I Judge No One
John 8:13-20 MKJV Therefore the Pharisees said to Him, You bear record concerning yourself; your witness is not true. (14) Jesus answered and said to them, Though I bear record concerning Myself, My witness is true. For I know from where I came, and where I go. But you do not know from where I came, and where I go. (15) You judge after the flesh, I judge no one. (16) And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent Me. (17) It is also written in your Law that the testimony of two men is true. (18) I am one who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness concerning Me. (19) Then they said to Him, Where is your father? Jesus said to them, You neither know Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. (20) Jesus spoke these words in the treasury, as He taught in the temple. And no man laid hands upon Him, for His hour had not yet come.
“You judge after the flesh, I judge no one.” Jesus is telling us here that truly spiritual people:
Grace takes away our need to judge others – so spiritual people have no inner need to judge other people. Why do we seek out the faults in others? Why do we look for failings we can pounce on? Why do we become ‘fruit inspectors” checking everyone else’s spiritual walk? Because deep down we are insecure about how much God loves us.
A simple illustration helped me to understand this some years ago. The controversial theologian Matthew Fox, in his book, A Spirituality Called Compassion wrote about “Jacob’s Ladder” spirituality. This is based on the spiritual model of Jacob’s ladder where Christians are trying to climb up to heaven, rung by rung, with arduous effort and have to cling to their hard-won spiritual position. Such folk are always checking to see how far along the ladder they have come, who is below, and who is above, and are very careful to maintain the “order of the ladder”. However, as Fox points out – Jesus put us all at the top of the ladder! We are now in a circle of celebration with Jesus at the center!
Ephesians and Colossians spend considerable time assuring us that the “ladder spirituality” is now obsolete and we no longer need to climb upwards, in fact we are there already!
Ephesians 1:3-5 MKJV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; (4) according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (5) having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
Ephesians 2:4-7 MKJV But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (5) (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), (6) and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Therefore there is no longer any competition for blessing, and there is no spiritual hierarchy whatsoever! We have all the blessings, and we got them for free, because we were chosen and this same choosing, places us in the heavenly realms, seated there with Christ Jesus!
So all born-again Christians are brothers and sisters in a grand circle of grace that meets in the heavenly realms with Christ at the center and there is no ladder. None. Not one single rung. And don’t you dare invent one!
Colossians 2:16-18 MKJV (16) Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or in respect of a feast, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths. (17) For these are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. (18) Let no one defraud you, delighting in humility and worship of the angels, intruding into things, which he has not seen, without a cause being vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
Once we understand that God loves us, and that we are saved by grace and do not have to strive for his love, and that we are not in a race for spiritual prestige – then all desire to judge others ceases. Once my ego is saturated with the love of God, and then it ceases to have any power over me. Its needs are met and I can rest from striving and criticizing.
Now I may still need to confront others in healthy ways, or to discipline children, or to ask an employee to come to work on time. But that is not what Jesus means by “judging”. Judging is all about using certain human standards (looks, money, power, IQ, conventional morality) to assay the ultimate value of a person. It looks down and weighs up. Judging is closely related to accusation, which is Satan’s special work. By contrast honest confronting and discipline aims to restore the value of the person in a very constructive and life-affirming way, it is closely related to repentance, which is the Holy Spirit’s special work.
Does that mean that we let people get away with slackness and disorder? Do we become soft and overly forgiving? Don’t they have to be made responsible for their actions? They will be made responsible – on the Last Day. All human beings will have to give an account of their life to the Lord one day – but I (and you) do not have to give an account to every Christian busybody! If Jesus did not judge people (though He confronted some impenitent sinners) we should completely refrain from judging others. It serves no useful purpose and we lack the true knowledge and discernment to judge others well. In the vast majority of His encounters with folk Jesus did not judge sinners but simply invited them to repentance and left the judging to well in the future.
Romans 14:10-13 MKJV But why do you judge your brother? Or also why do you despise your brother? For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (11) For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." (12) So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God. (13) Then let us not judge one another any more, but rather judge this, not to put a stumbling block or an offense toward his brother.
Thus instead of watching and waiting until someone stumbles, then eagerly judging them we should instead do our best to prevent their stumbling in the first place and if they do slip up we should restore them with a spirit of gentleness.
Galatians 6:1-5 MKJV Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you the spiritual ones restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. (2) Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the Law of Christ. (3) For if anyone thinks himself to be something, being nothing, he deceives himself. (4) But let each one prove his own work, and then he alone will have a boast in himself, and not in another. (5) For each one will bear his own load.