Several years ago, the Sunday school lesson was about judging. A young woman in the class told a story about a coworker who was of a different faith—one that does not believe Jesus is the Son of God. This man had asked the class member if she thought he would go to heaven. The member told the Sunday school class that, since we are told in the Bible not to judge (Matt. 7:1), she could not tell the man one way or another whether he would go to heaven.
Jesus was very clear that He is the only way to heaven, and the class member missed a prime opportunity to share that with the unsaved man. The problem is that many people in the pew do not understand what Jesus meant in the Matthew 7 passage. In his book Slow to Judge: Sometimes It’s OK to Listen (Thomas Nelson, 2015), Dr. David Capes says that in the Matthew passage Jesus is actually teaching the disciples about how his followers are to correct one another, and he is not speaking about how we should respond to unbelievers.
I believe that those who claim the name of Jesus are allowed to call a spade a spade. In other words, where the Bible is clear that something is sin, it is fine for us to say so because we can support it with Scripture. However, we must behave in a Christ-like manner in the process and not respond with a holier-than-thou attitude.
I have heard a lot about judging lately because of events surrounding social issues in the news. I believe in standing up for our faith, but I have seen some hateful things posted by Christians on social media directed toward those (both Christian and non-Christian) on the opposite side of the issues. We can’t expect to convince others by attacking them verbally instead of listening to what they have to say. David Capes says it so well, “It is possible to stand up for Jesus, to articulate your faith clearly as a witness, and to defend your faith effectively against opponents, while at the same time not being perceived as judgmental because you have been slow to judge and quick to listen” (Capes, xxv).
I know of pastors who preach God’s love, and I know pastors who love to preach sermons about judgment while they spit and spew all over those in the front pews. John 1:14 tells us Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” I encourage you to preach not just love and not just judgment. Each message should contain a balance of grace and truth. Ministers have an obligation to preach about all the attributes of our mighty God. A good sermon on Matthew 7 might not hurt either!
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.