Our standards have a way of creeping up on us when we least expect them, especially when when our children remind us of them. “But Daddy, you said people like that go to hell. Are they in Hell Daddy?” Ouch.
I’d like to think I’ve mellowed a bit over the years, but I’m not perfect. I used to believe suicide was a certain ticket to the realm of the wicked, simply because a suicide’s last act is murder, but now I know that not everyone is thinking clearly when they decide to kill themselves, nor can we know their state of mind after the fact. Do some not immediately regret their decision? Do some not immediately repent?
These are positions I would not have understood when I was young and idealistic. When I saw the world as more black and white. It’s taken time and experience to understand that people don’t work that way.
So now when I run into folks whose lifestyles and positions I don’t agree with, I don’t jump to conclusions as to the kind of person they are. I can’t know that. I may make snap judgments based on the type of person I come into contact with, but I have learned that my first impressions are subject to change.
So where am I going with this? This particular text has been used and abused by Christians and non-Christians alike. The phrase “Do not judge” I would argue has been applied back to Christians by non-believers citing this verse as a defense for whatever they want to do. Christians, they argue, have to say in one’s behavior, because Christians aren’t to judge.
So what kind of judgment is in view here? The key to understanding this text is the word translated “standard” which point to actions or activity. The Bible also says, “a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matt 12:33) You can tell what kind of person you are dealing with by observing their actions. You can tell if you want to associate with a person based on their fruit and the personal standards you have for fruit-bearing. We do this all the time, and we don’t even think about it because its ingrained in us to use this kind of judgment to base relationships.
But as in all things, we can takes this to extremes. What Jesus warns us here about isn’t about judging per se, but using an overly critical standard by which to judge. Do you see the fruit and immediately that such a person is a bad person, or do you give them the benefit of the doubt? Would you want someone else to give you time to get to know them, to know your story before they decide they don’t like you? The warning is about jumping to false conclusions based on little information. The command isn’t so such to judge (which we all do) but against being judgmental. We all have standards and ought to practice them. The Scripture also warns us against hanging out with “bad company” because “bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor 15:33)
So as you interact with others today, be careful not to jump to quick conclusions about people. Give them time to tell their story, and you then earn the right to tell yours. You earn the right to tell them about Jesus. God is calls us to make connections with people and introduce them to the Savior. As you go today, make disciples. Make friends of God’s children, but watch that you too will not be distracted from your mission.
God bless you today