I quoted you the passage in Matthew, however Luke also records Christ's sermon on the mount and later on we'll look at some of the passages recorded there. The point of my thoughts here today is why I think this passage has become #1 to collegians. They are basically using it to say that no one can make a judgment in regards to another person. That we can't judge another and they can't judge us. Therefore, everybody is OK and no one is wrong. That's my take on it anyway.
If what I heard about the new #1 passage on college campuses is true, then I see this as another example of someone using a passage from the Bible without truly understanding it. By their misunderstanding and misuse of this scripture, they are applying to it a meaning it was not intended to mean.
As you've no doubt heard before, to properly study and to understand something said in the Bible, we must look at several things. (1) who's talking, (2) who are they talking to,(3) the situation surrounding the statement and (4) the general context of the conversation. So, let's look at those things in relation to Christ's statement about "judging."
Of course, Christ is the speaker of it and He said it during His sermon on the mount which contains many great lessons that, basically, are pointing out how Christians should relate to the world and those around them. If you read this sermon in its entirety, beginning with chapter 5 of Matthew and the "beatitudes (blessings)" and through chapter 7 you'll discover that Jesus, by use of many short lessons, is pointing out the difference in how Christians should conduct themselves as opposed to how the Pharisees act. One of the things to note about the Pharisees is that Jesus made them the epitome of the word "hypocrite."
OK, we've set the scene. Jesus is talking and His disciples and followers are the audience. And the general context of His talk is that Christians are to be morally, spiritually and in general conversation, on a higher plane than the world about them. Especially more "righteous" than those who "profess" to be religious, the Pharisees, but really are only putting on a show.
So, when He says "Judge not, that ye be not judged." what is He getting at? Is He talking about a magistrate-type of judging? No, He's not. Is He talking about an act of judgment by the elders of a congregation? No, He isn't. Is He perhaps talking about forming an opinion of something? Again, the answer is - no.
The Bible is replete with passages regarding the authority of the civil courts and civil rulers and all citizens being subject to them. The 13th chapter of Romans is a prime example of this. And, of course, the Church is admonished to judge the difference between righteous and unrighteous behavior within a congregation and to take the appropriate steps to remove the wrong.
And don't we, as individuals, have to judge right from wrong in order to avoid corrupting ourselves? Of course we do. An easy example of this is found in Matt. 7 verses 15-16 (same sermon still) that we're to "beware of false prophets" who may not appear to be such at first glance. But that we'd be able to tell them "by their fruits." IE: We have to judge their actions rather than their words and when we determine them to be "false" - avoid them. Isn't this judging?
Well then, we've discussed what our reference verse DOESN'T mean, so let's look at what it DOES mean. And when we look at it in light of the aforementioned 4 rules of study we find that it's not really a complicated lesson. It's actually pretty simple.
Christ is telling His children, Christians, that they are not to be like the Pharisees, or any other hypocrites who go around finding faults in others and condemning them for it all the while considering themselves to be perfect. In other words, don't go around with a "holier-than-thou" attitude.
Jesus is telling His listeners there on the mount that they will be judged "as they judge." Said another way: you will be judged by the same rules which you use to judge other people. A good side passage to look at here is some more words of Jesus recorded in Mark 4:24 where He warns His followers to "take heed" (IE: be careful) and then tells them why: "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you."
Another good scripture refuting the misconception that we can't make any judgment towards another person is found in James 2:13 where we're told "For he shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy." It's not that we are NOT to judge, but rather, use the same rules for judgment to both everyone else AND ourselves.
Our original passage from Matt. 7:1 goes along with two great Bible principles. One we find given in Gal. 6:7 where it says: "Whatsover a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
The second is seen in Matt. 7:12, shortly after the "judge not" statement, and Christ is still the speaker and says: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." I think it interesting to look a the first 5 verses of Matt. 7 and when we do I think we find the principle of verse 1 seen by the examples He cites there.
IE: Don't try to remove a speck of dust from someone else's eye while you've got a 2x4 in your own. The thought there: that Christians shouldn't be so quick to find faults in others while overlooking their own shortcomings. Or, before you condemn some one else, better make sure that your own life is in order. Perhaps this fits with the old saying about people living in glass houses and throwing stones.
My concluding thought on this subject today: "Judging" is just one of the many lessons Jesus teaches His disciples about how they are to be different from the world. How they are to treat each other as we go through life. That is how the world can tell if a Christian is truly one, or whether they are just another "false prophet" whose actions don't match their words. The point is, when we have to make a judgment, we are to do so considering our own soul and then judge righteously.