Judge Not - Notes From Bonhoeffer

Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  
For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, 
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye
but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 

Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ 
and look, there’s a log in your eye? 


First take the log out of your eye, 
and then you will see clearly
to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 

Don’t give what is holy to dogs
or toss your pearls before pigs, 
or they will trample them with their feet,
turn, and tear you to pieces.
-Matthew 7:1-6

Following up on my last post, I was reading what Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to say about Mathew 7, and he has a whole chapter on the verses above.  I have felt battered and bruised lately, from listening to and reading, including myself; the invective that Christians have been leveling at other Christians.  My question has been, "how does Jesus want to teach me how to listen, hear, and see others?"

I believe that we are in a teachable time.  The judging seems particularly bad right now, but I believe that what has been under wraps has only been brought up and out into the open.  The way I see it, is that humans judge religiously and religion often permeates political views.

Taking a stand and having a viewpoint and an opinion is one thing, but to stand above and look down on, to criticize and pick apart the other side, with some psychoanalysis thrown in, and then call them names with zero redemption in view for them, is judging.  When I hear that or read that, it breaks my heart; and when I do it, I know that it is wrong.  There has to be a better way, and there is.

You might also wonder, like I have, what the meaning of Jesus' words, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, nor cast your pearls before the swine", are and what they are doing in this passage.  They are here, because Jesus is teaching about the disciple and their relations with non-believers.

It is a given that believers live as disciples of Jesus, in this world.  We often encounter people who in one way or another, are not interested in what we believe or have, and are even going in the opposite direction from us.

When Jesus first spoke these words, there were many religious Jews, and also Jews, by birth, who were not religious; who rejected the gospel, rejected Jesus and rejected his disciples.  There were also all sorts of pagan people, some religious and some not, including the Romans who held that Caesar was God.

The dogs or the pigs refer to unperceptive people.  Some people are unperceptive to the things of God that you have.  Jesus says to be careful what you share and about how your expectations work as you consider sharing.

We are supposed to share.  All Christians are meant to evangelize, let our lights shine and go into all the world and share the good news.  But some people are not receptive and seemingly not at all, at this time, being drawn to salvation in Christ, by Father.

So, we must be careful what we share and this goes along with not judging.  When we have disagreements or rather, when others do not agree with us or we hear them to be in disagreement with us, we can be tempted to judge them.  And part of judging is that we step back and discount others and see our selves as superior to them.

Jesus called some people pigs and dogs.  Jesus often used hyperbole.  Today, many people are offended when hyperbole is employed and greatly misunderstand it.

And, it is remarkable, to me, that Jesus refers to non-believers as "your brother".  We have been so, "us and them", in regards to believers and non-believers, to democrats and republicans, to progressive Christians and fundamentalist Christians, charismatic and non-charismatic, and now evangelical voters vs Christians who may or may not identify as evangelical, who voted different or chose not to vote.  This list of divisions could go on and on.

And I guess my point is that we are divided like crazy and often we treat those we are divided from or against, as non-believers, even though they may very well be believers, but of a different type.  But whether or not the other people are believers, we get these stark words of Jesus in Matthew 7 about not judging, not critiquing other people who are different, and Jesus is mainly applying it to his disciples in regards to non-believers.

Matthew 7 applies to believers.  You, the believer, are not to judge others.  Deal with your own stuff.  And be careful about sharing what you have found to be holy or the pearls you have received, with folks who don't get it.

Here is the disconnect between Jesus' words and how we are functioning:  We somehow think we have the right to judge others who we disagree with and we do not.  And we are not allowed to do that with non-believers nor people who we believe are believers, because Jesus says they are all our brothers and sisters.

I looked up Matthew 7 in multiple translations and the only other way I found "judge" translated, was, "criticize", or "pick on".   How can Christian writers, write articles or posts that are trying to teach something that might be alternative or controversial, and not violate Jesus' standard to not judge?

How do we disagree and not judge?  Start by disagreeing and not judging.  Below, I have Bonhoeffer explaining what he thought Jesus was teaching us.

I can disagree with you, but not judge you.  And judging is a matter of the heart and not about the words or thoughts.  

We, myself included, are a very judgmental people in a very judgmental culture.  We are judging each other like crazy.  Many of us are not and it perhaps seems worse than it is, because the judging that we see and hear is painful, at least it is to me.

I want to understand this issue and be discipled by Jesus in how not to judge, and how the alternative or contrary to judging life works.  Here is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's chapter on not judging, from his book, The Cost of Discipleship.  I will quote a paragraph from Bonhoeffer and then have a paragraph from me.

Introduction:  Leading up to Matthew 7, we have chapters 5 and 6, where Jesus deals with, "the extraordinary quality of the Christian life", and  "with the hidden single-hearted righteousness of the disciples."  

There is a continuous thread running through chapters 5 and 7; it passes through these verses, and on to the grand finale of the Sermon on the Mount.  Chapter 5 dealt with the extraordinary quality of the Christian life, and chapter 6 with the single-hearted righteousness of the disciples.  In both its aspects, discipleship betokened the separation of the disciples from all their old ties, and an exclusive adherence to Jesus Christ. The frontier between the old life and the new was clearly drawn. But this raises the question of the relation between the Christians and their non-Christian neighbors. Does their separation from the rest of society confer on them special rights and privileges? Do Christians enjoy power, gifts and standards of judgement which qualify them to exert a peculiar authority over others? How easy it would have been for the disciples to adopt a superior attitude, to pass unqualified condemnation on the rest of the world, and to persuade themselves that this was the will of God! That is why Jesus has to make it clear beyond a doubt that such misunderstandings would seriously imperil their discipleship. The disciples are not to judge. If they do so, they will themselves be judged by God. The sword wherewith they judge their brethren will fall upon their own heads. Instead of cutting themselves off from their brother as the just from the unjust, they find themselves cut off from Jesus.
The Christian's life, my life, is in Christ.  In Christ, I am forgiven, loved and saved.  I am Abba's child.  I have this, and this is the tie in my life.  All other ties come under Christ.  My privilege is to be loved and accepted and I celebrate that continually and invite others to come into what I have found.  But I have no place or position to judge others.  No superiority, but rather, I am in a humble place of continual thanksgiving.  I do not condemn or criticize, but I love and live loved and invite others to the party.

Why should this be so? The source of the disciple's life lies exclusively in his fellowship with Jesus Christ. He possesses his righteousness only within that association, never outside it. That is why his righteousness can never become an objective criterion to be applied at will. He is a disciple not because he possesses such a new standard, but only because of Jesus Christ, the Mediator and very Son of God. That is to say, his righteousness is hidden from himself in fellowship with Jesus. He cannot, as he could once, be a detached observer of himself and judge himself, for he can only see Jesus, and be seen by him, judged by him, and reprieved by him. It is not an approved standard of righteous living that separates a follower of Christ from the unbeliever, but it is Christ who stands between them. Christians always see other men as brethren to whom Christ comes; they meet them only by going to them with Jesus. Disciple and non-disciple can never encounter each other as free men, directly exchanging their views and judging one another by objective criteria. No, the disciple can meet the non-disciple only as a man to whom Jesus comes. Here alone Christ's fight for the soul of the unbeliever, his call, his love, his grace and his judgement comes into its own. Discipleship does not afford us a point of vantage from which to attack others; we come to them with an unconditional offer of fellowship, with the single-mindedness of the love of Jesus.
I am never self-righteous.  I never have standing to judge, as God does.  My righteousness is not my own, but is Christ's.  I can not judge myself and I can not see to judge others, because I am now in Christ, who is my judge and I can only see other people, as ones to whom Christ comes.  I never have the right to look down on other people.  I can only encounter others in Christ, who offers unconditional love and forgiveness to all.

When we judge other people we confront them in a spirit of detachment, observing and reflecting as it were from the outside. But love has neither time nor opportunity for this. If we love, we can never observe the other person with detachment, for he is always and at every moment a living claim to our love and service. But does not the evil in the other person make me condemn him just for his own good, for the sake of love? Here we see the depth of the dividing line. Any misguided love for the sinner is ominously close to the love of sin. But the love of Christ for the sinner in itself is the condemnation of sin, is his expression of extreme hatred of sin. The disciples of Christ are to love unconditionally. Thus they may effect what their own divided and judiciously and conditionally offered love never could achieve, namely the radical condemnation of sin.
I can only love everyone, in Christ.  When I love sinners, it is paradoxically an indictment of the sin.  When I pick and choose who to love and who is too sinful to love, I have ceased to be in Christ and am playing God.  When I pick and choose who to love, then I am judging.  Jesus loves and saves all sinners.  We are all lost without Christ.  In my life, I am one who once was lost, and now am on mission with Jesus to love and save the lost.

If the disciples make judgments of their own, they set up standards of good and evil. But Jesus Christ is not a standard which I can apply to others. He is judge of myself, revealing my own virtues to me as something altogether evil. Thus I am not permitted to apply to the other person what does not apply to me. For, with my judgement according to good and evil, I only affirm the other person's evil, for he does exactly the same. But he does not know of the hidden iniquity of the good but seeks his justification in it. If I condemn his evil actions I thereby confirm him in his apparently good actions which are yet never the good commended by Christ. Thus we remove him from the judgement of Christ and subject him to human judgement. But I bring God's judgement upon my head, for I then do not live any more on and out of the grace of Jesus Christ, but out of my knowledge of good and evil which I hold on to. To everyone God is the kind of God he believes in. 
When I judge, criticize, or blame; I am acting like I am God.  When I take all my life experience and all my Bible knowledge and all my intellectual prowess, and stand over you as judge, I am wrong and not in Christ and putting my self under judgement.  When I judge others, based on my standards, I become the law to that person and take them outside of God's saving of them completely.  When I judge, I am misrepresenting Christ and actually making my own religion, saying that if you do it my way, you will be accepted (by me).  But the truth is that they need all of their sins forgiven by Christ, who alone can change them and make them holy.  The sobering truth of "lest you be judged", is that God will not let me get away with taking his place in anyone's life and it will go badly for me, if I try it.

Judgement is the forbidden objectivization of the other person which destroys single-minded love. I am not forbidden to have my own thoughts about the other person, to realize his shortcomings, but only to the extent that it offers to me an occasion for forgiveness and unconditional love, as Jesus proves to me. If I withhold my judgement I am not indulging in tout comprendre c' est tout pardonner and confirm the other person in his bad ways. Neither I am right nor the other person, but God is always right and shall proclaim both his grace and his judgement. 
When I judge or criticize others I am ceasing to see them as beloved persons.  When we are either infatuated with or demonize a person, we are not seeing them as people, but as an object of lust or scorn.  We need to see people, as persons who Christ wants to save.  When I see someone's shortcomings, it is time to love and forgive, not to criticize or condemn.  Same thing when I hear, read or see a difference of opinion with me and others: that is an occasion to love and not to be judgmental.

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. But in the love of Christ we know all about every conceivable sin and guilt; for we know how Jesus suffered, and how all men have been forgiven at the foot of the cross. Christian love sees the fellow-man under the cross and therefore sees with clarity. If when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil, we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. But if we are on the look-out for evil in others, our real motive is obviously to justify ourselves, for we are seeking to escape punishment for our own sins by passing judgement on others, and are assuming by implication that the Word of God applies to ourselves in one way, and to others in another. All this is highly dangerous and misleading. We are trying to claim for ourselves a special privilege which we deny to others. But Christ's disciples have no rights of their own or standards of right and wrong which they could enforce with other people; they have received nothing but Christ's fellowship. Therefore the disciple is not to sit in judgement over his fellow-man because he would wrongly usurp the jurisdiction.
Judging is ugly, because when I sit as judge of you, I have walked out from and away from Christ, because he will not allow me to judge.  Judging is ugly because when I judge you, I have lost awareness of my self.  I am not the judge and I am not God, so when I play that game, I am not being my self, but something fake and inauthentic.  Judging is a form and practice of religion, of the religion of human centered self-righteousness that Jesus frees us from.  Judging is very ugly because when I judge, I block the view of the cross and the path way of Christ offering grace for salvation.  My judging acts as if I believe we are saved by works and that is so not true.  An authentic follower of Christ is always in awe of and thankful for his or her sins being forgiven and is looking to spread the good news.  The law we are under and governed by is love.  All we want to do is love one another and love people that are not in on God's love yet, in an inviting way.

But the Christian is not only forbidden to judge other men: even the word of salvation has its limits. He has neither power nor right to force it on other men in season and out of season. Every attempt to impose the gospel by force, to run after people and proselytize them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous. It is futile, because the swine do not recognize the pearls that are cast before them, and dangerous, because it profanes the word of forgiveness, by causing those we fain would serve to sin against that which is holy. Worse still, we shall only meet with the blind rage of hardened and darkened hearts, and that will be useless and harmful. Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want. Thus a strict limit is placed upon the activities of the disciples, just as in Matt. 10 they are told to shake the dust off their feet where the word of peace is refused a hearing. Their restless energy which refuses to recognize any limit to their activity, the zeal which refuses to take note of resistance, springs from a confusion of the gospel with a victorious ideology. An ideology requires fanatics, who neither know nor notice opposition, and it is certainly a potent force. But the Word of God in its weakness takes the risk of meeting the scorn of men and being rejected. There are hearts which are hardened and doors which are closed to the Word. The Word recognizes opposition when it meets it, and is prepared to suffer it. It is a hard lesson, but a true one, that the gospel, unlike an ideology, reckons with impossibilities. The Word is weaker than any ideology, and this means that with only the gospel at their command the witnesses are weaker than the propagandists of an opinion. But although they are weak, they are ready to suffer with the Word and so are free from that morbid restlessness which is so characteristic of fanaticism.
The gospel is always free, freely given and freely received.  We don't force it on people or make it more palatable or water it down.  Only God can save people.  The kingdom of God is forceful, but as servants, we are in weakness.  Choice is huge with God, and we should always hold onto the idea that people choose and to honor their choice and love them either way; but we love the person, while observing their not choosing salvation or opening the door to God; and keep loving them.

The disciples can even yield their ground and run away, provided they do so with the Word, provided their weakness is the weakness of the Word, and provided they do not leave the Word in the lurch in their flight. They are simply the servants and instruments of the Word; they have no wish to be strong where the Word chooses to be weak. To try and force the Word on the world by hook or by crook is to make the living Word of God into a mere idea, and the world would be perfectly justified in refusing to listen to an idea for which it had no use. But at other times, the disciples must stick to their guns and refuse to run away, though of course only when the Word so wills. If they do not realize this weakness of the Word, they have failed to perceive the mystery of the divine humility. The same weak Word which is content to endure the gainsaying of sinners is also the mighty Word of mercy which can convert the hearts of sinners. Its strength is veiled in weakness; if it came in power that would mean that the day of judgement had arrived. The great task of the disciples is to recognize the limits of their commission. But if they use the Word amiss it will certainly tum against them.
The gospel is a powerful message, proclaimed in weakness.  The cross is foolishness to sinners, until they become saved.  Persevering  in love is very different than ramming the message down people's throats and trying to force them into the kingdom.  God uses weak servants and God gives grace to humble ones.  Being powerful or proud will backfire.  Persuading, arguing, discussing and calling out to are all good if they are done in humble weakness and always  in Christ, looking to him and seeing him seeing others.

What are the disciples to do when they encounter opposition and cannot penetrate the hearts of men? They must admit that in no circumstances do they possess any rights or powers over others, and that they have no direct access to them. The only way to reach others is through him in whose hands they are themselves like all other men. We shall hear more about this as we proceed. The disciples are taught to pray, and so they learn that the only way to reach others is by praying to God. Judgement and forgiveness are always in the hands of God. He closes and he opens. But the disciples must ask, they must seek and knock, and then God will hear them. They have to learn that their anxiety and concern for others must drive them to intercession. The promise Christ gives to their prayer is the doughtiest weapon in their armory. The difference between the disciples' seeking and the Gentiles' quest for God is that the disciples know what they are looking for. We can only seek God when we know him already. How can you look for something or find it if you do not know what you are looking for?   The disciples seek a God whom they have found in the promise they have received from Jesus.
In my life, I am a servant, and servants don't judge and servants only have the authority to do what their master has given them permission to do.  Along with loving and forgiving, and seeing people through Christ and only seeing myself in Christ, I can and will pray.  God's choice design for us is our acting on what he has made available to us and a big responsibility is to pray.  Frankly, things will not happen, in the kingdom, if we do not act and pray, then listen, look and see, and act and pray.  The times we sped judging or criticizing or assigning blame should be spent living in love and praying.  Again, are you lusting after someone?  Try praying for them.  Are just demonizing someone in your judgement of them?  Try praying for them.  You can not pray for God to bless someone and objectify them.  When we pray or are in prayer for people, we see them as beloved brothers or sisters who we want to know God and be holy in Christ.
To sum up: it is clear from the foregoing that the disciple has no special privilege or power of his own in all his intercourse with others. The mainspring of his life and work is the strength which comes from fellowship with Jesus Christ. Jesus offers his disciples a simple rule of thumb which will enable even the least sophisticated of them to tell whether his intercourse with others is on the right lines or not. All he need do is to say 'I' instead of ''Thou," and put himself in the other man's place. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets." The moment he does that, the disciple forfeits all advantage over other men, and can no longer excuse in himself what he condemns in others. He is as strict in condemning evil in himself as he was before with others, and as lenient with the evil in others as he was before to himself. The evil in the other person is exactly the same evil as in ourselves. There is only one judgement, one law, and one grace. Henceforth the disciple will look upon other men as forgiven sinners who owe their lives to the love of God. ''This is the law and the prophets" -for this is none other than the supreme commandment: to love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves. (Bonfoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 202-9) 
Loving your neighbor as your self, and my neighbor is the person who believes differently than I do, who sees the world differently than I do, who is different than I am.  I am called by Jesus to love them, whether or not they love me or ever agree with me.

I want to be so focused or envisioned with Jesus, that seeing him mediates all of my other seeing.  Then when I see and hear differences or wrongness or sinfulness (in my opinion); Jesus is my vision for me, through me, and then in that other person.  He is the judge, who forgives me and loves me, so I hold that and want that and do not want to let it go, so I also want that for all others.  If I entertain the thought of your not getting forgiven and your not coming to Christ, then I begin to lose my place of blessing.  Only Jesus can handle and hold the tension of God's love for people and judgement on sin.