on judging

by Pastor Mark Jordan

As a pastor and counselor, I encounter a myriad of approaches to the concept of judgment. Without any empirical evidence, I am near certain no one likes, or wants to be, personally judged. No one really likes being called out, even though there are times it is necessary, and can actually be instructive. Which leads me to a second point. Even though we don’t want to be judged personally, we tend to take the prerogative to judge others when they do not do what we want them to do. This sets up an interesting dichotomy, doesn’t it? So what are we to do? One thing that is fairly common is to expect someone else to do our judging for us.

I am reminded of an interpersonal battle I was pulled into regarding a decision someone made. Someone sat in my office and demanded I make someone do what they wanted done, and in the way they wanted it done. I recall saying with a tinge of diplomatic exasperation, I can’t control that person any more than I can control you.

This is a fairly common issue in leadership, but there are times when we must correct and direct someone. Chaos ensues when you don’t. So what becomes the standard? Is it your’s, or someone else’s? The answer is it must be God’s. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV). These verses are some of the most famous in Scripture, and are oft quoted by people who don’t even realize their origin. So was Jesus establishing a prohibition on judgment? The answer might surprise you.

No. Jesus’ admonition is against faulty judgment; or judgment based solely on your preference, prejudice, or position. Later on in Matthew 7, Jesus taught about the kind of fruit a person produces, and how it’s the fruit (fruit meaning the produce of what one believes, says, and does) by which someone will be judged. He teaches that you don’t get grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, and that a tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 7:17-20). So are we to judge or not? As you can probably imagine, the answer is somewhere in between.

In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus said these words, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (NIV). The essence of his point here is that some judgment is necessary, but we must be exceedingly cautious. Do you tend to judge the things in others because they are such bugaboos for yourself? Do you judge based on your own preferences, prejudices, or positions? When you approach judgment in that manner, then you set yourself as the standard. That is faulty judgment.

Whenever you feel tempted to this, you must remember that salvation comes from forgiveness. God forgave you, and commands that you forgive others. Grace and mercy, therefore, is God’s standard. God extends this to you, and wants you to extend it to others. This brings us to one more profound Jesus teaching from Matthew 7, this time in v.12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” This, my friends, is the foundation of the The Golden Rule, and a perfect way to draw this edition of the daily water to a close.

Seek proper correction and direction from God and others in your life, for your eternal life depends on it. Be extremely loving and gentle when you must do the same for others, because they, too, might be dependent upon you. And keep God at the center of it all, basking in His grace and mercy, and living into the freedom to live for Him, even though we might slip up every now and then.

Prayer: Dear Lord, there is no doubt I don’t want to be judged, but it is equally true I have little qualms about judging others. Forgive me, and help me to see I am a terrible arbiter of your standard of justice. I thank you for forgiving me by extending me grace and forgiveness, and I seek your help in the times I must help correct and direct someone else according to your ways. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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