We’re not supposed to judge. So how can we decide who are the ‘sinners’ we are to avoid?

Amanda was confused.  Her Teen Girls Zoom Bible Class was investigating Psalm 1. But she’d heard multiple times the Bible words of Jesus: Judge not, lest you be judged.1  She complained, “How are we supposed to do what Psalm 1 says and still not judge people?”

Nannygranne responded. “Amanda, I don’t know if you realize it, but you’ve asked a crucial question.  Grown-ups wrestle with this same question. We’re supposed to love everyone. We’re supposed to teach everyone about Jesus, yet we’re supposed to avoid some people, too.  Would you mind reading Psalm 1:1 aloud?”

Amanda read, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God.” 2  She frowned, then said, “Sometimes, it seems that almost everyone I go to school with falls into those categories: sinners and scoffers. I’m so confused!”

“Ok, fair enough.  When it seems God’s word doesn’t quite mesh, I always try to remember to look much closer.  How about we take a closer look at the word ‘judge’?” 

Nannygranne asked everyone to look up the word “judge” in their concordances. “Let’s all take about five minutes and list some scriptures that use the word ‘judge.’  Since we’re concerned with Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1, let’s look at the New Testament.  Who wants to look at Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?” 

The students were looking up from their work. “Ok,” she said. “Let’s start with Matthew.  What verse caught your eye?”

Cathy spoke. “I liked Matthew 7:1-2.  It says if we judge, we’ll get judged the same way.”

“Well done, Cathy.  Who’s got Mark?”  Nobody spoke.  “Ok. Nothing in Mark.  How about Luke?”

Natalie raised her hand. “I found several things.  In Luke 7:43, when Simon gave the right answer about a parable, Jesus said he’d judged correctly.  In Luke 11:19, Jesus said something about devils judging somebody? I don’t know about that one.  Then, in chapter 12, Jesus calls some ‘hypocrites’ because they don’t judge correctly.”

“Good observations, Natalie.  Did you notice that the word ‘judge’ can different things? It basically refers to making a decision about.”

Ashlyn broke in.  “In John’s gospel account, every time he uses the word judge, he says that Jesus is the only one who judges and that He always judges fairly.”

“I think a picture is forming.  What do you girls see as the overall message of these teachings?” 

After a brief silence, Nannygranne helped out.  “What I’m seeing is that we’re being warned not to take Jesus’ place in condemning or rejecting others.  I did a little looking for the word ‘judge’ myself.  Would you girls like to hear a few verses I found?”

A chorus of agreement encouraged Nannygranne to continue.

“Ok.  Romans 2: 1-3, 16, and Colossians 2:16 tell us that condemning or rejecting someone for something we are also guilty of is very wrong.  Those passages also let us know that if someone judges us unfairly, we can ignore it because Jesus will know what’s right and true.”  

Nannygranne waited for a comment, then continued.  “The teaching on judging continues in 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 which tells us that when Jesus comes, He will judge the secrets of men—the secrets of our hearts—by the Gospel.”

The girls began to chatter. The word “secret” had struck a chord.  

Nannygranne smiled.  “But, girls, we need to stop and check something.  Who were the people Jesus and Paul were talking to?”

After a few seconds, Cathy spoke.  “Jesus was talking to His disciples, or maybe the Pharisees.”

“And they were all what religion?” Nannygranne asked.

“Jewish?” Amanda guessed.

“They were all God-followers.  Who was Paul writing to in Romans and Corinthians?”

“He was writing to Christians in those towns,” Natalie answered.

“Exactly.  Now hold that thought and let me read you a few more verses.”  Nannygranne then read Romans 14:10-13:   “But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God.  For it is written: as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead, decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.”  “Within the family of God, we’re on the same side.  Jesus will judge us all.  We need to help each other, not undermine each other.”

Nannygranne turned to Amanda.  “Amanda, I’m about to answer your question.  Will you read a couple of verses for me?” When Amanda nodded, Nannygranne asked her to read I Corinthians 11:31-32.   “If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged,but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.”

 Then she asked Amanda to read Hebrews 13:4:  “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.” 

 “So, Amanda.  What have we learned about judging?”

After a few seconds of thought, Amanda ventured, “Well, only Jesus decides who is saved or lost.  That’s not our job.  And sometimes we have to make decisions about things, but that’s not judging; it’s just being wise.”

“Amanda, I am impressed.  You hit the nail on the head.  We don’t condemn others.  That’s for Jesus to do.  But we do DISCERN for ourselves how best to follow Jesus.  If we mind our own business, we’ll be better off.”

She addressed the group. “Now I’d like each of you to write a personal restatement of Psalm 1:1 after having looked closer at God’s word.  Three minutes.”

All the girls pored over their Bibles, writing feverishly. 

Finally, Nannygranne asked for a volunteer to read her paraphrase of the scripture. Penelope, who hadn’t participated to this point, raised her hand.  “Thank you, Penelope.  How do you see Psalm 1:1 now?”

“I wrote ‘We’re much better off not to be taken in by the unbeliever’s ideas, or be best friends with people that can get you in trouble, or join in with people who ridicule God and Christianity.’”

There was silence.  Nannygranne broke it with genuine admiration.  “Penelope, Psalm 1:1 is not about condemning other people, but about being a discerning individual.  You captured it perfectly.  Thank you!”

Amanda raised her hand.  “I see now.  I can say ‘No’ for me.  That doesn’t mean I hate the other people.  But I still have one problem.”

“Oh?  Problems are what we do around here.  What is it?”

“Well.  Sometimes at school, if you don’t go along with certain things or be happy about what some people are doing, they just assume you’re judging them, and they get mad.  And sometimes, I’m supposed to agree with something to stay out of trouble.  Then what do I do?”

Nannygranne’s heart broke.  She knew precisely what Amanda and thousands of other Christians faced every day at work and school.  And things didn’t appear to be improving.

“Amanda.  That is a problem.  But you’re not alone, and the Lord speaks to that for us as well.  Can we start there next week?  This subject needs lots of prayer and study.  Sound good to everyone for next time?”

“Can we invite friends to this Zoom?” someone asked.

“Of course!  Share the link with any of your friends and let me know their names, and I’ll be ready.  Amanda, would you pray for us, and then we’ll close.”

After the prayer and the goodbyes, Nannygranne tapped the “close meeting” tab and sighed. Growing up spiritually is never easy, but in the Kingdom we walk well-worn paths.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Matthew 7:1

New Century Version, Psalm 1:1

Author:

I am a mother, grandmother, nanny, and writer—with a passionate concern about children, all children. With the help of my son Travis (who has a graduate degree in apologetics) I hope to share some thoughts that will be helpful to all who have the same concern.

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