Don't Judge, Don't Condemn, Forgive

Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37; James 4:11-12.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

To "judge" here does not mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favourable or unfavourable. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that critical disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unpleasant judgements upon them.

What our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they spring. Unless we root out this unpleasant attitude, we will be inclined to sit in judgement upon a brother's character and actions and also be biased in our dealings with him.

Jesus condemns the violation of the law of love involved in our critical, resentful, and condemnatory disposition towards others. Our Lord, while condemning this attitude, says that if we are critical of others, we will be likewise judged.

In this regard, Luke records Jesus saying, "Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).

It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a critical attitude that Jesus is condemning here. Jesus here prohibits rash, unloving judgements, a fault-finding spirit, an attitude to condemn without examination of charges.

In James 4:11-12 we read: "Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?"

To speak evil is to make harsh, critical judgments. The "royal law" requires love of a brother, and when this law is thus violated by a harsh judgment the law itself is condemned. But when a man sets himself up as a judge of the law he is no longer a humble and faithful doer of the law.

God Almighty is the Lawgiver. Shall man judge God? When we judge a brother, we disobey God Who made the law which forbids precisely such an attitude. Speaking evil of another (a brother or anyone) flows from the critical spirit which seeks to exalt self at the expense of another.

The royal law commands us to "love your neighbour as yourself" (James 2:8) and virtually condemns evil-speaking and judging. This is precisely what Jesus is emphasizing. He wants us to have an attitude that is loving, non-critical and forgiving. May God grant us the grace to do His will.