Luke 12:57 “Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?”
Most folks who constantly quote Christ’s words, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” probably don’t know that today’s highlighted verse actually exists in scripture. They usually quote Jesus’s words, so that no one can disagree with their choices. They use His Words as a barrier to dialogue about what is right and what is wrong. In other words, Christ’s saying is used to shore up an amoral and hedonistic society where ‘right’ is individually defined as ‘everything that helps me do what I want to do.’ Conversely, ‘wrong’ is defined as ‘everything that hinders me from doing what I want to do.’
However, today’s verse adds a new dimension and one which serious Gospel readers know and understand. Judging others may be considered hypocritical by Christ because of the amount of personal sins that everyone carries, but judging what is right is not condemned at all. Evil in our communities, societies, and civilizations needs to be recognized, confronted, and dealt with by followers of Christ. Good Christians become bad witnesses when they know and see something that is evidently wrong, but fail to say or do anything about it. A recent example of this would be the slaughter of the 147 college students in Kenya that happened on Good Friday of this year. Where was the moral outrage? What major voices were raised against this inhumane evil? How much attention was given to this horrifying event by the media?
Judging what is right is never popular. Seventy years ago today, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by Hitler for speaking out against Nazism, as well as for being involved in the bomb plot to assassinate that monster. Dietrich knew what was right and he courageously condemned Hitler’s evil at a time when the vast majority of German Christians cowered away from such a confrontation. Bonhoeffer’s last words simply expressed his faith: “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.”
At some point, we’ll be faced by someone who will express to us those words, “Judge not,” in order to silence any disagreement we may have. Perhaps our response should be this: “Yes, but Jesus also said, “Judge what is right.”
Question for reflection: Where and when have I heard or seen the words “Judge not” being used? How would Christ’s other words of “Judge what is right” have changed the situation or conversation?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You alone are the King of kings and the Judge of all the Earth. Grant us the gift of discernment to know right from wrong, as well as knowing the right words and right time to say or do what is necessary to confront the evils in our society and times. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is currently the pastor at Erin Presbyterian in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.