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John 7:24 (ESV)

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

The next time someone quotes Matthew 7:1 at you — “Judge not lest ye be judged!” — be sure to answer with today’s verse. It should make for a lively discussion. The concept of JUDGING is a hotly contested topic in today’s post-modern America, but that is nothing new. Mankind has resisted judgment on its behavior since being kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and we feel particularly empowered when we throw a bible verse back in anyone’s face that dares to question the goodness or morality of our actions.

“Ha! Even your own ‘rule book’ tells you not to be judgmental!”

In today’s passage, Jesus was calling out the Jewish leaders on their hypocrisy and poor judgment of his actions in healing a man on the Sabbath. They were perfectly fine with performing circumcision on the Sabbath, but you can’t heal a man on the same day. “If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?”. I’m sure you can see the ridiculousness of their change against Jesus. They were judging poorly.

“We should ever bear in mind that that ‘appearance’ may be deceitful, and therefore with the love that hopeth all things, we should be ready to give men the benefit of any doubt or any uncertainty that is in our minds” (Morgan). Calling a sin a sin is not sinful judgmentalism. Jesus has certainly given us permission to tell right from wrong, and that freedom is not confined to our thoughts. However, ultimate judgment is never ours to wield, and we all need to remember that we still violate the law, too. Don’t speed down the highway and yell at all the other speeders! Here is a list of sinful judgment:

  • Superficial judgment is wrong – Don’t go strictly by appearances.
  • Hypocritical judgment is wrong – Jesus spoke of hypocrisy often.
  • Harsh, unforgiving judgment is wrong – We are always to be gentle towards everyone.
  • Self-righteous judgment is wrong – We are called to humility.
  • Untrue judgment is wrong – The bible forbids false witness.

Believers are warned against judging others unfairly or unrighteously, but Jesus commends “right judgment”:

  • We are to be discerning (Colossians 1:9).
  • We are to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 4:2).
  • We are to gently confront erring brothers or sisters in Christ (Galatians 6:1).
  • We are to practice church discipline (Matthew 18:15–17).
  • We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

It’s helpful to remember this axiom from Pastor Erwin Lutzer: “The better the world understands the purpose of Jesus’ coming, the more it hates Him. What the world values, Christ despises; what He loves, it hates.” Years ago, F.B. Meyer wrote, “Between such irreconcilable opposites as the church and the world, there cannot be but antagonism and strife.” That is why the world tells you to “Judge not”…and why you must be willing to “judge with right judgment.”

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