In a culture where tolerance is the predominant if not the only virtue, the favorite support text is, “Judge not”.
Simultaneously, with the advent of social media – the proclamation of personal opinion has never been easier. Online communication is permanent, instantaneous and global – making judgmental attitudes more common and destructive than ever.
With that said this may be the single most misunderstood, misinterpreted, misapplied verse in all the bible. However, if you can understand and apply this verse it can take your relationships to a new level.
The key to understanding the passage lies in the definition of the first word – JUDGE. We all know that words have what linguists call a lexical range. That is, there is a range of meaning to words. This is true in every language, but it especially true for English. Our language uses fewer words with a very wide lexical range.
For example: The word LOVE can mean many different things and the context, non-verbal cues, etc. help us to know where the word falls along the lexical range of possibilities. If I say, “I love this weather” that is very different from, “I love my wife”, or at least it better be. So the word LOVE has a lexical range and you must determine what I meant to communicate based on the context in which the word was used.
The same is true for the word, “JUDGE”. The word in the Greek is – krino, a word which has twelve different shades of meaning. On one hand, “Judge” simply means to discern, to make a call, to critique. This is a positive use of the word. We judge in order to help, restore, improve. “Judge”, may also mean what is meant by, “Jesus is coming to Judge the earth”. That is to condemn, destroy, punish, remove.
It is imperative that we understand how Jesus was using this word in the context of Mat. 7 if we are to interpret what it means. Our excessively tolerant culture has interpreted Jesus to be referring to – the first definition. That is – you should NEVER say anything is wrong, or right for that matter. You should be tolerant of anything and everything. I want to submit to you that the text is best understood when read from the other end of the lexical spectrum.
Jesus is forbidding his followers from becoming like the Pharisees. They had taken the law of God and make amendment after amendment – until ultimately they had an entirely new set of rules that they held as more important and helpful that the Law of God. WHEN YOU BECOME THE LAW GIVER, YOU MUST ALSO BECOME THE LAW ENFORCER.
Matthew 23:2 -The Pharisees sat themselves in the seat of Moses.
We should avoid the condemning, negative, overly critical judgement of the Pharisees but we should practice restorative, loving discernment as Jesus and his followers often did.