“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Mt 7:1-2). Here are found those all-encompassing words from Jesus, “don’t judge!”—so we are told. To be sure we are not to judge pridefully, arrogantly, or with the desire to pound someone into the ground. For with that measure we in time will be judged. We are to judge an teaching and behavior with the goal of lifting an individual from the place of their shame to the place of glory found in Jesus’ mercy.
Letting Scripture interpret Scripture we learn that Jesus encourages, commands, and commends the loving kindness of judging. This is seen a few verses later in St. Matthew where Jesus says:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Mt 7:15-16).
The fruit by which we recognize false and true prophets is not their lifestyle. Should we think false and true prophets are detected by their behavior which is to say their good works we have veered into work’s righteousness. False and true prophets are known by the doctrinal facts they teach. Does the pastor faithfully teach the Greatest Commandment addressing love of God, that is to say, doctrine (Mt 22:36-38)? Additionally, does the pastor teach and preach in accord with Scripture on the Second Greatest Commandant which in our day is commonly referred to as morality: love of the neighbor (Mt 22:39)?
There are a number of places where Jesus wants us, encourages us, yeah, commands us to judge. A few more would be:
- [Jesus] answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret [judge] the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret [judge] the signs of the times … “Watch and beware of [i.e., judge] the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt 16:3, 6).
- [Jesus] also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? (Lk 12:54-57)
- “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (Jn 7:24).
- “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Cor 5:12)
- “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try [judge] trivial cases?” (1 Cor 6:2)
More examples can be cited but a fair reading of the text will see the point has been made.
Worldly love refuses to judge transgressions against either doctrine—sins against God addressed in the Greatest Commandment, or, false morality—sins against the neighbor as described in the Second Greatest Commandment. Love is not present when I turn a blind eye to my neighbor’s experimentation with illegal drugs.
When something is not in accord with Scripture we are to lovingly judge our neighbor that through the Word the Holy Spirit move our friend toward what is of Jesus. Remember all false behavior is grounded upon false doctrine. This turning away from sin and towards the truth of Jesus found in his Word is called repentance and is joyfully worked by the Holy Spirit through the Word.
Should we follow the world withholding judgment repentance is impossible. Upon repentance Jesus’ forgiveness is delivered through Word and sacrament. In not judging we could be withholding Jesus’ forgiveness from sinners. And so if we refuse to judge temporally in this life there is the possibility that a person may be judged eternally in the life to come for impenitence along with false teaching does not save.
The author of the blanket statement, “don’t judge” is none other than Satan who does not want us to able to protect ourselves from harm. This is not of Jesus who would have us kindly and gently judge doctrine and morality. True love will judge when need be and be lavished upon parishioners as well as teachers in the church. When we teach and live apart from who Jesus declared us to be in Baptism pray that the Holy Spirit who works through the Word and people who speak lead us to repentance that we eternally live in Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness. Amen.
– Pastor Weber