“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”—John 7:24
Many have submitted that Matthew 7:1 has usurped John 3:16 as the most known and quoted verse of the Bible. “Judge not that you be not judged.” The irony is, the verse is quoted in bad judgment. Jesus there was a warning against hypocritical judgment. Any other use of the text is a misjudgment.
“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. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye,” (Mathew 7:1–5).
Jesus doesn’t recommend altogether ignoring the speck in your brother’s eye, but a hypocritical judgment thereof. Further, Jesus follows that admonition with a judgment-necessitating command: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you,” (Matthew 7:6). Jesus is not anti-judgment. Judgment is inevitable.
While we shouldn’t presume to act as a god, standing in judgment, dealing out condemnation where we are given no authority, we must recognize that a creaturely discernment kind of judgment is necessary on a variety of levels every day. Try drinking milk from this point forward without ever making judgment beforehand. If you don’t judge it before you drink, I’m certain you will once it is in your mouth. Judgment is inevitable. Sour milk is bad.
In this text, Jesus calls for the crowds, and us along with them, to make right judgment. Astonishingly, He calls for us to make a right judgment about Him. This is not to say that we are the judge of Jesus. It is to say that in the courtroom of our soul we do make a judgment, a determination. You discern and decide. Discern rightly. Judge rightly.
If you judge rightly you will realize this: you don’t stand over Jesus to condemn Him; you stand under Jesus as one condemned. Right judgment about Jesus comes to this conclusion: He is the eternally begotten Son of God, the Christ who took on flesh, who was crucified for sinners, who rose conquering death, who is seated in the heavens at the right hand of the Father, and who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
How do we make right judgment? We must not judge according to appearances (7:24). We are short-sighted. We cannot trust our perception. We need the testimony of another. We need the testimony of an authority. The greatest judgment we will every make must be determined by the greatest authority. Because we are making judgment about the ultimate authority, we need the testimony of none other than that ultimate authority. Our triune God has born witness to Himself. Do not trust your perception. Receive His revelation.
Judge wrongly who Christ is, and you will be truly judged. Judge rightly who Christ is and you will never face judgment, for Christ has born it in your stead.