One thing I learned from my post about Bruce Jenner going viral is that Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” is the favorite Bible verse of many. I also think it might be one of the most grossly misunderstood and abused verses. This led me to do a little research on it and hear what some respected Bible scholars have to say. I found this article by Sam Storms to extremely helpful and clarifying so I thought I would share.
As he says, the misunderstanding mostly stems from relativistic thought that has pervaded the American psyche. “To their way of thinking, this verse demands that we never exercise ethical discernment in our evaluation of others, indeed that we never evaluate others at all. We are told we must always manifest complete and uncritical tolerance toward every conceivable lifestyle or belief.” -Sam Storms But this is completely contrary to the immediate context of the verse and the teaching of the Bible as a whole.
Moreover, it is completely absurd and contradictory. We hold this command not to judge as a standard for all and cry “foul” when it is broken. Yet, in so doing, we abandon our relativistic ways for an absolute standard by which to judge others. You see, none of us really live by relativism. We preach tolerance and subjectivity, but we live by absolutes.
What this verse really prohibits is self-righteousness where we see ourselves as sinless and others as sinful and therefore set ourselves as arbiters of justice and condemnation. We all have this self-righteousness in us. None of us has completely pure hearts. Christ is the model of which we all fall short. He boldly told people their sins, but then forgave them unconditionally, not blessing them to continue on sinning, but freeing them to “Go and sin no more.” I pray that as I grow in Christ, He will remove the dross from the silver that I may be more like Him: perfectly loving and perfectly truthful.
This generation is obsessed with “tolerance” and “acceptance.” We just want everyone to get along. Love. Not Hate. It’s that simple right? If you love someone, you’ll accept them. Well, I’m calling it. This is a total bunch of horse manure and I think it’s about time we at least all talk straight with each other.
The idea that we can all just get along and always “accept” each other is just simply not realistic. People are fine with acceptance until they come across something that they find…well….unacceptable. Then all their fine notions about total tolerance are thrown out the window. This happens on both sides of the issues, usually liberal and conservative, but usually one side gets the label of being “hateful” and “intolerant.” What makes it all ridiculous is that the other side is just as intolerant. They find it unacceptable that the other side finds their point of view unacceptable. Anybody else find that totally absurd?
So let’s not kid ourselves here. Let’s at the very least be straight with each other. We all find certain things unacceptable. None of us can really tolerate everything. To tolerate and accept everything would be to have conviction about nothing. It might look “enlightened” and “loving,” but it is really fatuous and useless.
Moreover, let us ask if we really believe that total acceptance of a person equals loving them? If by total acceptance, we mean choosing to love them in spite of all their sin, then yes, I suppose it does. But if by total acceptance, we mean choosing to love them by embracing and turning a blind eye to their sin, then no. That is not love. In fact, it is the opposite of love. Sin is not a laughing matter. It kills. It ruins people even if they don’t see it. If I believe with my whole heart that someone’s sin is deceiving them into death, if I love them, I would not tolerate their sin. I would not accept it. I would want to expose it, not to judge them or condemn them, but to save them and show them the truth. To simply accept and ignore it would be not an act of love, but an act of hate.
Love that accepts all is not love. It is a cheap knockoff of the real thing. It is selfishness and convenience masquerading as something noble. To truly love someone enough not to accept all their sin is hard and sometimes, it gives offense. It costs something. But it is real and powerful. Most important, it is the companion of Truth for whoever loves and tolerates and accepts, but does not reveal Truth, does not love at all.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).