In our latest Wascana Fellowship session we finished Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by covering the last three “commandments,” Jesus’ famous summation of “all the law and the Prophets,” and His three final warnings/exhortations to His disciples about keeping covenant by obeying “my words.” I have split that session into three posts for clarity. Here goes the first:
The prohibition against judging others (Matt. 7:1-5) is eighth in what I have been calling Jesus’ Ten Commandments. (My listing and numbering are arbitrary, of course. I feel safe enough doing so because there are at least three different common numberings of the original Ten Commandments.) It seems to be referring to condemnation or putting down rather than discernment, because Jesus outlines in other places in Matthew what to do when you discover a brother sinning.
One feature of the Old Covenant was the unique governmental makeup, with God heading up the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government. The only function delegated to Israelites was the judicial, which was entrusted in varying degrees to Moses, elders, and the High Priest.
An important consideration in that covenant was keeping the judicial system impartial and fair. To that end (among others), legislation against perjury, breaking oaths, bearing false witness and taking God’s name in vain were prominently embedded in the original Ten Commandments.
With His background as the God of the Old Covenant it should not be surprising that Jesus should teach His disciples about the kind of judgment needed to function in His Kingdom. Jesus intends to take justice and fairness to a whole new level by noting that hypocrisy has no place in relations among His disciples. Just as bribes or perjury impede the wheels of justice, hypocrisy clouds judgment in important matters of discernment, such as how to deal with a brother or sister who really is sinning. Hypocrisy raises barriers to reconciliation by blinding the hypocrite to the obvious disjunction between the accuser’s harsh attitude toward him or her and the accuser’s own disobedient lifestyle. The net effect is to repel the one you are trying to reach.
Jesus’ goal is the reconciliation of all human beings to His Father, and thereby to every other human being. Blaming and accusing come from the dark side of human nature. So long as one can find others who seem less obedient than we are, it is easy to slack off in our own Christian life and witness. This is not good enough for our Lord and King, Jesus.
Jesus outlines a better strategy: judge your own heart and actions first. Once that humbles you sufficiently, it becomes possible to approach a sinning brother or sister in a manner that could potentially win them over. Whether it actually does or not is not is not up to us.
The most important thing to remember is that each of us also has a judge: Jesus Christ. When He promises to judge us as we judge others, it should give us pause. His statement adds a bit of an edge to his summary statement that we should do for others as we would have them do for us.
I definitely don’t want Jesus condemning me. If I don’t want to be condemned, I should treat others the saame way.