Some sayings of Jesus accumulate such controversy over time that we struggle to see the original point. Read this passage with fresh eyes:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you”(Luke 6:37-38).
There is a “go out of your way” kindness in these verses. Jesus is encouraging us to disrupt our natural way of dealing with others by erring on the side of kindness.
When Jesus says “judge not,” he’s not saying that we shouldn’t make decisions or interpretations (see John 7:24). He’s also not saying that there is never a time when a behavior is wrong—and should be called wrong. After all, Jesus himself does this (Matt 23:2-36).
Jesus is addressing a spirit we have all observed. It is harsh and swift to condemn others. It is a fault-finding, critical spirit. It is a desire to appear better than others. It holds others to an unfair standard that we know we don’t live up to ourselves. It critiques in others what we excuse in ourselves. It borders on glee when we discover wrong in others.
This is the reason Jesus links judging with condemning and forgiveness (“judge not…condemn not…forgive…give”). These are two paths—the path that longs to judge and the path that longs to forgive. Jesus is urging his followers to have a generosity of spirit with others: “For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you”(Luke 6:38).
Consider where this takes us. It means kindness with the mistakes our spouses and children make. It means patience with the missteps, annoyances, and sins of our fellow Christians. It means gentleness when considering those who do not serve Jesus and compassion when their sin worsens. It means giving far more than what others deserve because we have received so much we have not deserved—from God and others.