One of the Most Misunderstood Bible Verses
Written by Pastor Jim Law
Even among the ranks of the redeemed, believers battle with sinful, judgmental attitudes. In fact, one of the crushing criticisms leveled against Christianity has been those instances where professing believers have been cruel, harsh, and condemning in their action toward others.
Instead of providing a covering of comfort in the blows of life, believers have been known to shoot their wounded. These cancerous thoughts and actions can defile many, thus falling woefully short of the command of Jesus who taught, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
In context, the crosshairs of this command were upon the Pharisees whose judgments were so severe and without mercy that Jesus rebukes them for noticing the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the log that was in their own eye. (Matthew 7:2-5) Like the Pharisees before us, we can be good at speck inspecting and log ignoring.
Like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, we can rehearse the failures of others without taking a breath, but are often very slow to embrace our sins and failures.
However, Jesus calls his people to live in such a way that as Erwin Lutzer states it, “the love within the church attracts the world, and the holiness within the church convicts the world.” We must make judgments and seek to be discerning, but in all things we are to humbly remove the log from our own eye so that we might see clearly the truth and grace of God to help others on their way.
All of that being said, I believe this teaching by Jesus could be one of the most misunderstood commands in the Bible because it is commonly interpreted to mean that no conviction or discernment is to be used at all, and truth then becomes a wax nose to be molded and shaped to one’s liking.
With subjectivity being the cultural air that we breathe, I think it is possible that Matthew 7:1 is the Bible verse more often quoted by people outside the church than John 3:16. In other words, I would argue that if the person on the street has to produce a Bible verse, it would be Matthew 7:1 over any other.
With the church struggling with her own sins, coupled with the world quoting Jesus to justify its sin, I fear that we as God’s people have been paralyzed and silenced by a misuse of Matthew 7:1. Presently, the greatest sin one can commit in our culture is intolerance which basically is defined as speaking in disagreement to another’s belief or position.
This pressure has not been insignificant on the witness of the church. Sadly, many professing Christians seem embarrassed that at the heart of being a follower of Christ means that we must embrace universal, objective truth.
However, living the Christian life requires just that. We must make judgments, assessments, and evaluations. We are called to be a discerning people who stand on biblical conviction, and we must make decisions of right and wrong every day of our lives. For instance, if someone takes a gun and robs a bank, and in the process of doing so shoots and kills the teller, it is accurate to say that such a person is a murderer. That is a judgment.
While the above illustration will probably not receive an objection, once the behavior enters into moral issues, like adultery, fornication, and homosexuality—-look out. Any type of judgment rendered is viewed by many as the ultimate offense followed by a litany of accusatory questions:
“Who are you to judge?”
“Who are you to say that God can’t approve of loving homosexual relationships in
“Who are you to say that the Mormons are wrong?”
“Who are you to say that I don’t have a biblical grounds for divorce?”
“Who are you to question my dream or vision as not authoritative?”
“And by the way, who of us is perfect? We have no right to sit in judgment of someone else’s personal morality, belief systems, or views.”
Really? Is that true for the follower of Jesus Christ who is called to take every thought captive to him and to submit to biblical authority in every area life? I would argue that it is what it means to die to yourself, to take up your cross daily, and to follow Christ. We should not be surprised that we are heading in a direction in which such a stand may cost us everything.
Followers of Jesus Christ are to speak the truth in love and be honest about their own sins. We are to make wise, biblical judgments in a world that tolerates no judgments whatsoever.
To this world, our witness must be, “In and of myself, I am not the authority, but the ultimate issue is not what I think, or what you think. The real question is what does God say? He has gone on record you know. And if we do not look to him, then we will all do what is right in our own eyes, and that is a recipe for chaos. Just look around.”