Judge Not

MP3 Audio:  WS330296_Dn-Joseph_Judge-Not.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, July 28, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.


Gospel Reading:  Luke 6:36-42
(also see Matthew 7:1-5)

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One. Amen.

Have you heard about the new congregation on the corner? They had to pay a fortune for their sign. It’s the First Relevant, Modern, Contemporary Please-yourself, Have-it-your-own-way Church of the Living God in Christ Jesus.

You ever been to that church? Instead of an hour and a half, the services are only fifteen minutes. There are no sermons. They make sure that all the music is entertaining as well as uplifting, AND you get to choose your seven favorite commandments and forget the rest.

This sound like a church that you would want to go to? This sound like a church that would honor God, and would give Him right worship, and right glory? Does this sound like a lot of American churches?

Imagine what that would be like: You just step down through a bunch of the commandments of God and you say,

Well, “have no other Gods before Him,” okay, I like that; I agree with that, and “don’t kill.” I’m good with that; I don’t really want to kill anybody—torture, maybe, but I don’t want to kill anybody. Uh, yeah, adultery, but not stealing–I want to steal stuff. I really just want to steal stuff. I want to steal money, I want to steal—you know what? I’m gonna forget that one.

If somebody followed all the other commandments, but they were just a thief, would you feel like, “Well, they’re mostly a good Christian, they’re mostly following Christ, they’re keeping the other commandments?” Or what if they said,

Look, I’m not going to steal anything, I’m not going to have any other gods, I’m not going to kill anybody, but, you know, this adultery command: I understand it in its context, in its time and in its place; obviously it had its place, obviously it had its place, and I’m not saying it’s not the Word of God, but they had diseases back then that they didn’t know the cause of, and we have better medical technology now, and we understand human psychology better, and the needs of individuals—such as myself—and obviously this command just isn’t relevant for our time, so that adultery command, I’m not going to really pay attention to that one, but I’ll keep the rest.

Wouldn’t you feel like this is a great man or woman of God that you want to follow and be like, and be really close friends with?

We laugh at this, and we say that this sounds like a terrible, horrible church, and yet in congregation after congregation across the whole country, across the whole world, we run into churches that do just this. They want to pick and choose which sayings of Christ they want to believe are relevant, and which sayings of Christ they arrogantly want to say are irrelevant and not applicable to us today.

Just as an example, what does the word of God command us—what does the Word of God tell us to do when we see a brother or a sister in sin?

Now, we all know what is expected of us in today’s society and in today’s culture. What is expected of us, what is politically correct, is to simply pretend that we never noticed it to begin with.

But let’s look at some Scriptures. Just for example, the Apostle Paul in the book of Second Timothy: He commands, he says, Reprove, rebuke, exhort.” When is the last time you reproved, rebuked, or exhorted somebody?

First Timothy five, verse twenty, Paul says, Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of everybody so that the rest will be fearful to continue sinning.” Man, that’s getting personal now. We’re not just stepping on toes, we’re stomping them on the stage in front of everybody. That doesn’t sound very comfortable or uplifting.

How about James 5:19 and 20? If anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his ways will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” See, in this twisted, modernistic environment that we have today, a lot of people hear this term, “Oh, ‘cover their sins'”, and they think it means “sweep them under the rug,” cover them with the rug so that nobody sees them. This passage says the opposite. It says he who turns a sinner from his way, he who goes to him and confronts him and says, “Brother, in tears and in love, I’m telling you, you’re going the wrong way; turn around,” and you turn them from the error of their way, that you have saved a soul from death, and you have covered a multitude of sins.

And then perhaps the clearest of all… have you ever been studying something in Scripture, trying to find the truth about something, and you find lots of verses that are relevant, and then you find that one verse that is the “God couldn’t make it any clearer if He tried” verse? You know what I mean? You finally hit that one passage on that subject you’re studying, and it’s so clear that if you don’t “get it” you can’t blame God. You can look in the mirror and find somebody to blame, but you can’t blame God, because He was so explicit.

Well, this is like that–Matthew 18:15–and it’s a passage we’ve all heard many times. It says that if you have seen somebody do something wrong and you have something against them, Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone,” and you know the rest of it. If they don’t respond, then take two or three witnesses and talk with them, and if they still don’t repent, then take it before the whole church, and when you take their sin before the entire church, if they still don’t repent, then there are some harsh words there. It says “treat them as sinner and as a publican.” In other words, you still love them, you still pray for them, you still do good for them, but you love them as an outsider, someone who is not any longer one of us. You love them as you love a pagan. Those are difficult words, and if they’re scary, it’s because they’re meant to be. But I, today, am not going to focus on that whole process, of when you talk to two or three, when you talk to the whole church, when do you excommunicate, all these things, just the first step in the process, the very first step.

So many of us are hard of hearing. It’s so clear that you cannot get around it. It says—and this is not spoken to bishops, or priests, or deacons, or teachers. This is spoken to each individual one of us. It’s just talking about you seeing something in your brother, in your sister, that needs correction. And Jesus says, “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.”

How often do we do that?

We think that’s unloving, uncharitable. Go and tell him his fault. You know there are some Christians that do follow this command, to go and tell him his fault. To go and tell her her fault. And nine times out of ten, what is the knee-jerk response? The moment some fellow Christian has the audacity to walk up to you one-on-one and dares to tell you that you have sinned, what’s the knee-jerk reaction?

Well, “Judge not, that ye be not judged!”

Do you know the devil quotes scripture, too?  When Jesus and Satan were facing off in the wilderness, remember the three temptations that he brings to Christ. And the second one, the devil quotes Scripture, doesn’t he? The devil’s not afraid of the Bible; he uses it every day. He twists it, he misapplies it, oh, but he loves to use it. The devil knows the Bible better than you and I do. He uses it all wrong, but he knows it backward and forward. When he confronted Jesus, he said, “Go on, throw yourself off that building, ’cause it’s written right there in the Psalms, ‘He shall bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus didn’t fall for that. He said, “It’s written, ‘you shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”

Well, the devil loves quoting from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” That’s one of the devil’s favorite verses. I have heard that verse come out of the mouths of many people who do not want to be confronted for their sins.

But think about it for just a moment. How many verses, even today—just a cursory look—how many verses are there in Scripture, over and over, that give us an example and even command us to confront one another, in love, with sin? As painful as it may be, as uncomfortable as it may be, as “not fun” as that may be, even though sometimes it may break relationships, knowing all these horrible consequences, these horrible feelings, we know that Scripture says over and over and over to do that.

So if somebody says “No, I should not do that, because it says ‘judge not,’” guess what that is? That’s stupid. It’s ignorant. It’s not just an oopsie; that is downright stupid. That’s foolish.

Now, how could I be so uncharitable? “Where’s the charity today, Deacon Joseph?” My charity is in my recognition that God does not instantly drop us into hell just because we are stupid. God is charitable to us, He’s patient with us, He loves us, even when I do stupid things, even when you do. But just because He is charitable to us, just because He is patient with us, doesn’t stop it from being stupid. Because how stupid is it, how ignorant is it, to believe that God contradicts Himself?

Does God say four or five times in Scripture, “Confront your brother with his sin, confront your sister with her sin,” and then here in the Sermon on the Mount, say exactly the opposite? Does that make any sense at all? No. But if it doesn’t contradict, then what does it mean when it says “do not judge?” What does it mean when it says, “do not judge?”

The people who love to quote this passage, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” would do well to read the next few verses in the same passage, for it explains itself. Jesus explains it in full. He says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged, for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” You do not try to get that little speck of sawdust out of your brother’s eye while you have a big 2×4 piece of wood stuck in your own eye. You hypocrite! Get the wood out of your own eye.

And now listen carefully to what Jesus says next. He says get the wood out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly so that you may take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Notice what Jesus does not say. Jesus does not say, “Take that wood out of your own eye and then keep your mouth shut so that you don’t judge anybody.” See, that’s the message we hear taught to us many times, from many corners, is, “Take care of your own sin, take the wood out of your own eye, and then just keep your mouth shut. Don’t confront anybody, because that would be judging.”

Jesus says exactly the opposite.

He says take the wood out of your own eye–take care of your own sin first–and then you will see clearly so that you may go take that speck out of your brother’s eye. Guess what? Even the favorite verse of those who want to avoid confrontation, even that favorite verse contradicts their position, because if you read the whole passage, in that very passage itself, Jesus says that after you have dealt with your sin, then the time comes that you do confront your brother, and you help them deal with their sin.

So what does it mean when Jesus says, “Judge not”?  When He says, “Do not judge”, Jesus is not talking about whether you will confront your brother or your sister in their sin. What Jesus is talking about is the order in which you do it.

I want you to imagine somebody who has cancer, and has had no luck whatsoever in getting rid of their cancer. They find out that you have cancer, and so they come up to you, and they start giving you all this advice of how you need to get rid of your cancer. Are you going to listen to anything that they say?

Somebody has diabetes and their diabetes has not gotten any better; in fact, it has worsened. They’re in and out of the hospital often, and can’t seem to beat it. They find out you have diabetes, and so they walk up to you and they say, “Well, let me tell you what medication you need to get on so that you can get rid of your diabetes.” Would you take medical advice from a person like that?

Now, if there is somebody who has been 100% healed of cancer, or 100% healed of diabetes, then your ears might perk up!

What God is saying, is that whatever sin you’re considering pointing out in your brother, you check yourself first. If that particular sin, if you’ve avoided it, or if you’ve repented of it, and you’ve defeated it, then maybe you see clearly enough that you can go to step two and help your brother take the speck out of his own eye. But if you look at yourself and you see that you’re guilty of that same sin, well, step one is not to open your mouth to your brother. Step one is for you to repent.

So if you see some brother struggling with lust, pornography, filthy things on the internet, or movies, and you yourself have that issue, you don’t need to be the one to go talk to them about that problem. Your first step is to repent before God, because if you truly hate that sin, then you’re going to take care of it in yourself, first. But if you don’t want to deal with your own sin, and you want to go pick on your brother for that same sin that you’re committing, see, that shows you don’t really hate the sin; you’re just looking for some way to tear down your brother. That’s when you’re showing a lack of love. That’s when you’re showing a lack of kindness. That is when you’re showing hypocrisy, and that is the case in which Jesus says “Do not judge,” because if you yourself are currently caught in the bonds of lust, and you dare to reprimand someone else for lust, you’ve just called down condemnation on yourself.

If you yourself have children who are disobedient, poorly educated, and most days you’re pulling your hair out because you don’t know how to get your little kids to obey, the last thing you need to be doing is looking down your nose at other moms and dads in the congregation and be telling them how they really ought to be parenting.

If your marriage is in a shambles, and you are not being a godly husband, or you are not being a godly wife, the last thing you need to be doing is looking down your nose at other people in the church and saying, “Well, look at what a rotten husband he’s being. Look what a horrible wife she’s being.”

If what you’re after is to defeat sin, then identify it in yourself first. Once you’ve identified it and have repented of it, and have been healed from it, and are no longer practicing that sin, then guess what? Step two is to help others in your family and in your congregation, in your church, to be awakened to the identity of this sin and to repent of it.  That is something you’ve been called to do.

Have you ever noticed the difference between a social club and a hospital? They are kind of similar, in at least one way. If you go into a social club, or if you go into a hospital, depending on the type of hospital and the type of social club, you’re going to run into all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Some people from Alabama, some people from Mississippi, some people from New York, some people that have grown up here all their lives, some people from abroad, some old, some young, some poor, some rich, some white, some black, a little of everything. You’re going to run into a large congregation of varied types of people in the church, you’re going to run into varied types of people in a social club and a hospital, but that’s where the similarity ends.

You see, in a social club, your primary reason to be there is because you want to be there. Because everybody there–there’s people that you like to be around, people that you have common interests with, people that you like to have positive, uplifting conversations with. That’s why you’re there. In a social club, it would be a faux pas–it would be offensive–to start discussing negative things, like someone’s poor mothering skills, or that somebody is being a bad husband, or that somebody has cancer, or that somebody has been going through some sort of embarrassing medical problem.

Imagine that you’re at the Rotary Club, and you walk up to somebody and say,

“Well, hi there, Bob, you know you just really haven’t been being a very good dad lately, have you?” “So how’s that cancer and diabetes doing?” “So are your kids still disobeying you every time that you tell them to do something?”

How quickly would you be kicked out of the Rotary Club, if those were the kind of conversations you were having?

But an interesting thing happens when you walk into a hospital. The primary focus there is not comfort; it’s not fun. Some of the people in the hospital you may have commonalities with, and you may like being around them. There may be other people you run into at the hospital that you really just don’t get along with well at all, kind of abrasive with them, difficult to be friends with them. You don’t have common interests.

But you see, everybody is not at the hospital to have fun. Everybody is at the hospital because they’re sick, and they want to get better, and so the conversations in a hospital are very different from the conversations in a social club. You might have some positive conversations at the hospital, but nine times out of ten, a doctor or nurse is going to walk into your room and the first thing out of their mouth is going to be something embarrassing about your medical history.

“So, how long have you been bleeding in this particular way? Tell me the details. When did it start? From how many places are you bleeding? You know, what medications exactly have you taken, and what other doctors have you seen? Have you been involved in drugs? Have you been engaged in any risky sexual behaviors? Have you been doing anything illegal, or dangerous?”

Not really the sort of conversation that you have at a social club, is it? And yet, in a hospital–in that context–it’s expected, it’s perfectly normal. People that would be so offended if you asked them these things will just open right up, and will tell a doctor and a nurse everything.

[Ruth,] you’re a nurse. Have you ever asked people questions like that? How many times? Thousands upon thousands of times. Most of the time, they kind of expect those questions, don’t they? If you met that same person at the Rotary Club, and asked them the same questions, how do you think they’d respond? Not quite as openly? Not quite as openly. People would be offended.

But people aren’t going to the hospital to have fun or to hang out with buddies, or to have positive conversations. They’re going to the hospital to get better, and to get better, that means you’ve got to spend some time at least focusing on the sickness, focusing on the ugly thing, focusing on the painful thing, the hurtful thing. The thing you don’t want to think about is what you’ve got to think about when you’re at the hospital. The cancer you don’t talk about to anybody else, you talk about to everybody at the hospital. When somebody is brave enough to obey Christ and to walk up to you one-on-one and say, “Russ, you’re a good man and I love you, but in this particular area, you’re falling short.” “Ruth, you’re a wonderful lady, but did you know in this one particular area, you’re not being obedient to Christ.” “Jon, you know what Christ says about this. When are you going to start following Him?” If your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Well, you’re judging me. Judge not.” If that’s your reaction, then you are under the false impression that the Church is a social club.

But when you are confronted with your sin, if with patience and humility–and yes, even gratitude, thankfulness,–you listen to what is said, and you honestly search your own heart to see if there’s any truth in what’s been said, and you identify that at least some of what was said is true and that you are guilty as a sinner in that area, and that you need to repent, then you are recognizing that the Church is not a social club; the Church is a hospital where sick people come to admit that they are sick, and to seek for a cure, and to find it.

So what is your response going to be to this difficult message today? You know there are a lot of Sundays that the sermons are very positive, happy, uplifting. Now you’re confronted with this weighty mass of something that you don’t want to receive, something that you don’t want to do, but you know it says it in the Word of God:

  • “Go to him and tell him his fault, between he and thee alone.”
  • “Take the plank out of your own eye and help your brother take the speck out of his.”
  • “Rebuke, exhort, teach.”
  • “Turn your brother, turn your sister, from the error of their ways, and by doing so, you will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

Are you willing to hear what Christ has said multiple times, very clearly, in the Scriptures? Or are you going to continue hiding behind Satan’s twisting of Scripture when he says that all confrontation is just “judging” that needs to be avoided? What is your response going to be?

The next time someone confronts you with your sin, are you going to fluff up your feathers like a wet mother hen and say, “You’re judging me. You don’t have any right to judge me. Go away,” and treat the Church as a social club?

The next time you see your dear, precious brother or your dear, precious sister in sin and it grieves your heart that they are doing something that you know is against what God commands, in love and compassion–and most of all, obedience to Christ–are you going to obey what He has said, and actually walk up to them one-on-one and say, “You’ve missed the mark here. You’re in sin on this, and I’m begging with you. I don’t want you to be condemned. I don’t want to see you go to hell. I don’t even think you’re going to hell. All I see here is that this area of your life, you’re just not following Christ, you’re not obeying Christ with that. Please repent.”

Are you going to do that and recognize that the Church is a hospital, or are you going to neglect your duty, and continue to pretend that this is nothing more than the Rotary Club?

Did you get up early on Sunday morning and come here just to hang out with a bunch of friends, or did you come here because you recognize that you yourself, and each one of us in this room including me, are sick, that we do have sin to deal with, that we are not perfect yet, that no matter how young or old or male or female we are, there are still areas of our lives where we are not following Christ.

If we recognize ourselves as truly sick people, then we have prepared the road for humility, both in receiving and in giving correction. And so I call you to recognize the Church as a hospital, a place where even though the surgery is painful, you may safely give and receive correction that will turn all of us closer and closer to Christ.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is One. Amen.


This homily was preached on Sunday morning, July 28, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
Video | This entry was posted in 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Luke 6:36-42, Matthew 18:15-20, Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 7:1-5. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Judge Not

  1. tpkatsa says:

    Good post Deacon. We are obligated to judge behavior, but we don’t have the authority to condemn the person. Only God can do that. In any judgment we make, we should always keep in mind the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.

  2. orthodoxchristian2 says:

    Good post. Very true, too!

  3. Pingback: Blessed Are They Who Reprove Boldly | The Orthodox Life

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