“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
According to our culture, judgment is the worst sin one can commit. Our world tells students that they are to love and accept every person, idea, or theory without question. If today’s culture had a favorite Bible verse, it would be Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you not be judged.” The attractiveness of a judgment-free life is the cultural judgment-free god that comes with it. But Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount show us that a judgment-free god and life don’t align with God’s righteous view of judgment.
We want to faithfully equip our students not to back down from the truth of God’s Word, while also approaching others with the grace and compassion of Jesus. The apostle Peter describes the faithful approach to truth and grace that our students should seek to embody as followers of Jesus: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).
Peter encourages our students first to follow God. They must seek to live a life of holiness as they walk with Jesus. Secondly, they are to know what they believe. Our students need a reason to share for the hope they have found in Jesus. Not only that, they are to approach others with gentleness and respect. Our students should always value people with inherent worth because they are made in the image of God. They should seek to show respect, compassion, and concern for others instead of the disrespect, anger, and demonizing we so often see today.
If Peter helps define the balance of grace and truth, Jesus’ words on judgment help us effectively equip and disciple our students to withhold judgment. He calls us to acknowledge the true Judge, to check their hearts, and to approach others with compassion and grace.
Acknowledge the True Judge
Jesus begins in verses 1-2 by reminding his hearers who is the true Judge. When we pass judgment on others, we may feel powerful and even more spiritual than those we are judging, but we have forgotten that we too stand under the just judgment of God because of our sin.
Jesus uses the example of a weight of judgment. When we judge others, we throw a weight of condemnation that we think is heavier than the weight of our sins and failures. Judgment minimizes our sins while maximizing others’.
We need to remind our students that there is one true Judge. He is the one we all have ultimately sinned against, and we deserve his righteous judgment. Our students’ attempts to throw the weight of condemnation on others who sin is a pointless exercise. They are not the true Judge. From God’s place as the ultimate Judge, he sees things from a different perspective than we do. Since God is sinless and righteous, he accurately determines judgments 100 precent of the time.
Jesus’ discussion of weights and increasing judgment before the true Judge likely struck fear into his hearers’ hearts. But because Jesus took all the judgment that the true Judge poured out against sin on the cross, we do not have to fear God’s judgment. God’s placed his just punishment for sin upon on Jesus.
Because Jesus took all our judgment upon himself on the cross, God calls us to a life that follows in his way: a way that perfectly blends righteous judgment and grace. Jesus knew that God is the ultimate Judge, and he invited his followers into a life of freedom from the need to judge others. Likewise, our students should approach people with grace rather than judgment and hypocrisy. In verses 3-5, Jesus calls out his hearers for their hypocritical behavior. They are missing the point when they point out others’ sin and pass judgment without seeking to acknowledge the sin in their own life.
Passing judgment on others is a convenient distraction—for both us and our students—from dealing with the sin and brokenness in our lives. It is easy to point the spotlight on someone else’s sin while secretly hoping it won’t illuminate our own.
Discipling our students to check their hearts includes teaching repentance and faith. In repentance, we come to Jesus and acknowledge our sins and deep need for his grace and forgiveness. By faith, we walk with him and allow his Holy Spirit to lead us to look more like Jesus.
Approach Others with Compassion and Grace
When our students walk with Jesus through repentance and faith, they see themselves as broken people in desperate need of Jesus and his grace. From this humble posture of dependence, they can approach others with compassion and grace instead of judgment. They can love their peers not by simply pointing out their screw-ups, but by walking with them in pursuit of holiness.
In verses 5-6, Jesus encourages his hearers to serve others with compassion once they understand their own need for grace. Now that they see God as the true Judge and acknowledge their own need for God, they can serve others with a posture of grace and humility.
Holiness and walking with Jesus is a group project. As youth workers, we should seek to foster an environment in our youth ministries where students can understand judgment not through the culture’s lens but through the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. With the guidance of Scripture, we can teach them to withhold judgment because of God’s grace.
Join us November 2-4 for Rooted 2023 in Nashville, where we’ll explore the Sermon on the Mount together. How can we find true human flourishing? The world we disciple our teenagers in today does not merely offer them an alternative way to live, but an alternative account of where true human flourishing is found. This competing vision encompasses all that we believe about ourselves, our bodies, justice, security, suffering, and meaning. In the most famous sermon in human history and the longest recorded teaching from Jesus’ ministry, our Lord gives us a holistic vision of how we can live in a way that leads to our flourishing in every aspect of our lives. At the core, his teaching shows us that such flourishing is only found through faith in the God who created us and in Jesus Christ who is redeeming us. As we walk through the Sermon on the Mount together, our prayer is that the teachings of Jesus will invert and subvert the teachings of this world and compel our hearts to live in light of the Kingdom of God in faith.