Tue | Jul 23, 2024

It’s OK to judge Holness, Golding, Biden, Trump ...

Published:Sunday | June 16, 2024 | 12:05 AMFr Sean Major-Campbell

DO YOU ever judge others? Is it alright to judge others? Yes. It is. In fact, we should all do it. What matters is how it is done.

According to the English Standard Version of the Bible, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The New International Version, states, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” An interesting version from the Amplified Bible, is, “Do not judge and criticise and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly].”

People of religious faith often use Matthew 7:1, to avoid criticising those they love and idolise. We see this in politics and religion, where many turn a blind eye to avoid an ugly truth. However, every text has a context. The wider context also includes Jesus’ saying, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5, King James Version).

The word is not inviting a passive approach to people’s behaviour or unsavoury character. We re not expected to become passive onlookers in the face of despicable behaviours, crudity, and wickedness. In t he gospel according to John 7:24, Jesus gives a standard for judging. “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Andrew Holness, and Mark Golding are all to be judged by whatever they say and do. This applies to all of us! The same applies to those who lead in church, synagogue, mosque, temple and so on. There is absolutely no need to feel sorry for anyone who is being judged, if it is being done justly.

Matthew 7:1 is therefore an often-misquoted verse as it is simplistically taken out of context. Many are self-assuredly quoting verse 1, without any reference to or use of the exhortation.

Righteous judgment is kind. It seeks to help and to build up without any self-righteous approach to the one being judged and encouraged.

In Matthew 18:19-20, we see another much misused and misunderstood verse due to being taken out of context. You may have heard this being quoted quite a bit in the post-COVID context of church services streaming online. “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

The context of the text is the matter of dealing with sin in the church. It was about how to address a fellow believer who has sinned, and the matter is to be addressed. Jesus was resonating with the tradition of Moses, where witnesses were to attest to the concern. In Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Please note also that in the matter with the woman accused of being caught in adultery, there were no witnesses. Only accusers. And who ever hears of one person being caught in adultery?

I hate to disappoint readers. However, this was never about the number of people who meet to worship. If it were, then it would make no sense for one person alone to pray. Oops!

The most significant part of verse 20 is often missed. Jesus announces that he will be in the midst of the witnesses. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Witnesses to the truth are not alone. Most importantly, those who are giving testimony, must do so in truth, otherwise, there meeting is not in the name of Jesus! Anyway, do not be too hard on yourself. Jesus is also present with you whether in twos, threes, alone, or any other number.

Note then, that Jesus does an adjustment to the Old Testament law. He is addressing the matter spiritually. He will be present with those who seek to judge others. In fact, he is the judge. But how do we know that he is the judge when so many Christians today are self-appointing themselves as prophets and apostles?

This is to be further explored in the context of peace, love, and human rights for all. Those who would make judgements about others must do so with reference to our common humanity, always with a sense of fairness and justice for all.

Remember to let me know those Bible verses that you have long wrestled with and still wonder about. Have a good week.