If people know any one statement that Jesus made, it’s likely this: “Judge not.” Leading figures in our culture today urge us to tolerate, accept, and even celebrate the wicked behavior of evil people because we are not supposed to judge. Since we are not supposed to judge people, it means that we simply have to tolerate what people do without commenting on it.
E.g., I’ve seen a message on posters and tee-shirts lately: “Some people are trans; get over it.”
If a man wants to identify as a woman, get over it. If a woman wants to pretend that she’s a man, get over it. If a man wants to marry a man, get over it. If a woman wants to have an abortion, get over it. If people want to abuse drugs, get over it. We are supposed to accommodate all behaviors without criticism.
For many in our culture today, the one intolerable sin is lack of tolerance. Judging others is the only unforgivable sin.
Jesus did say, “Judge not” (vs. 37), but then he goes on at the end of the Sermon to advise us to use our powers of judgment. We must make critical judgments every day of our lives. We are not to be hypocritical in our judgments or judgmental in our attitude, but we must employ valid judgment.
Most people who quote Jesus saying “Judge not” probably don’t know that Jesus also said “Judge righteous judgment” (Jn 7:24). Jesus prohibits hypocritical, irrational, unfair judgment, not valid judgment or discernment.
Exercising discernment is not being judgmental. We are not violating Jesus’ commands when we form biblical convictions and express them publicly. We have the right, in fact the biblical obligation, to “judge righteous judgment.”
The final section of the Sermon on the Plain/Mount requires us to use our powers of discernment/judgment. Jesus mentions several areas of contrast, and in each of these, valid judgment is required.
Let’s consider how we must use our powers of judgment and discernment regarding several contrasting areas of life.