Verses Out of Context #3 – Matthew 7:1

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. 2 For by what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and by what measure you measure out, it will be measured out to you.

Luke 6:37 “And do not judge, and you will never be judged. And do not condemn, and you will never be condemned. Pardon, and you will be pardoned.   — Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

This is another verse that I hear quoted out of context so often that I wonder if the people quoting it ever actually read their Bibles!

I most often hear this verse quoted by people who are either using it to avoid dealing with their own sin (“you can’t say that I should stop ____. After all, Jesus said not to judge, lest you be judged!”) or believers who want to avoid conflict and use it as an excuse to keep silent on contentious issues (“well, we shouldn’t say anything about ___, because we sin too, and we shouldn’t judge others”).

Before we look a bit closer at the passage, let’s remember the two primary rules of this ‘Out of Context’ series:

1. Context, context, context. NEVER read a SINGLE Bible verse! Always look at the context of the verse.

2. NEVER, EVER formulate a doctrine or theological stand on a single verse or passage. This practice is the foundation of the vast majority of false teachings, and has lead countless souls down the road to hell.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the immediate context of the passage in Matthew, and the parallel passage in Luke. In both cases, the statement “do not judge” is given toward the end of what is traditionally designated ‘the sermon on the mount’, and is followed teaching to drive home the point that we should treat others in the same way that God treats us.

Notice that in verses 2 – 5, rather than repeat “do not judge”, Jesus instructs us to first deal with our own sin so that we can effectively help others deal with theirs. Taken in the immediate context of the entire discourse, it is clear that Jesus’ intent is to remind us that we are ALL sinners and God expects us to be repentant, humble, and gracious to one another.

However, Scripture also teaches us that we are to proclaim AND DEMONSTRATE the full Gospel, and that incorporates an abhorrence and “calling out” of sin in order to lead to repentance and righteous living. The command is not to ignore or accommodate sin, but to oppose sin with firm resolution tempered with love and mercy. The sense of this and in Romans 14, where Paul gives instructions about eating food that had ben sacrificed to idols is the same; do not be condemning. It is quite a different thing to point out behavior that our Lord and Savior has already designated as sin and call for repentance – an act of love – than to condemn and reject a person with a self-righteous attitude.

In fact, we are throughout Scripture taught that we as God’s people are to hold ourselves and each other to a high standard of conduct. A few examples are Lev. 11:45, 19:2, Eph. 1: 3-5, and 1 Peter 1:14-16.

I Corinthians 5 specifically, and the entire letter in general are basically Paul’s rebuke of the church in Corinth for tolerating and, as many churches and ministries in America today do, even encouraging blatant sin (especially sexual sin). Is Paul therefore wrong to do so because he is ‘judging’ the Corinthian church? If we hold the attitude that it is wrong to require our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as ourselves to conduct ourselves “in a manner worthy of our calling” (Eph.4:12, Col. 1:10) then perhaps we should rip the letters to the Corinthians out of our Bibles and go sin with abandon!

Furthermore, the main task of a disciple is to emulate and follow not only the instructions but the example of his (or her) teacher. As disciples of Christ, we would do well to treat both sin and sinners as He did.

He didn’t say, “follow Me and when you feel like it, stop that sinful practice.” He said things like “repent”, and “go and sin no more”.

If we as God’s ambassadors on earth are unwilling to not only personally strive to live up to his standards as much as possible AS WELL AS encourage, expect, and require (especially of leaders) our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same then we are no different than those who are doomed to hell and can not expect them to see anything of eternal value in the lives of those of us who profess Christ and live no different than the world.

To summarize, it is wrong for us to have a judgmental attitude, but it is our duty before our Savior and Lord to point out IN LOVE, WITH MERCY that which God has already judged in order to bring sinners like us to repentance so they can live in the fullness of God’s grace and mercy.

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