Sadly, in Britain, it feels like we’re creating “no-go” areas where we’re no longer free to express moral disapproval – in sexual choices, or even religious matters. When Jesus says, “Judge not”, he’s not telling us to stop every kind of criticism, but to do it without a flame-thrower. Why? because, morally speaking, we’re all in the same boat.
I reckon the best-known verse in the Bible today is “Judge not”. It’s a nifty, two-word response to almost any moral criticism. Are you meant to be on a diet and your friend sees you tucking in to a big bag of crisps? “Judge not”, you say. The church minister preaches a sermon from the Bible about a common sin in society; at the door, on the way out, an upset listener collars him: “doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Judge not’? A politician is explaining the damage that extra marital affairs do to society: “Judge not” the newspaper columnists say. These two words serve as a convenient moral force-field, which shield us from anybody’s disapproval.
It is, of course, a rather silly mis-use of the verse. Try putting it on the lips of a war criminal. “You’ve just killed innocent Syrian civilians” says the judge. “Judge not!”, says the army officer!