We’ve all heard it. We may even believe it: “Jesus didn’t judge.” It’s a huge claim, considering the life and teachings of Jesus. But is it true? The word “judge” means to “give an authoritative opinion.” For those who keep reciting the mantra that “Jesus didn’t judge,” and that his followers shouldn’t either, I have a humble message to deliver: Merriam Webster called. She wants her dictionary back. Did Jesus judge? All the time. In fact, you’ll never be able to love God, people, or yourself until you learn how to judge as Jesus did.
Stay with me, because what you’re about to read could forever change your life.
The “Jesus didn’t judge” argument is typically made by people who want to justify attitudes and behaviors long prohibited in the Bible. If you don’t know your Bible (and Jesus), the statement can freeze you, rendering you incapable of saying anything further — because it seems, on the surface, to be such a powerful statement of truth. In fact, it’s entirely false. When people use it, they reveal their lack of Bible knowledge — and lack of knowing the biblical Jesus. Notice I say “biblical Jesus.” It’s so important to do this nowadays, because so many have recreated Jesus in their own image. The end result is a Jesus who isn’t the Jesus of Scripture at all. In 1 Corinthians 11:4 (ESV) Paul warns us to resist this practice:
“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.“
FAKE vs. REAL JESUS
A non-judging Jesus isn’t Jesus. As a matter of historical fact, Jesus did judge — continually. He still does. The coy lie that Jesus didn’t judge, or that His followers should not judge, can only lead to the conclusion of tossing the entire Bible out the window — along with Christianity. To follow Jesus is to be judged and to judge – it’s simply a matter of how that judgment takes place.
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The entire Bible is a book about judging attitudes and behavior in the here and now, so that they conform to what honors God. It is impossible to read or teach the Bible without quickly getting to the issue of morals — and morals deal with motives and behaviors. Passing judgment. The entire Bible is a book about reforming thoughts and behaviors so that they fall in line with God.
“God hates being separated from us, and that’s why he decided to do something about it. There has never been a more potent, simultaneous expression of hatred and love . . . justice and mercy kissed at the cross.”
What does this mean for Jesus’ followers? It means that it’s not possible to follow him without first judging ourselves. Then, and only then, can we be in position to help others change their ways, too. The key is to judge with true humility toward God and people. If you judge with arrogance, or a self-righteous attitude, you haven’t yet learned how to judge with the kind of humility Jesus calls each of us to.
Consider 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV), as one potent reminder: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Is it possible to demolish an argument or pretension, or to take a thought captive without judging it? And if this doesn’t lead to reining in otherwise sinful behavior, then what’s the point?
The cross is where God made his definitive judgment against sin. He hates it. But the cross is also his ultimate act of love toward sinners. God hates being separated from us, and that’s why he decided to do something about it. There has never been a more potent, simultaneous expression of hatred and love. In other words, justice and mercy kissed at the cross. The next time someone says, “Jesus didn’t judge,” ask them to think more — much more — about the cross.
COMING JUDGMENT — BY JESUS
In fact, one day we will all appear before Jesus — to be judged. Believers appear for a judgment of rewards. This is known as the “judgment seat” of Christ (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10). Unbelievers will be judged at the “great white throne” judgment spoken of in Revelation 20:11-15. The white throne judgment is not a judgment of rewards, because there is no reward for those who reject Christ. It is a judgment of eternal separation known as the “second death.” A simplified way to understand the great white throne judgment is that people who go through this life willingly rejecting God will get their desire granted, eternally, at the great white throne judgment.
The Bible presents right and wrong, good and bad. If Jesus didn’t judge, we would have no Bible — the Bible from which Jesus constantly taught. If Jesus didn’t expect us to judge each other and one another, then He would not have called anyone to preach or teach about Him. We wouldn’t even be able to read the Bible for ourselves, let alone others. If judgment weren’t part of the Christian turf, God would not have used human beings to plant a single church, where the Bible is to be taught, embraced and applied around the world. The fulfillment of the Great Commission would be impossible.
Keep in mind that the red letters found in some publications of the New Testament (intended to help readers quickly identify the spoken words of Jesus), were non-existent in Jesus’ day. He quoted and taught from the Old Testament. In light of this, it’s vital to understand that Jesus’ teachings go far beyond the red letters of the New Testament. They are contained throughout the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV) reminds us that it is not just parts of the Bible that matter, but all of it:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”
It’s all the teachings of the Bible that are inspired, given to us by God — and continually quoted by Jesus. (Of course, some passages have a limited context in time and scope, but we must be very careful we don’t dismiss the obvious, ongoing application of the overwhelming majority of the Bible).
FOUR LETTER WORD
Think about this: the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is to go into the world and not merely sprinkle or immerse people under water (baptize), but teach people to obey Jesus’ commands. Here it is, in all its splendor:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Notice the words “obey everything.” If there is no difference between a person who obeys, and a person who does not, then what’s the point? Obedience requires judging our thoughts and behaviors, and weighing them against God’s standards. Obedience requires perpetual judgment and adjustment.
SO, WHAT DID JESUS MEAN?
When Jesus said “do not judge or you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-6), the context was a rebuke against a critical, self-righteous, legalistic spirit, not against judging with humility, using the plumb line of God’s word as the measure. Cults are formed and forge followings by taking words out of context. They lead people astray. Jesus’ words, “do not judge or you will be judged” are among the most out-of-context quotes in the history of civilization — and when we misquote them, we lead people away from Jesus in droves.
Consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV):
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Did Jesus judge? If you’re still asking that question, you aren’t paying attention.
DO YOU KNOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE TOLD YOU, “JESUS DIDN’T JUDGE?” HOW HAS THIS POST HELPED YOU KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THEM WITH FACTS AND TACT?
 Italics emphasis mine.
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