John 3:16 may be the Christian’s best-known verse in the Bible, but the one most quoted by the world is Matthew 7:1–“Judge not, that you be not judged”–often employed to provide biblical cover to an “I can do whatever I want” lifestyle. The rub comes a few verses later, however, when Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15), which is an invitation to judge, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20), clearly judging them by their actions. So, which is it, to judge or not to judge? That is the question.
One thing for sure, everyone will be judged. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31). There comes a day when Jesus will judge and that judgment final. Jesus will sit on the throne of God and we will each stand before him. Some will contest, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” In final judgment, Jesus will respond, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matthew 7:22-23). You do not want to be one of those. This final judgment of Jesus ought to relieve me of my hunger to judge. No one is getting away with anything, and that includes me.
Perhaps our problem is our favorite verse, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We stop too soon. We should keep reading, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). The Bible is full of “you shall” and “you shall nots,” and the prophets judged people according to these standards, not to condemn, but to turn people toward God’s love. This is the heart of “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It is not our place to condemn, but to prepare each other to meet God. “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). God’s grace given to you, you give to others to help others see clearly, because when someone truly sees clearly, they truly see God and his saving grace and are prepared to stand before his throne.
Wonderful God, what a great work You do in my life. You meet me where I am, a sinner, and embrace me and live in me and change me from the inside out. There is nothing I did or do to deserve this. It is only because of Your love and grace that I see salvation. Then you never stop saving me, transforming my heart and mind so that what I do displays Your grace and truth. May others see that same grace and truth in me and find you.