Proclaiming the message of the gospel to the world is the primary mission of the church. However, unlike the days of the not too distant past, we now live in a world of perpetual judgment. People stand guilty in the eyes of one another until proven innocent, and even then, it may not make a bit of difference in the eyes of some. For example, people often judge a homeless person living on the street as someone who is merely lazy or a person blessed financially as someone greedy. Another example is all politicians are corrupt, and, of course, Christians are just a bunch of Bible-thumping hypocrites.
“God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him.“John 3:17
However, more often than not, out of all the people in the world, it seems that no one undergoes more scrutiny and suffers more contempt than followers of Jesus Christ. Granted, it is not the same worldwide because some parts of the world are better than others, but there are varying levels of contempt no matter where you go. This day-to-day struggle can wear believers down to a point where they, too, start to judge the world that is judging them. We can even fall into the habit of judging fellow believers without realizing it, and for that reason, Jesus warns us of this all too easy pitfall.
Even the disciples once judged a man who was blind from birth, asking Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2). On the surface, it seems as if they instinctively wanted the dirt, the scandalous information, or the tabloid headline to put in modern terms. In fairness to the disciples, it was common to believe that a person’s affliction was proportional to the sin in one’s life or his or her parents’ life. Remarkably, considering the time they spent with Jesus, none of the disciples seemed to have a genuine concern for the blind man or even thought to ask Jesus to heal him on the spot.
Sadly, the same can be said for many Christian congregations today that have become inward-facing, self-serving, and at odds with one another to where the church has little to no love and concern for the impoverished and spiritually lost. Just as Jesus said to the church at Ephesus long ago so He would also likely say to some churches of today, “You have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). In His sermon on the mount, Jesus gives a fair warning to His followers about judging others. Jesus said:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.“Matt. 7:1-2
In the above verse, Jesus is telling His disciples that we are not to judge others hypocritically or in a self-righteous manner. In this context, a better translation for the word judge is the word condemn, i.e., Do not condemn so you will not be condemned as well. An excellent example of what Jesus is teaching comes from the parable that He shared about the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus said:
The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’Luke 18:11-13
Even though the tax collector was judged and slandered by the Pharisee, he kept his focus on God, humbled himself, and confessed his shortcomings. Jesus further said the tax collector went home justified, whereas the Pharisee did not. He explained that “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). Therefore, when others judge and slander against us, we must keep our focus on God and be ever mindful of our shortcomings so that we, too, like the tax collector, will return home justified.
The best example is given to us by Jesus Himself, who understands all too well what it is like to be judged wrongly, slandered against, rejected, and ultimately condemned. Jesus, who was beaten and bruised beyond physical recognition, said, as He hung dying on a cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). When we allow ourselves to succumb to the pressures of the world and judge others when they wrongly judge us, it is then that we know not what we are doing in the eyes of Jesus, but by His grace, He shows us the Way.
As we face the harsh judgments of others, Jesus tells us how to respond so that we can guard our testimony and be an effective witness to share the gospel, for that is our primary mission. Jesus said:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.“Luke 6:27-28