“Jesus wouldn’t judge someone, why should we?!” This is something we’ve all heard, and something we may have even said. But is it true?
In Matthew 7:1-6 when Jesus says, “Do not Judge” is he really saying we should be completely accepting of everyone? On another occasion (John 8:1-11), the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, and instead of condemning her he replied, “If anyone is without sin let him cast the first stone.”
Since these are the two most strongest and most popular examples, these will be the two we’ll look at below.
“Do Not Judge” (Matthew 7:1-6)
Jesus was constantly battling the Pharisees, who were known for their righteousness and strict study of God’s Word. They were also known for adding extra burdens on people, just to make sure they don’t fall into sin. They were so focused on preventing sin, it seemed that sin was always on their minds.
Instead of focusing on other people’s sin, Jesus told them to look at themselves first. “Take the plank out of your own eye.” Sometimes we point out other people’s sin because it’s so much more comfortable than paying attention to the sin in our own lives. Ironically, we even notice the very sin we are blind to in ourselves as what is most repulsive and off-putting when we see it in others. Jesus’ reminder to look in the mirror is something everyone needs to follow.
It is important, however, to notice that Jesus says, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus does not say, “Only worry about yourself, accept others just as they are.” Instead, he reminds us that if we’re going to do surgery, we need to make sure we can see clearly. If we are going to help others walk faithfully with God then we should be faithful too!
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Jesus is talking about helping a “brother.” Christian, you cannot expect nonChristians to follow God’s Word. We are to encourage and rebuke others to claim to be Christians, to direct them towards godliness. Those who are not Christians need the Gospel more than they need the Law, they need to know who God is and how to get right before a holy God before they can be expected to live rightly.
Jesus and the Adulterous Woman (John 8:1-11)
As Jesus was teaching in the temple, the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery. Leviticus 20:10 says that both the woman and the man should be stoned to death. Curiously, the man is absent from court before Jesus, further showing that the Pharisees aren’t truly interested in justice but only in trapping Jesus between Scripture and popularity. Will Jesus choose to condemn the woman who is obviously guilty of adultery, or will let her free and show that he values the people’s opinion over what the Bible says?
Instead, Jesus turns the tables. He tells them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her.” Everyone slowly walks away… except for Jesus. The sinless judge remains. But instead of throwing a stone, he acknowledges her sin while showing grace. “Go, and sin no more.” That simple statement is Jesus telling her, “Yes, you sinned. You are guilty. But I will show you grace. Go, and let that grace change you so that you aren’t found guilty again.”
Jesus is THE Judge
Jesus wasn’t only judgmental, he is THE Judge (John 5:22, John 9:39, Acts 10:42, Romans 2:16, Revelation 19:11-21). Jesus will be the one who separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-20, 36-43), the good fish and the bad fish (Matthew 13:47-50). Not only would Jesus judge someone… one day he will judge everyone. Judgement is real, and God’s judgment is eternal. It is not pleasant to talk about. If you truly believe in any kind of judgment before God, warning others would be the kind and merciful thing to do. We are not the judge, but shouldn’t we warn others if we are persuaded they would be found guilty?
Bring us to the Cross
Unfortunately, Christians today are known by the way they have judged others and shown themselves to still be sinners in need of grace. Yes, we have judged others in ways we should not. But some of that “judging” is right. For we are called to call sin “sin” and bad “bad.” When we accept with is sinful and say that it is fine and good, then we have lost our saltiness and we our light has been snuffed out (Matthew 5:13-16).
Jesus frequently issued warnings about judgment and the wrath of God, and he called people to repentance so that they would stop sinning and start doing what is right. He did so with love and mercy, because he never wrote anyone off as “too far gone.” As we follow Jesus’ example, let’s be sure to remember the two examples above.
In the midst of trying to discern how to show love and grace and humility while acknowledging the reality of sin in our own lives and in the lives of others, may we continually point people to the love of God poured out for us on the cross. For it is on the cross where the wrath of God was poured out against all sin, even while the love of God was fully displayed, because he took that wrath upon himself so that we could “go, and sin no more.”