If you asked your average American today, especially a millennial, to repeat something Jesus taught, many would respond, "Jesus said, 'Judge not.'" That's about all many people know these days about Jesus. He taught us not to judge.
But not only have we forgotten when Jesus really meant when He said, "Judge not." We've also forgotten a whole lot of His other words. Are you ready for a refresher course?
I've written on this subject before, explaining that Jesus taught us not to judge superficially or hypocritically, and that He taught us not to condemn.
But the subject came up afresh for me in response to a meme we posted on our Facebook page, picturing Hugh Hefner and Billy Graham. The text of the meme read: "2 men. Both died recently in their 90's. Both influenced the world. Both born into Christian homes. 1 saw only religion & led millions astray. The other saw the Savior and led millions to faith."
That was it. Simple. Powerful. Clear.
Yet some folks protested the meme, with one man writing, "Really? Let God be the judge! Negative example for Christianity! Prime example why people have issues with Christians. Very poor taste!"
This man even had 19 people like his comment. How insane is that?
Aside from the fact that the meme said nothing about Hefner's eternal state (heaven or hell), there was nothing debatable in the meme.
Hefner vocally rebelled against his strict Christian upbringing and was a key player in the terribly destructive sexual revolution. To dispute his negative influence is like disputing that a hurricane causes destruction.
But no, not today. We dare not judge! What a misinterpretation and misuse of the words of Jesus.
So, to set the record straight, since "Judge not" is taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), allow me to quote for you some other sayings of Jesus from the very same sermon.
He said, "You have heard that it was said by the ancients, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell" (Matt. 5:27-30).
When is the last time you heard a sermon on this? Does this comport with your image of Jesus?
Then, in the very next verses, He said this: "It was said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matt. 5:31-32).
Heard many sermons on this topic either?
How about this? The Lord said, "No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24).
Jesus did not play games.
And He said all this before His famous teaching to "Judge not, lest you be judged." What did He say after those words?
In contrast with the idea that, when it comes our faith, you can have your way and I can have mine, Jesus said this: "Enter at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going through it, because small is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt. 7:13-14).
Then He gave this stern warning, which contains a call to judge righteously: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will know them" (Matt. 7:15-20).
That's exactly what that Facebook meme was doing. It was judging the tree by the fruits. And while deathbed conversion is certainly possible, based on what we know up until the time of death, Hugh Hefner was a God-rejecting man who produced much terrible fruit. (And in his case, he hardly came in sheep's clothing.)
And for any who think that just calling on Jesus' name without following Him is enough, He had this to say: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?' But then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.'" (Matt. 7:21-23)
Do you feel the weight of these words?
So I'd like to make a simple proposal. The next time someone tells you that Jesus said, "Don't judge," how about saying this? "Did you know those words are from the Sermon on the Mount? How about we read that sermon together?"
It might just rock a few boats—and perhaps save a few lives.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Revival Or We Die: A Great Awakening Is Our Only Hope. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.
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