I would hate to be a judge. I can’t imagine presiding over a court where the judgment might alter life of an individual forever. Sentencing someone to life in prison is harsh. What kind of hope and what kind of future is that for the one life we have to live? Yet I do judge and I do condemn but thankfully I don’t have authority to imprison and thankfully some of the most judgmental people I know are not in charge. We should all be circumspect before writing others off or judging someone as not worth an effort of relationship.
Paul after detailing what a sinner looks like in Chapter 1 of Romans pivots on his audience and tells them to not to judge the sinner. Casually reading Romans his warning is well timed because right after the details on how people rebel against God and what that rebellion looks like my mind started to think of certain people or certain types of people that fall into these sinner categories. But that is not what Paul wants the reader to think so he drops a rebuke on that.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1 ESV
Lest I forget I am a sinner also Paul puts a hold on his narrative to warn the reader. Because when I go back to Chapter 1 I can find myself in this list.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Romans 1:28-31 ESV
I have gossiped. I have been greedy. I have been deceitful. I have been arrogant. I have been loveless. I could continue… So Paul provides a well-timed rebuke to me. Do not condemn others because you yourself are in the same boat. It is like two people in a life raft in the middle of the ocean and me pointing to the other person and saying “You are a looser and you are going to die in this raft.” When the same reality applies to me as the other person is the same situation.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:37-38 ESV
Jesus talks about my judgement toward others as a negative response. If all people are created in God’s image. If all people are descendants of Adam and Eve then no matter what they have done they are still of the same flesh and blood that I was made from. Jesus contrasts the negative judgment and condemnation done by me, with the restorative and positive of forgiveness and giving. Jesus is saying don’t judge your neighbor but forgive your neighbor because God has forgiven you. Give love and compassion to your neighbor because God has shown love and compassion to you. God wants not that we tear each other down but God wants his followers to build up.
Jesus then jumps into one of the most famous parables
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:41-42 ESV
Look at how Jesus challenges the listener to get themselves right so they can help the other person. It is about building up. If I can only condemn and judge the other person to tear them down where is God in that? How is he glorified?
While I am not a judge (thankfully) there is a real judgement against all of us sinners. A righteous judgment that only God can give because only God is sinless and perfect.
7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:7-8 ESV
Paul is telling us that as followers of Christ we must be persistent in seeking God’s glory and God’s kingdom and he tells us what that looks like by describing what a judgmental sinner looks like.
Self-Seeking: Judging others is selfish. God made us and saved us to reflect the love, the mercy, the grace, and the forgiveness he has poured out through Christ who is the perfect embodiment of love, selfless sacrifice, grace, and mercy.
Reject Truth: God has told us what is right and what is wrong. Yet those who are judged by God willfully reject his truth and what is right. By rejecting what is right they reject God. Christians do not judge others for rejecting truth we double down with more selflessness, more mercy, and more forgiveness as an overflow of what God has already given us.
Follow Evil: It is never enough to reject God and God’s truth. It necessarily follows that by rejecting truth that those condemned by God will choose what is evil. There is no middle ground of neutrality. Following what is evil proves that God’s judgement is justified.
I am not here to judge but I know the Judge. I am not here to condemn but I do plead and witness to anyone who will listen how to meet the Judge’s standards. I am a witness to the good news that Jesus died taking on my shame and my sin to make me right before the Judge. That good news is available to all who would seek his glory.