If John 3:16 is the best-known verse in the Bible, one of the most quoted is Matthew 7:1–”Judge not, that you be not judged”–often employed to provide biblical cover to an “I can do whatever I want” lifestyle. The rub comes a few verses later, however, when Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15), which is an invitation to judge, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20), clearly judging them by their actions. So, what gives? To judge or not to judge, that is the question.
Jesus seemed not to judge a woman “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:4) when she was brought before him with the challenge, “What say you?” “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11), he responded, but added, “now stop sinning,” so there’s that. There comes a day when he will judge and that judgment final. Jesus will sit on the throne of God and we will each stand before him. Some will contest, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” In final judgment, Jesus will respond, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matthew 7:22-23). You don’t want to be one of those.
The Old Testament Law is full of “You shall and you shall nots,” and the prophets judged the people of God according to these standards, not to condemn, but to turn God’s people back toward God’s love. That is the heart of “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It is not our place to condemn–that is the seat of God. We are called to prepare each other to meet God–”First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). God’s grace given to you, you give to others to help others see clearly, because when someone truly sees clearly, they truly see God and are transformed, prepared to stand before his throne.
Wonderful God, what a great work You do in my life. You meet me where I am, a sinner, and embrace me and live in me and change me from the inside out. There is nothing I did or do to deserve this. It is only because of Your love and grace that I see salvation. Then you never stop saving me, transforming my heart and mind so that what I do displays Your grace and truth. May others see grace and truth in me and find you.