COLUMN: Don't make mistake of taking 'judgment' verse out of context

I have a question for you?
What is the one Bible verse that you hear most often quoted by from non-Christians ? I will wait patiently here as the theme music from Jeopardy plays in my head and you ponder my question.
Given that I only have 800 words to work with here I will go ahead and tell you. The one Bible verse that every non-Christian believes comes from Matthew 7 verse 1, where Jesus says: ” Judge not, lest ye be judged.” People who don’t believe in the Bible dearly love quoting this verse.
How many times have I heard that come out of the mouths of people who are otherwise clueless about the Bible? I can be watching the most godless reprobate on some television show talking about the vilest things he has done, and when challenged about his behavior he will inevitably say, “Well you know what the Bible says, judge not lest ye be judged.”
This is the heathen’s trump card. It’s supposed to end all discussion. It’s one verse from a book they otherwise scoff at. He doesn’t have any regard for what that same Bible says about the wrongness of his behavior in the first place, does not read or study the Bible, yet he knows somewhere in the Christian Scripture it says something about not judging others, and that sure comes in handy.
Another verse more commonly used among Christians themselves when someone is caught doing something contrary to the teachings of the Bible is this, again the words of Jesus, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
This was a theme used at the funeral service for slain football star Steve McNair recently in Nashville. We all know that McNair was murdered by a young women with whom he was having an adulterous affair.
“Drop your stone the next time you write about Steve McNair. Drop your stone the next time you text somebody. Drop your stone the next time you twitter. Drop your stone, those of you in the barbershops, the beauty shops. Those of you walking the streets on the corner, drop your stone,” Bishop Joseph W. Walker III told thousands of people, among them family members, fans and more than 50 former teammates, gathered at Mount Zion Baptist Church.
I once heard a pastor give some good advice about reading the Bible. He said when using a verse to make a point, always read the paragraph the verse is found in. In other words, put the verse in its right perspective. By understanding the context of a verse we can better understand the real meaning or point of what is being said or communicated.
The point of Matthew 7:1 about not judging others is that we should each guard against self-righteousness, understanding that we all are weak human beings and capable of the same wrong-doing we are condemning in others. We must constantly examine our owns hearts, attitudes and actions and compare our lives to the standards that God expects us to follow as laid out in the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments. And when we sin, that is, fail to live up to those standards, we must repent before God and strive, with His help, to do better tomorrow.
As for the admonition of Pastor Walker at the service for Steve McNair, you talk about a man put in an awkward position. Here he was trying to console the wife and children of a man who died while cheating on them. What do you say to the family who feels betrayed and what do you say to those watching the funeral?
The verse about stone-throwing is found in the beginning of John 8. Here the Hebrew scribes and Pharisees were trying to stump this new teacher – Jesus, a Jew – into contradicting the Law of Moses which stated that the woman caught in adultery should be stoned. Jesus turned the test around on them and used that experience to teach her accusers a lesson, again, about self-righteousness. But he also told the woman, after saying he did not condemn her, to ” … go, and from now on sin no more.”
He called her adultery sin. Notice he did not say, “Go, and make no more mistakes.” When we call sin “mistakes,” we diminish the seriousness of what has occurred that the sinner is responsible for. Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins, not our “mistakes.” Notice Jesus did not say to her, ” Go, it’s only sex.” No, he called adultery “sin” and ordered her not to do it anymore. This is what Jesus did, he judged the wrongness of the action but he did not condemn the person. He offered her an opportunity to be repentant and start anew. He is our example.
Steve McNair’s ending was a tragedy in many ways. Let’s at least learn a lesson from it. Stay away from sin.
Tim Wildmon is a community columnist who resides in Baldwyn. Contact him at twildmon@afa.net.

Tim Wildmon