I would argue that America’s favorite Bible verse is not John 3:16, but it is actually Luke 6:37.
America’s Favorite Bible Verse
Even if you don’t know the reference of Luke 6:37 by heart, you are likely familiar with the content. The first two words of the verse are, “Judge not.”
This verse has been misused as a force field that protects people from being called out for their sin and selfishness. It’s been used by one Christian to another (don’t judge my version of Christianity), by unbelievers to Christians (doesn’t the Bible teach that you shouldn’t judge), and by unbelievers to unbelievers (only God can judge me, and since there is no God, nobody can judge me!).
Another Bible Verse
1 Corinthians 2:15 reads, “The spiritual person judges all things.”
Wait didn’t Jesus teach in Luke 6 that Christians shouldn’t judge? Why is the Apostle Paul teaching that Christians should judge all things?
Judge Not AND Judge All
We have Jesus, the greatest Bible teacher of all time, and we have Paul, perhaps the second greatest Bible teacher of all time, teaching what seems to be contradictions. However, since we believe that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of the Bible and we believe that He is writing a cohesive message, there is no possibility of contradictions because God cannot contradict Himself. Therefore, Jesus and Paul must be talking about two different things.
Here is how I would put it: There are some things that we are to always judge and some things that we are to never judge.
When to Judge
I would claim that there are two times in which we are to judge:
- Theological Absolutes
- Moral Absolutes
Here is an example of each that I believe we should call people out for:
- “Jesus didn’t die on the cross to save sinners.”
- “It is okay to treat people lesser because of their race.”
Both of these examples show a situation in which a Christian must not remain silent, but instead, must speak up with the correct judgment that those things are not okay.
How to Judge
Matthew 18:15-17 tells us how to judge, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
The Bible teaches that we should first go to the individual that needs corrected personally and privately.
However, before we ambush them to correct them, we should follow God’s example. Before God cast judgement on the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:5), and before He cast judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:21), the Bible tells us that He went personally to see what was going on. Our first posture should be one of going directly to the individual and seeing what is really going on. This is why Proverbs 18:13 reads, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Often times, situations are resolved in this step of going personally and privately, and either things were a misunderstanding; or the individual takes responsibility, owns what they’ve done, repents, and everybody moves on.
However, if the individual does not respond well to you going alone, the passage from Matthew above tells us the next steps to follow (a blog for another time).
When to Judge Not
If we are to judge in the absolutes, then we are to judge not when it comes to the non-absolutes. Here are two times in which we are to judge not:
- Secondary Theological Issues and Opinion Issues
- Assumptions and Intentions
Here is an example of each that we should not cast judgement on people for:
- “Can you believe they had alcohol at their wedding?”
- “I know they did this to hurt me!”
The first category that we are to judge not is an easy one to identify and correct. However, although the second category is easy to identify, it is hard to correct in our own lives. When somebody hurts us, we typically jump to assumptions and believe/claim hurting us was their intention.
How to Judge Not
However, I would argue that people rarely do hurtful things to hurt people. When it comes to being hurt by somebody, we can respond in three ways:
- Judgement of Conviction = “I know that without a shadow of a doubt you did this to hurt me.”
- Judgement of Naivety = “I know that without a shadow of a doubt you would never want to hurt me.”
- Judgement of Charity = “You hurt me, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t mean to do so on purpose.”
As Christians, when Jesus told us to judge not, I believe He was calling us to live in the third option. A similar teaching comes up in Matthew 7:12 that reads, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” When you hurt somebody, wouldn’t you want them to give you the Judgement of Charity? I know I would, so I will do my best to always give others the benefit of the doubt.
2 Corinthians 5:10 reads, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Who sits on the judgement seat? Jesus. Not us. Even though it seems like many Christians want to claim that throne for themselves, Jesus has already seat-checked it.
Where Jesus tells us to judge not, He means it, because to try and judge in these areas would be to try and take the seat of God, and trying to take the seat of God is a worse offense than any other offense that we could judge somebody else for.