Jesus is pretty unambiguous when he says in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge.” He doesn’t really give us any wiggle room, but boy-oh-boy do we ever try to wiggle around on this one. I mean how can I not judge? Am I supposed to ignore what I clearly see? What if it’s hurting someone else? How can I not judge that? And if someone tells me I’m being judgemental by telling me aren’t they themselves being judgemental? Coming to terms with this very direct and straightforward command is anything but.
Jesus himself declared that he didn’t come to judge the world, but to save it, yet he had a way of cutting straight heart of things that by no means ignored people’s sin. Take for example the Samaritan woman he met a well outside of town while waiting for his disciples to bring supper.
In the course of the discussion he told her to go and get her husband, to which she responded that she had no husband. Jesus laid things bare and said, “you’re right – you’ve had five husbands and you’re not even married to the man you’re with now.” How many of us have shaken our heads at Hollywood stars that can’t stay married for, it seems like, more than a week.
But Jesus wasn’t making a value statement here; simply stating what was true, and from her response it’s clear she didn’t feel attacked or put down. In fact she went back and told the whole village they’ve got to come out to meet this man. Her life and many others were transformed that day.
How do we do what Jesus did? I have discovered a simple and just about foolproof means of assessing whether or not I’m judging someone else. If my observation about someone else gives me a sense of superiority I have judged them – I have sinned.
Maybe some of you have been fearful of meeting Jesus because you’re afraid he’s really going to shame you. Jesus doesn’t use shame. Oh he’ll be honest and straightforward; there’s no hiding anything from him. But in that honesty you will find acceptance. By his grace I pray that’s also what you’ll find when you meet one of us, his followers.