“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1–2 NLT)
Jesus did not shy away from railing against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. As much as the seven woes he pronounces against them in Matthew 23 are a reminder that those in leadership positions must be held accountable for their actions, they are also a poignant reminder even today that our faith should permeate all parts of ourselves and not simply reside in our heads or our words. For the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not focus on such outward criticisms; instead, his focus is on reminding us to look to our own hearts and actions, to examine our own deeds and motives as we seek to live as people under the reign of the Kingdom of God.
Even so, all too often as Christians we spend our time more concerned with the actions of others than with our own hearts. Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill write in The Speed of Trust that most of us have the tendency to “judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” We are judges who grant leniency to ourselves but execute the full extent of the law against others who commit the same misdeeds.
While there is still room – especially within our immediate community of believers – to hold others accountable, and likewise be held accountable ourselves, we would be better followers of Jesus if we read scripture as a magnifying glass pointed at our own lives rather than a spyglass directed into the lives of others. Then, when the time comes when we truly need to hold a brother or sister accountable for their misdeeds, it is not a judgement against their actions but an attempt to help them correct course.