How do you get a guy that sells meth to kids, beats his wife and runs a dog fighting ring to suddenly start talking like a theologian?
Just tell him to quit dealing meth to kids, beating his wife and running a dog-fighting ring.
When you do, there’s a very good chance that he will respond with what is perhaps the most popular verse in the entire Bible.
“Hey man, the Bible says judge not lest ye be judged.”
The ye is always thrown in to add some extra authority.
The defensive scheme of our drug-dealing, wife-abusing dog-fighter is clear.
“Since Jesus said something somewhere about not judging, I can do whatever I want and you and your church have to stay out of mine and Jesus’ business.”
But is this really what Jesus was driving at in his Sermon on the Mount? Was he telling his followers to mind their own business and let their brothers and sisters and neighbors do whatever they want to do?
To answer that question, we should go to the Bible looking for two things.
First, what was the immediate context of Jesus’ command on judging?
Matthew 7:1 does not stand alone. You may think that it would make an excellent bumper sticker but that was not Jesus’ intention. Instead, as he neared the end of his Sermon on the Mount, he was addressing the viral hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day.
The Pharisees were known for their very high religious standards and they expected everyone to keep those standards. Well, everyone but them. So Jesus goes on to give an analogy of a man with a gigantic piece of lumber in his eye who launches a theological assault on a man who has a piece of dust in his eye.
Jesus is essentially saying, “Don’t confront someone else’s sin without first dealing with your own. Dealing with your own will give you clearer vision and help you to better serve your brothers and neighbors.”
Church leaders would do themselves, their congregations and their communities a huge favor by putting these words into practice. How many sermons have been preached on the evils of alcohol by men who can’t manage to drive by a Golden Corral without stopping in for a light snack from the buffet before heading home for dinner?
The second thing that we should look for is other places in the Bible that address this same topic?
In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives a very detailed approach to confronting someone who has sinned against you. It begins with a private confrontation and, if needed, moves on to bringing a few more witnesses with you and even bringing that person before the entire church body. This is a long, long way from the mind your own business approach that many have adopted.
In Galatians 6:1-2 and James 5:19-20, Christians are commanded to keep a close watch on one another and to rescue those who are wandering from the truth. This matches perfectly with Jesus’ concluding command to take the log out of your own eye so that you can, “see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
It scares me to think about where I would be if, during different stages of my life, brothers had not had the clear vision to pull me aside and help me with the obstruction in my eye.
Whether you’re a wife-abusing, meth-dealing dog-fighter or just caught up in some sin that is less headline grabbing, you should know that the worst thing that could happen to you is to be left alone in your sin.
Ye need to be judged.