Here Comes the Judge

“Judge not, that you be not judged…”
(Matthew 7:1)

In today’s world, I would venture a guess that Matthew 7:1 is probably as well-known among unbelievers as John 3:16 was in previous decades. Almost everyone, it seems, knows that Jesus tells us not to judge.

So pervasive is this awareness that cries of, “Don’t judge me!” are often used to deflect even the hint of disagreement or disapproval. In part because of this trend, many Christians are labeled as “judgmental” by unbelievers. And so the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is clumsily wielded by untrained hands, severing bonds that might otherwise hold neighbors accountable to a higher standard.

But are these judges misjudged?

About 7 years ago now, a much younger family member announced to me that she was pregnant. At the time, she was unmarried and the man she was with did not treat her with love and respect and also lived a dangerous lifestyle — a volatile concoction of entitlement-fueled anger and illicit drugs. I was heartbroken for her and told her so, to which she replied, “Don’t judge me.”

But as I explained, I was not judging her. Rather, I was commiserating. From my own personal experience and that of another family member closer in age, I knew many of the battles and much of the pain that lay ahead for both her and her child.

I, too, became pregnant with my first child before I was married, and although I did end up married to the child’s father, the beginning of our relationship was marked with needless complication, not the least of which was that we barely knew one another at the time.

But we put our heads down and did the work that needed to be done — laboring through communication issues, in-law issues, and the like while simultaneously struggling to understand each other in the midst of pregnancy hormones and poverty.

None of it was fun. There was no romance; there was only a determined decision to learn to love and to sacrifice in order to do what was right by the child.

The other family member I had mentioned had it much worse. She had been only 19 when her first baby came along and had a second baby 14 months later. Although she, too, married the father, he did not put his shoulder to the plow as my man did. He indulged in illicit drug use and eventually abandoned his young family.

And these hardships were merely the barest glimpse of the difficulties we and our children faced. So naturally, when I heard the news from the younger generation, I was reminded of these things and I sorrowed, but not because I had judged the pregnant woman and deemed her sinful. It was because I was also sinful and had already reaped the noxious fruit of the very same sin.

Thanks be to God, all three of our stories are now stories of redemption; of God’s saving grace, forgiveness, and mercy. Due to our experience, all three of us are also passionate about telling the truth to those who still believe the myth of so-called “casual sex.”

Truth be told, we also agree that God’s condemnation of fornication is just and right, but this is not because we are judgmental. It is because we have sown our little gardens with the world’s way and tasted the bitterness of its fruit. We have seen the anguish in the eyes of children whose fathers abandoned them or did not care for them as they ought. And we have experienced that the forgiveness of our mighty God does not erase these consequences.

Oh, people! Oftentimes, when the true followers of God seem to condemn an action or a lifestyle, it is neither from hatefulness nor hypocrisy! To say a thing is wrong is not necessarily judging but may well be a statement of fact.

I cannot speak for all, but I know that my decision to agree with God on His views of right and wrong are twofold.

First, I love and trust my wise and ancient Creator, and I know that His way is best because He does know right from wrong, and He alone understands the fullness of the consequences of both. He is the Judge, and I defer to His sound judgment.

But secondly, and most important to my point here, I agree with Him out of love for others. My heart breaks for sin — my own included — not because I am judging the transgressor but because I know from experience that walking in sin brings unnecessary grief to both the perpetrator and to others.

My dear people, please do not judge the Christian too harshly.  It may well be that what is often called “judgment” is merely a loving wish to warn a person away from an already-trodden path of pain. Who better to know the perils of a path than one who has been lost on it and rescued?

Sometimes, too, that feeling of being judged is more accurately called “conviction,” and has nothing to do with the Christian at all.

Personally, I still chuckle that I also once attempted to assuage my guilty conscience by believing Christians to be judgmental.  There is no little irony that in accusing another of judging me, I had made a knowledge claim on their motives and thus assumed the role of judge.

…For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
(Matthew 7:2-3)