Do Not Judge (part II)
In last week's article we encountered the apparently paradoxical commands by Jesus both to refrain from judging (Lk. 6:37) and to "judge with right judgement." (Jn. 7:24). As God's authoritative word to us on "all things that pertain to life and godliness", it is important to know first that there is no true contradiction in scripture, but merely a lack of our understanding of it. But through a greater understanding of his word, we more nearly encounter and understand Jesus our Lord. As we encounter those who might wish to deflect any judgement for personal sin by standing firmly on Luke 6:37 ("Judge not, and you will not be judged."), we need to be ready to respond as Jesus, our model, would. We must be able to answer the question "Can we judge others?"
We could try first to drill down into definitions and usages of 'judge' in the Bible. The word in Greek is krino, which like so many of our own has multiple meanings. Its definition is "properly to distinguish, that is to decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish". It is variously translated as avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, ordain, sentence or think. With this broad definition alone, it could be difficult to ascertain Jesus' true warning about judgement by looking strictly at the word in isolation of its context. While a deep dive into scripture is always profitable, this approach may not be the most fruitful.
The broader context of the "Judge not" statement is of one of Jesus' sermons in which this proverb, along with many others, are given by him so that we "may have life and have it abundantly." Like Solomon's pro tips for life, Jesus' sermon here is packed with nuggets for living a life of wisdom, mercy and blessing. Many of them are not absolute standards of behavior for all circumstances (e.g. turn the other cheek), but are rather maxims which reflect the truths of life. Jesus here is not invoking an absolute prohibition of judging other people's actions, but is providing ways in which maximizes the one life you have for your own benefit and for that of others, which includes properly judging one another! In the following verses of Luke 6 are these pearls of wisdom:
- "Love your enemy" (27) instead of being consumed with anger, hatred or revenge.
- Turn the other cheek when you are attacked (29).
- "Give to everyone who begs from you" (30) instead of clutching onto the gifts of God he has given you to share and ease suffering.
- Live by the Golden Rule (31) and your reward will be great.
- Lend without expecting repayment (34). God isn't seeking repayment for the far greater gift he has given you.
- If you don't live a life of judgement (criticism, condemnation, blame, jumping to conclusions, etc.), others will likewise give you the benefit of the doubt and extend mercy when you stand in need of it yourself.
- Instead "Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (37)
- "Give and it will be given to you." (38)
Let us first live our own life governed by these principles and then watch the work of God play out before us and in us. However, as we read on in Luke 6, we also discover that as we live in such a way, it also enables the right judgement which Jesus also asks of us. "... Then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye. (42)" When those necessary moments of judgement must fall, when coming from an others-focused life, they will often be received as from one who consistently does not "seek his own good, but the good of others." (1 Co. 10:24) By modeling right judgement, that "good of others" may be a judgement that prepares a stubborn heart to one day face the ultimate judge with a pure, renewed heart.