‘Judge not': Jesus said it, but what did he mean?


One of Jesus most famous teachings is, "Do not judge or you too will be judged." But in the very same chapter of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus also teaches that we should judge people by the "fruit" of their lives. What gives? Is judging others an absolute no-no or have we misunderstood Jesus' teaching? Author Hugh Halter explores the heart of this issue in his new book Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgmentwhich may be one of the most helpful and practical books you'll read in 2015. It is a fascinating and disruptive book, one that will bend you heart toward Jesus and help you understand how to live well in a rapidly changing world. Here we discuss his views on judgment and how Jesus-followers should or should not exercise it.

RNS: You say Jesus was the "most holy" and "least judgmental" person. But some would say that Jesus is actually portrayed as the great judge who sits at God's right hand to judge us all. What am I missing?

HH: What is missing is simply Jesus’ human posture vs. his eschatological posture. Jesus as a man, walked among men and women who were constantly "‘in sin," yet he postured himself as a friend, an advocate, and an insider to the outsiders. But as the final king of history, as the true messiah, the one every person will bow before when history comes to a close, he gets the final call. According to the Bible, Jesus will judge Satan, demonic forces, injustice, and men and women who reject him outright. It’s the difference between the final call vs. how he lived day to day as he walked in our world.

This is a critical difference. [tweetable]We are never told to be the final judge, but rather to live as Jesus lived.[/tweetable] Christians should stop trying to make the call of heaven or hell, in or out, dirty or clean, and instead model our humanity after Jesus' humanity. If every Christian actually followed Jesus' lead, the Christian movement would be the least judgmental but most influential movement the world has ever seen. 

RNS: Your book begins with a theoretical tale of a town with one bakery where Jesus is the baker. Two gay men walk into Jesus' bakery and try to order a wedding cake. Tell us, Mr. Halter, would Jesus bake this couple's cake?