Bible Stuff – We’re Not Meant To Judge Others


Read 2 Corinthians 5:16 below. I’ve included various versions. Read them all if you like. They all say pretty much the same thing, but reading them all gives you a better understanding of the original text since each is translated in a slightly different way. I actually encourage you to read the entire chapter. It’s easier to understand a single verse when you know the context.

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one [f]according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. (NASB)

16 So from now on we don’t look at anyone the way the world does. At one time we looked at Christ in that way. But we don’t anymore. (NIRV)

16 We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way. (CEV)

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. (NKJV)

Chapter 16 starts out by talking about the human body.

Basically defining it as a tent that we live in while we’re on earth. It’s a home that we will one day leave for our eternal home. Our bodies keep us from eternity for now, but in the mean time it is also tool God has given us to please Him and we will one day be judged for the deeds that body does, good or bad.

So our bodies are apparently in existence to help our Spirit get things done. In a way the text is minimizing the importance and usefulness of the body (can be destroyed, keeps us from Heaven) but then points out it’s usefulness in obeying and pleasing God.

Our bodies are how we outwardly express our devotion to God and God’s devotion to others. How many of us think of our bodies in that way? I just think about how fat my body is most of the time. It’s how I enjoy my movies, video games. It’s how I drive around, hug my kids, type out blog posts. But although our bodies are limited, in usefulness and duration, we are to use it in ways that will be judged as good. Just like anything God has given us, we are accountable to Him for how we’ve made use of it. Boy am I in trouble. I have a lot of explaining to do for what was going on between ages 14 and 16. 

The Disciples Are Done Judging By How People Appear

Then our verse comes into play. The author and his people are letting it be known that they are no longer going to be judging other people by what they seem to be like on the outside. They have apparently learned that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover or a person by what they look like, wear, do with their free time, apparent attitude, mood or even what they say out loud. They don’t seem to be keeping a list of things that they will still be judging in spite of his new way of doing things. They’re simply not going to judge others by outward appearance or how they seem to be.

What’s a little crazy is that’s exactly how we all judge others. Every single one of us. I’m guilty. I’m so guilty in fact that I don’t even feel bad that I’ve been doing it yet. This is going to have to sink way down in. Because doesn’t it make sense to judge others outwardly in some basic sense?

Those who date judge their date almost immediately by outward appearance. Same with prospective employers interviewing nervous applicants and the tie they decided on. We use our judgement to help us avoid small gangs of rough looking youths because they may be planning to accost us whether physically or verbally. And not just physical appearance, we judge people by their attitude, their personalities, the bumper stickers blasting out their political beliefs, that wonderful little silver “Christian Fish” on the trunk, or the equally wonderful Coexist sticker.

We do this to get through every single day of our life. We do it to protect ourselves. To keep ourselves separate from those who frighten us, who believe differently from us, who are a different color than us or age or religion or whatever. Apparently it’s not right.

We Know It’s Wrong To Judge To A Point

And we know that this is true, but in a different sense. Maybe you thought your spouse was a dork when you first met them, over time that judgement was changed (or not) and you now love some of the things you once thought annoying. We know deep inside that the homeless guy has a heartbreaking story behind the one he’s sharing and his blindness to anything but a handout. We know that there’s a very distinct possibility that the two large Black men walking toward us are great guys with a family and kids of their own… but don’t we all find it easier to hide behind the flash judgement and call it self-preservation and sleep well knowing our cunning has seen us through to another day.

I’m beginning to feel like I’m way too protective of myself. I’m feeling like self-preservation can easily be counted as self-centeredness. I’m also feeling like doing making a change in this area of my life is going to lead to embarrassing at minimum, frustration in the medium, then outright danger on the high end. My fear of both options only show me how little faith I have not only in God, but in my fellowman. Movies, the news and the Internet have made us all believers that every man at the mall is a rapist, every repairman is a serial killer and even our kids friend’s parents are all child molesters. We’ve locked bodies away safe and sound and out of commission. You know which commission I mean.

So now I must apply this text to my life. I have to stop judging the scary lady who’s leaning on the trashcan outside 7-11 by her outward appearance. How? I guess I start by wiping any preconceived ideas out of my mind. I have no proof she’s on drugs. I may be able to nod a hello without her hitting me up for cash. I’ll bet life is pretty tough when the best place to catch a break is on a dirty trashcan. But I walked in and out without so much as acknowledging her. I would have nodded to someone who looked “normal” to me. I’ve programmed myself to erase people who I don’t see as important. That’s a problem. See, I’m going to be judged… and the only two options seem to be good or bad… and that’s not going in the good category.

But this applies all over. Not to just those less fortunate. How about our economic peers or better yet, those who make much more? I know I have preconceived ideas about most people I see every day not many are flattering. I have lots of negative stereotypes about the rich. Then there’s homeschool people, breastfeeding zealots, dog lovers, tree huggers, the super-spiritual, those parents who seem to take pride in their children’s peanut allergy… I’ve got a box already labeled for every type of person out there. Those boxes are divided into the “like” and “dislike” categories. I am now convinced that this is not Christ-like at all.

My Standards Do Not Supersede God’s Grace

I am using my own personal preferences, my own fears, my own lack of understanding, my politics, my jealousy and my disdain to keep me in a protective bubble of self-righteous bliss all the while convincing myself that I’m keeping my life pure and my friendships pleasing. When what I’m actually doing is the exact opposite of what Christ did and what his Disciples have realized they need to stop doing.

When I judge based on appearance, or even how people continue to be, I am putting space between them and me. Everyday we measure how “savable” every person is or is not. Dang. That’s not up to me! I owe everyone equal standing… an equal shot. I can’t do that if I can’t let go of that outward appearance.

The rest of Chapter 5 says that God sent Christ to make peace… and now ends us to share that message of peace with others. That’s what our bodies are supposed to be helping us to do. To sincerely ask people to make peace with God. God wants people in Heaven who like to hang out near trashcans. He’s chosen us to represent him and one thing I know about God is that he doesn’t let outward appearance slow him down an ounce.

One More Thing…

There’s one little part I left off of verse 16. It’s the end where they say they’re done judging by physical appearance… like they once did Jesus. And this part unlocks the greatest truth yet. Anyone judging Jesus by his outward appearance… or even his miracles, mannerisms, chosen associates and friends would get a very convoluted picture of who He was. Depending on the person making the judgement, He may appear as a saint or a troublemaker or an outright sinner. But even if you knew him well, as his Disciples did, and had nothing but the best respect for him and what he stood for, to stop there and assume you really knew who Jesus was (and is) ludicrous! In verse 16 we see that they all have realized how short sighted they were in regards to Christ… and the very first thing they do with that knowledge is apply it to the people he died to save.

When I judge someone else I am not only limiting my ability to reach them, I am very self-righteously judging their value to God. Holy crap. I’m so guilty of this.

The critic will say, “Yes, but God does judge the heart and some people are stone-cold in their sin… even proud of it!” And I would say that this is true. I would also say that it is not for us to judge any of the above and that we should let God decide when He is done with someone. I haven’t, as of yet, been told to stop loving anyone.

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