“Judge not, lest ye be judged…” Matthew 7:1
This may be one of the most misunderstood verses in all of scripture. I find that it is the most often quoted by the unbeliever, and yet at the same time I find many believers forgoing all discernment based on this verse. They have allowed this verse to handcuff them from exercising any sort of discipline, or evangelism. Now with that said I think that fundamentalists quickly write this verse off as meaningless. They say ‘look down the page and read the rest of Matthew 7’ of course making reference to ‘…you will know them by their fruits…’ which seems to be a call to make judgment. Moreover those of the fundamental persuasion will tend to take the verses immediately following Matthew 7:1 about the speck in your brother’s eye, and the log in your own, and quickly point out that we are still to remove the speck from our brother’s eye, we just need to judge ourselves first and remove the planks from our own. That is true, but it misses the point of the passage, and in a way creates a loophole. At the very least it eases the conscience of some who are unbiblically judgmental. Remember I am a 'fundamentalist', I write this from experience in talking with others like myself, and from my own struggles with judgement.
I am a youth minister and typically in a youth ministry setting the youth minister will give a bunch of examples of how when you judge people before you know them a lot of times you are wrong. What they fail to mention is that most of the time you a right. For instance, you see a man frequently going to a bar, you may judge “He is a drunk”, you could be wrong, but likely you are correct. You see a youth dressed in total grunge always looking zoned out, you may judge ‘she is a drug user’, you may be wrong, but are likely correct. If your reason for not judging others is simply because sometimes you judge wrongly than your reason is weak, and moreover when you know you are right beyond a shadow of a doubt you will still be quick to judge. Why then should you not judge… at all.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:11-12)
Do you realize that John the revelator saw you there? You were a part of the crowd. Yes, and you will stand before the great white throne to be judged. This is not up for debate, you will be there and so will I. With that picture in mind, knowing that you will be judged according to your deeds then maybe the following verse will carry more weight in your heart…
"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)
The non-negotiable detail in this whole equation is that you will stand at the white throne and be judged… how harshly do you want to be judged? How mercifully do you want to be judged? “…by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” You see if your focus is on the judgment seat, and you are gazing into eternity knowing you will be judged for your deeds, certainly you will find no room to judge others. I am not saying to be passive, there is a time to discern, but unless you are in a position of authority and need to settle disputes, there is no time to judge. Not because you could be wrong… but because you will be judged in the same way.
Let me give a very practical example: During presidential campaigns people will say things like, “Barack Obama is an idiot when it comes to foreign policy.” Do you realize what you have done in saying that? You, because you know Matthew 7:1-2, have agreed to stand before the judgment seat and be judged based on your wisdom of foreign policy! Which likely you have very little. Now in proper context you could say “His lack of foreign policy experience makes him unqualified for the presidency.” At that point you are not judging the man’s character, you are discerning his qualifications, and there is a big difference.
Be careful the way you judge. Am I saying you cannot say that someone is a gossip, or a liar, or whatever? I am saying use very extreme caution, and only judge out of utter humility having already judged yourself and repented of your own sin. There are many self-righteous fundamentalists out there who are piling judgments upon themselves and will be in for terrible awakening at the White Throne. Will they be saved from the lake of fire? Maybe, but not after feeling the horrible humiliation and judgment by the very standards they set.