Twice this week the phrase, "judge not", was commended to me by two unrelated sources. The first from a friend advocating an aberrant theology and the second in a news story regarding a political hopeful in a Florida congressional race. Now, I will admit that the first was stated on a humorous note..from the self proclaimed Pastor and only congregant of "The Church of Dynamic Pragmatism" whatever that is..however, the second from a political hopeful who has been caught in a sex scandal who won his seat in 2006 against an opponent that was caught in a sex scandal. Hypocrisy abounds, unlimited by political ideology.
This warning comes from Matthew Chapter 7:1. "Judge not, that you be not judged." Just what does this mean? I have heard it used as a command to not question erroneous theologians and defective theology, to advocating tolerance of all deviant behaviors. "Judge not"...rolls glibly off the tongue in this age of tolerance, supposedly as a loving and caring statement against insensitivity.
When the context of this particular command is examined it becomes readily apparent that this is a prohibition against individual hypocritical condemnation that may in the end result in the exposure and condemnation of one’s own faults. The passage continues.. "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." This is in essence saying what has become the common jargon of our day: "Be careful what you say and do because what goes around comes around." I’ll bet you didn’t know you were paraphrasing scripture with that adage. This reminds me of the Baskin-Robbins Bible verse. Yes, they have built an ice cream empire on the principles found in Matthew chapter 7 and elsewhere. How so? Have you ever gone into a Baskin-Robbins store and ordered a quart of ice cream? It is a thing of beauty to watch the clerk fill the container with ice cream. The closest description I can relate to you is found in Luke 6:38. It is lovingly packed "...good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over." I’ve dubbed that the Baskin-Robbins verse. They can really pack some kinda’ ice cream! And..they ain’t stingy with the product. They live out the statement "...with what measure you use it will be measured to you".
"Judge not".. does not mean, do not attempt to discern truth from error; it does not mean, do not analyze the situation to determine good from evil; it does not mean, do not decide if one is a true prophet or a false prophet. In verse 15 Jesus says beware of "false prophets"..so it can’t mean do not attempt to ascertain the truth of a matter. In 1 John 4:1 we are admonished to "try the spirits, whether they are of God"
So...what DOES it mean? In essence, I believe, it means (in modern jargon) do not attempt to take the law into your own hands. Just as an individual is not permitted to declare war against another nation, which is a government’s prerogative, so also an individual is not permitted to utilize the "keys of the kingdom" which have been given to the Church. The judgment, which is spoken of in Matthew 7, is a judgment of condemnation. In other words, in passing judgment, one has taken on the responsibility of "Judge, Jury and Executioner". Jesus said in Mt 16:19 "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This is the discipline that is necessary in the Church, but to be administered only by those officers so ordained. The individuals first responsibility is one of self-judgment. Then, he is able, not to condemn his brother, but, to help him see the error that may have crept into his understanding. (remove the piece of 2x4 out of your own eye...then you can see to help your brother with his sawdust)
"The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in chastening of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church. Hereby the true Church may certainly be known, from which no man has a right to separate himself." Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 29
What happens when the Church abdicates it’s responsibility to "judge" righteously? That’s a whole ‘nother blog!