Judging and Legalism

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18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:18-20

“The Bible says do not judge.” How many times have you heard that refrain? It is a presumed theological get-out-of-jail-free-card for several generations that continue to wander in the desert. This reference to Matthew 7:1 is almost universally taken out of context. Jesus is warning his followers against judging harshly. Jesus is reminding his followers to first examine themselves, before examining others. The verse that is completely overlooked is 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The idea that you should never identify sin is not found in this passage. The Biblical concept is that we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Our aim should always be restoration and redemption. Saying it is dark at night does not make you hateful. Saying water is wet does not make you a Pharisee.

I work on a university campus with 17,000 students. Of all the problems I witness among this population of mostly 18-25 year-olds, legalism is about 973rd on the list. Our present world is not one in which the masses are being held captive by inhibitions. Christians must always hold out hope, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Recognizing the difference between good and evil in no way contradicts that mandate.

 

March 27th, 2015 by

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