judging is off-limits to everyone! Therefore, teachers probably shouldn't make a judgment on their students' grades; judges probably shouldn't make judgments about murder and fraud cases. Police officers probably shouldn't make judgments in routine traffic stops. If it is wrong to judge, shouldn't everyone be prohibited from judging? And if everyone is prohibited from judging, then what? Well, then there is no such thing as sin; there is no such thing as right and wrong.   

Dear friends, if you, I, and our culture want a little taste of what hell is like, all we must do is go down this path a little bit. You see, if no one can judge, then we are all left with everyone doing whatever they feel like doing. If judging is wrong and something we cannot do, then people can do whatever they feel like doing. But what does that look like specifically? Imagine depriving a bunch of preschoolers of sleep, giving them a bunch of sugar, and then turning them loose with a bunch of new toys in a small room with absolutely no boundaries or rules – that is what it looks like when there is no judging and people do whatever they feel like doing. If judging is entirely off-limits, it will lead to complete anarchy, tyranny, lawlessness, destruction, and eventually death.  

This is why we should not take people seriously when they quote Jesus' words of 'not judging.' I am not trying to be rude; however, the fact of the matter is that they do not know what they are saying. And so, the next time a person says, "Judge not," know that they are speaking an empty utterance. Frankly, it is probably best not to even engage in such a foolish, ignorant, and useless comment, for they do not understand what Jesus is saying at all. [1]  You would be better off pretending that you did not hear them, or change the subject. 

So, that begs the question; what does Jesus mean by the words, "Judge not, and you will not be judged…"? Is Jesus really telling us that we should not judge, and if we do, we are perhaps a bigot or a hater?  

Dear friends, there is great irony with those who quote Jesus. They are actually using the words of Jesus to judge others who are judging. And so, Jesus was not forbidding judging. Furthermore, there are other verses in the Bible that specifically call us to judge. 

For example, in John 7:24, Jesus is teaching in the temple, and He says, 

"Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." 

And the Apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth; I paraphrase:

"You are not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don't we Christians have some responsibility for those within the church? God will take care of the outsiders, but we need to judge when a fellow Christian is out of line, and if necessary, clean house." 

There are plenty of other verses in the Old and New Testament that say the same things. In fact, there are times when we need to make a solid judgment but don't. In these cases, we sin. 

This again brings us back to what Jesus meant by the words, "Judge not, and you will not be judged…"? The answer, when Jesus says, "Judge not, and you will not be judged," He is aiming at hypocrisy. Jesus is issuing a warning – judge at your own risk! That is, take great care how you judge others because if you issue a judgment, you better look at yourself first. We are told by Jesus to give serious pause and examination before saying anything about our neighbor.  

But that isn't fun, though! Let's be honest, all of us here, as well as the rest of society, are very good at issuing harsh and quick judgments about anyone and everything without knowing much of anything. For example, we can watch a 30-second video on the internet or watch a 2-minute news segment and then have the entire fate of a person figured out. We can hear gossip about a neighbor, and then from a little bit of one-sided hearsay, we will judge a person as guilty and charged – without even asking for the other side of the story.  

There is more; we often do not even stop to think if we have the right to issue a judgment in the first place? 

If we are not a judge, why do we pass judgments like a judge? If we are not a police officer, a teacher, a pastor, or any other vocation, why are we so quick to pass judgment like an expert, when we have no knowledge of what it is like to be in that particular vocation?  

Again, you and I must understand that Jesus is not condemning judging, for it is not wrong to help restore a friend trapped in sin. To gently address your neighbor's sin is good and helpful. However, it is wrong to confront your neighbor's sin if you are doing it without mercy and with a self-righteous attitude. It is hypocritical to ignore the log in your own eye while taking the speck out of someone else's eye.  

And so, we must never forget that we are sinners who judge fellow sinners, which means that judging must be done not for vengeance but for redemption. 

You see, vengeance belongs to the Lord God at the last day – not you and me. However, the redemption of sinners? That is something that we know a lot about.  

Baptized Saints, never forget that you and I are prisoners who have been judged under the Law – we confess this every Sunday that we are poor miserable sinners who justly deserve temporal and eternal punishment. However, you and I have been given an undeserved pardon – a Holy Absolution in Christ. We have been given mercy, for our Christ is merciful.  

Hear this, Baptized Saints, the mercy we receive, though, is not because the Lord winked at sin, as if sin is not sin. Mercy is not God withholding judgment, as if He abounds in slushy tolerance. No; sin must be judged, and it demands a payment. And so, our sin is judged on Christ, because Christ is the only one who could make the payment for the judgment of our sin. Only Jesus' stronger love can atone for strong sin on a cross. Only Jesus' life was able to meet judgment and create forgiveness.  

Baptized Saints, mark this! Sin must be judged. If it doesn't need to be judged, then the gates of hell might as well be opened wide. Furthermore, if there is no judgment of sin, Jesus is not needed. But instead, sin is judged, and it is judged on Christ.  Because it is judged on Christ, Christ does not give us what we deserve. Indeed, Christ did not take the speck and log out of our eyes and beat us with condemnation, but instead, He gives us the very opposite – He gives us life. He gives you and me forgiveness. 

And so, it is with this reality that we love our neighbors with their specks and failures and sins. Yet, we also know that sin is not to be hidden, tolerated, covered, or denied, but judged for what it is, so that we all may hear that the judgment of sin finds its end in Christ. Yes, there with Christ’s cross, we receive not condemnation but complete and total forgiveness for all of our sins – mercy! 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

[1] See 2 Timothy 2:23.

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