The passage that that becomes a bomb:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” – Matthew 7:1
How many times have you heard that? As Christians, if we have never heard it, we might not have spoken much concerning the issue of sin. The ‘bomb’ is dropped by non-believers, as well as believers, when the topic of sin or some particular sin enters the discussion.
The logic behind the usage of the ‘judge not’ bomb seems to be this:
- The Bible says don’t judge.
- If we talk about sin, we are judging others.
- Therefore, don’t talk about sin
Those who are skilled in dropping this bomb are mostly non-Christians whom we are trying to reach with the message of the gospel, but they are also Christians purporting to spread that same message. I know some of those Christians and I also remember when I was one of them.
Don’t get me wrong here, there is certainly something important in the admonition concerning not judging other people. We all have ‘eyesight’ problems, as the context of our passage in Matthew 7 reminds us:
“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, 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.” Matt 7:4-5
So now we’re not only judging others when we talk about sin, we are also hypocrites because we have not yet reached a state of sinlessness! That sounds like a bit of a double whammy, doesn’t it? We’d be far better off leading folks to Jesus by telling them all about the abundant life he promises, and all the great things he wants to do for us in terms of solving all of problems we face from day to day, wouldn’t we?
Well, all that sounds good, but it’s only valid if the ‘stuff of life’ was the reason Jesus came and died nailed to on a wooden cross a couple thousand years ago. That’s where we might have a little problem. If we peer into the New Testament we are told that Jesus came to die because of sin (our sins), beginning with the announcement from an angel to Joseph through the last chapter of Revelation.
What’s really going on?
To try and find out, let’s begin with our original logic model:
- The Bible says don’t judge. (major premise)
- If we talk about sin, we are judging others. (minor premise)
- Therefore, don’t talk about sin (conclusion)
If we can break the logic chain, find a fallacy in it, we might be able set the matter straight. I submit that if our major and minor premises are valid, our conclusion might be equally valid. But are they?
Our major premise seems valid, since it a direct quote from a passage of scripture. Even though there is a bit more to it than simply not judging, there is some truth there. Our minor premise certainly sounds valid, but is it really? Well it might be, depending on the circumstances in which the topic of sin is being discussed. Let me explain.
It’s certainly possible that the person who brings up the subject of sin, in general or with a specific sin in mind, does so with a ‘judgmental’ attitude, however it is equally possible that the topic was brought up for other reasons. The sinfulness of a particular activity or behavior might be the topic of discussion, or the issue of sin might have been brought up as the central issue that the message of the gospel addresses. Either way, the ‘don’t judge’ bomb is dropped because someone is being judged, according to our minor premise.
And that’s the fallacy in our logic model – our minor premise – that if we talk about sin at all, we are ‘de facto’ judging others. Let me explain what I think is going on.
When the topic of sin is approached, every single time, either in general terms or with specific sin(s) in mind, someone’s going to feel guilty. Feelings of guilt do come from having been judged, and the easiest target for complaint is against the messenger. On the other hand, when we lovingly make it clear that we are sharing God’s opinion (and can back it up scripturally), it is God who judges, and not the one passing on His opinion.
So where are we at?
Let me break it down.
God has decreed that the preaching of the gospel is the most significant means by which lost sinners are saved. (Rom 10:14)
It’s our duty (and great privilege) to share that gospel.
The gospel message, in order to qualify as ‘good news’ must include the ‘bad news’ concerning sin.
Talking about sin can and will drive away listeners who need the ‘good news’ before you have a chance to tell it. Bummer.
What do we do?
Remember a woman named Lydia:
“And on the Sabbath day we (Paul and company) went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” – Acts 16:13-14
Bear in mind that you will offend some people with the ‘bad news’ and that they will drop the ‘don’t judge’ bomb. Until God opens hearts to really ‘hear’ and realize that they are guilty and it is God who is judging, they just won’t get it. Keep your spiritual Kevlar on.
By that I mean apply liberal amounts of ‘BDA’ prayer (Before, During & After) to your evangelistic endeavors. It goes without saying that such applications will give you great courage and boldness to proclaim the ‘bad news’ with the ‘good news’, add to the harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God, and bring great glory to our Savior.
Delivering the complete gospel message boldly and with utmost love will keep you (or someone else) from having perform another form of ‘BDA’ (Battle Damage Assessment) because you fell for the ‘invalid premise’ and left the critical issue out of the message. It’s a pretty tough job persuading those who think they are saved, that they might be deceived.
The message of the Cross is first and foremost about the problem of sin, and has been since the Fall of man in the Garden. Be like the Apostle Paul:
- “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” – Romans 1:15-15
- “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
May God bless open hearts to ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to ‘pay attention’ to that precious message!
“Hearts are won to Jesus by the silent conviction which irresistibly subdues the conscience to a sense of guilt, and by the love which is displayed in the Redeemer’s becoming the great substitutionary sacrifice for us, that our sins might be removed. . .” – C. H. Spurgeon