For the last two years, all eyes have been on Washington as former decorated Marine and FBI agent, Robert Mueller, investigated claims that the current U.S. President may have colluded with a foreign power to rise to the highest power in the land, that of the President of these United States. At the end of March, Attorney General William Barr released a letter saying his read of the Mueller Report showed no collusion on the part of the President, and just last week, AG Barr confirmed what the President has been saying for months – that his privacy was violated by "someone" spying on his campaign. According to CNN, AG Barr said "spying did occur" and that he thinks "spying on a political campaign is a big deal."
Whew! That's a dizzying turn of events. Just last month Democrats were touting gains in the House because Americans trust them, and now Democrats at the highest levels of Government have been rocked back on their heels by one, the AG's letter, and two, confirmation of what Republicans have been saying for months.
That is the background for our discussion today.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." (Matt 7:1-2, NKJV)
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matt 7:1-2, NIV)
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging." (Matt 7:1-2, The Message)
Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and parents the world over have cited Matthew 7 for years when cautioning against the very human trait of judging others. Thanks to our elected officials, we now have a shining example, front and center on the world's stage, of why Matthew 7 is so important. Let's break this expose down into two parts: First, what happens when we unfairly judge another, and second, what Jesus is really instructing us to do here.
If we are honest, none of us is worthy to judge another. Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Even the fairest of us, the least emotional, or the most Spock-like will lean on personal experience and learned knowledge when judging another. We obliterate our ability to perfectly and impersonally view another's actions or words and determine the righteousness of those actions or words when we first sin. Unless by job title we have legal or church authority to judge another, it is out of our purview. Even the patriarchs of the Old Testament loathed the idea (Exodus 18).
The problem is that we humans are emotional beings and our wisdom is as much a gift of God as it is a result of our experience. Few of us are so blessed with wisdom by God that we can say every decision, every judgment is righteous. Without complete reliance on God, our humanity interferes with our ability to make that call. Again, if we are honest, very few of us are able to rely on God entirely when judging another – our esteemed pastors included.
So what is Jesus trying to say?
Forgive One Another
This passage is about so much more than judging. It is about our ability to forgive.
It is said, "To err is human, to forgive divine" (Pope, Alexander, "An Essay on Criticism," c. 1711). But Jesus charged each and every one of us with forgiveness. He knows that failing to forgive hurts us more than it does the other. He knows that forgiveness lifts a weight that we may not even know exists. If you've ever had the opportunity to finally forgive a grudge then you know what I'm saying. Jesus said not to judge another because once we do, we then open ourselves to the same level of scrutiny we applied to the situation. By withholding forgiveness we can drive a wedge against our neighbor that will then cause them to withhold forgiveness and maintain a grudge against us should we falter in our perfect walk.
But Mark, you say, the Bible calls Christians to hold each other accountable.
True, but judging someone and holding someone accountable are two very different things. To judge someone means to decide the right or wrong of their actions; whereas, to hold someone accountable means to force them to face their words or actions so that the Holy God can decide. We don't judge a Christian when we hold them accountable. On the contrary, we bring them into the light so that we (or the injured party) may exchange forgiveness. Often injury is a matter of perspective and there may not have been an actual "wrong" done. How self-righteous are we to assume we can judge the actions based on half the story?
So, Christian, with the all-too-prevalent backdrop of the Mueller Report and Presidential-Congressional political hyperbole, let's all just remember two little words spoken by the living Son of God.
–Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.