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Judge Not...
Good News Magazine
August 1981
Volume: Vol XXVIII, No. 7
Issue: ISSN 0432-0816
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Judge Not...
Philip P Stevens

Here was a golden opportunity a chance for the scribes and Pharisees to show up that fraud Jesus for what He really was. And a large crowd was even on hand to witness their victory.
   "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?" (John 8:3-5).
   But Jesus chose to ignore them. In fact, He had the nerve to stoop down in front of this illustrious company and write in the sand.
   They looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of their leaders came forward and repeated their charge against the forlorn woman at the center of their plot. There was little doubt of her guilt — she had been caught committing the sin.
   Jesus waited for the repeated accusations to cease, then stood up.
   "He that is without sin among you," He said, scanning His pious audience, "let him first cast a stone at her" (verse 7). He paused a moment to let His words sink in, then stooped and continued writing in the dirt.
   Several minutes later He looked up to see only the woman remaining in His company.
   "Woman, where are those thine accusers?" He asked. "Hath no man condemned thee?"
   She said, "No man, Lord."
   Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (verses 10-11).
   It is all too easy for us to point the finger at another member of God's Church and say, "Well, look what he's doing." But when we attempt to judge the actions of another person, we are taking to ourselves a prerogative that belongs to God.
   "And he [God] shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness" (Ps. 9:8). God tells us that in order to judge we must be completely righteous. That's the message Christ gave those who accused the adulterous woman.
   As human beings, we can form conclusions only about what we see or hear. Yet Christ told us not to judge by these physical considerations: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).
   Righteous judgment means looking deep into a person's heart to perceive his innermost motives. Achieving that insight is beyond the power of human beings, no matter how righteous we consider ourselves.
   Prophesying about the future Savior, Isaiah wrote, "And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor" (Isa. 11:3-4).
   Righteous judgment is beyond the reach of mortal man. It is the reserved domain of the eternal God.
   "He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver [God], who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another" (Jas. 4:11-12).
   Jesus explained that it is easy for us to perceive in others the very faults of which we, ourselves, are most guilty (Matt. 7:3-5). When we are tempted to criticize a fellow human being, it is good to examine our own actions and see that we are not treading the same ground (Rom. 2:1-3).
   Try pointing a finger at someone and then look at your own hand — there will be three fingers pointing back at you.
   We know God chose not to heal Paul's "thorn in the flesh." People of Paul's day may have judged him as lacking in faith. Yet we know now that it was to God's glory that the affliction remained (II Cor. 12:7-9). Any who judged Paul were wrong.
   So apply the same principle today. When you are tempted to judge the behavior of others, remember that you have no idea what God has in mind for that person. A stronger Son of God may be produced from a continued affliction or financial reverse.
   Often we do not even know all the circumstances that work together to cause a person to act a particular way. And we have no appreciation of the tremendous battle someone may be waging to overcome.
   Christ must have seen something in the adulterous woman who stood before Him, something the accusers could not perceive. Although she was guilty, Jesus could see she abhorred the act she had committed. He could appreciate that she had repented, and He forgave her.
   If He had looked merely at the physical evidence, He would have seen only guilt. However, with divine insight, Christ was able to render His decision based on the renewed motives of her heart.
   We might speculate, too, about the words Christ wrote on the ground. Did He spell out names and dates and couple them with sins the accusers themselves had committed?
   The Bible doesn't tell us. But if Jesus were able to assess the woman's repentant attitude, He could just as readily have discerned the motives of her accusers.
   Since all of us at this time lack the ability to judge righteously, let us follow Christ's words in Matthew 7:1:
   "Judge not"!

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Good News MagazineAugust 1981Vol XXVIII, No. 7ISSN 0432-0816
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