Luke 6: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
This has become one of the most famous statements in all of the Bible. It has become so famous, in part, because people hate to be told that they are doing or believing something that is wrong. Try to tell them that, and you will be accused of judging people. The command seems fairly plain. Do not judge people. The difficulty comes in making sure we define “judge” properly. Does Jesus mean to say that it is wrong to ever say that something is wrong? Was Paul Bernardo doing anything wrong when he killed two teenage girls? Would it be wrong to say that Hitler was evil? Jesus does not discriminate when He makes this commandment. He does not say that we should judge big obvious sins but leave people’s personal choices out of the picture. So, we know that Jesus is not saying never make assessments about the rightness or wrongness of actions and attitudes.
Again, we need to remember here that Jesus is not talking about what churches or governing authorities cannot do. Churches are called by God to pass judgement on their people. If someone calling himself a sinner persistently and unrepentantly sins then the church is obligated to take some action. If a citizen violates the law, the state has the God given duty to judge people’s actions and decide on the appropriate punishment.
In the context of Jesus’ in Luke 6 it seems that what He is saying that we are not to be people with a critical spirit. He tells us not to judge, condemn, or be unforgiving. Individual believers are not to be looking under rocks to find things wrong with people. They are not to be suspicious of people’s motives. They must not accuse people of lying and hypocrisy and hiding their real feelings. Christians are not to have a critical spirit and condemnatory attitude. They are not to refuse to forgive on the basis that they really know what is going on inside a person’s head and heart.
We gravitate to this type of thing. Someone is nice to us and we question his motives. Someone says he is sorry and we charge him with insincerity. Someone corrects us and we think he is self righteous. Sometimes our assessments in such situations might be right, but the cynical, self righteous attitude that produces such assessments is most often very wrong.
A judgemental, censorious, unforgiving attitude will rot a person from within. Such people will never grow in holiness because they are too busy making sure everyone else comes up to their level. They are so busy looking around that they hardly ever look up and that will always produce immaturity, no matter how much Bible they know.
The opposite of such thinking and acting is to give (verse 38). Instead of tearing people down we are supposed to build them up. Instead of simply pointing out the weaknesses of others we are to go out of our way to help them. We are to wrestle with our assessments of others on our knees before Him who knows the heart. The heart that I am called to be most concerned about is mine.
This is convicting stuff. It meets all of us where we are. And the grace of God in His children is so powerful that it can even get us out of the evil of judging, condemning and unforgiving and bring us to be giving people.