Helpful or Hurtful in Judging Others?
This is an interaction with the sermon from Matthew 7:1-6 by Pastor David Powell. Click here to listen or watch the sermon.
The sermon idea was “Judge others by the right standards.”
See it Clearly
Pastor David made the following main points in his message:
- Judge others with fear and humility.
- Judge others only after an examination of ourselves.
- Judge others according to their receptiveness to God’s righteousness.
Understand it Truly
Many have surmised that Matthew 7:1 is the most quoted verse in the Bible, having surpassed John 3:16 due to our current post-modern culture that refuses to accept a standard of morality. Pastor David began by clarifying that there is more than one form of judgment and by observing immediate context as well as the larger body of scripture Pastor David explained that Jesus intended to warn us not to condemn others but he surely did not mean not to discern or observe fruit.
Pastor David gave specific guidance regarding Jesus’ teaching on judging those within the visible church:
- Do not judge with a critical spirit
- Do not judge harshly lest we be judged harshly
- Judge yourself severely and others leniently
- Judging others sin while harboring your own is hypocrisy
- We can only rightly judge others after being restored ourselves
- We can’t make converts or correct impenitence ourselves
- We must deal with others in keeping with their character
These points are edifying and helpful and are gleaned by exegesis of the given text. However, what I would like to respond to from this message is the other half of the judgment scenario…the unbeliever. How and why is my judgment of unbelievers to be different?
The law of God is valuable to the believer as a guide and a teacher and a light (2 Tim 3:16), but to the unbeliever it is primarily a signpost to lead them to Christ (Rom 3:19-20; ). Although sin and its consequences are a big part of the Gospel message, this is not a problem to solve apart from the Gospel. What I mean is that I should not make fixing the behavior of my unbelieving co-workers or family members or acquaintances my aim…ever. To do so would be to undo the Gospel and turn my message to them into one of moral uprightness and merit and this is not the Gospel message. Certainly there is a place for civil order and laws and justice among unbelievers but my claim is against expecting Christian morals from non-Christians.
Scripture tells us that we were all slaves to sin and under the power of the enemy before we were born again (Eph 2:1-5) and thus we did not have the power within ourselves to truly reform. The worst thing we could do is coach someone into becoming a moralist or legalist and then leave them convinced that they are right with God because of their external behavior. The second worst thing is to leave them hating us and thinking of us as condescending and self-righteous and unloving and “religious”, in a bad way. Remember that the natural person will not accept the things of the Spirit of God without a supernatural work of God to enlighten them (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 1:16-19).
No doubt there is a place for Christian apologetics, but this is clearly different than telling someone who does not have the indwelling Spirit of God that they should stop (you fill in the blank with whatever bad activity come to mind). Working to persuade someone to accept the facts of Biblical history or literary analysis or logic is different than persuading them to change their behaviors in accord with the law of God. In Titus, Paul speaks of the grace of God doing two things when it works in someone’s life by the Holy Spirit. First it empowers salvation…this is where we focus with unbelievers (2 Cor 5:20). Then it trains us in holiness. This is where we exhort one another within the body of Christ (Hebrews 3:12-14). See these two actions in Titus 2:11-14.
More difficult may be the one who claims to know God but continues to walk in the darkness (1 John 1:6). This person by confession places themselves in the visible church and should be treated as a believer until they prove otherwise by refusal to repent of willful sin (Titus 1:16; Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:24-26).
Value it Appropriately
This message of recognizing the kind of judgment and manner in which we are to exercise it within the church will help our unity and effectiveness and it will aid my Christian relationships and it will strengthen the body. Applying this guidance outside of the church will be disastrous…there is no reason to give an unregenerate person pearls of the law for reproof when what they need is rebirth.
Feel it Fully
So how do I feel when I reflect upon this message and what is my response to God? When do I see when I consider my relationships and where I stand on both sides of the giving or receiving godly counsel and discernment? Do I love my brothers and sisters in Christ enough to confront them when they are blind to their sin? Do I trust and love them enough to take their counsel when they give it? Am I humble enough to give counsel for the right reasons and with the right attitude? Am I humble enough to receive counsel with the right attitude? Do I recognize the community effort it takes to keep this family of pilgrims on the path to the Celestial City when dangers lurk at every turn?
Do it Joyfully
How will I react to this message? What will I do? What kind of soil has this seed fallen onto?
Share it Compassionately
Who do I know that would be especially blessed by this message or who should I invite to church next week?
Soli Deo Gloria!