“Who are you to judge?”
“Christians are called to love others and not judge.”
“The Bible says not to judge!”
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!”
These are the rallying cries of those who reject the so-called “judgment” of Christians who hold to the Bible’s standards of right and wrong.
And you know what?
When it comes to the harsh condemnation issued by haughty, self-righteous people who call themselves Christians but who are wholly devoid of the compassion and mercy Jesus exemplified, they are absolutely right.
But they’re also wrong. Because too often, what’s called “judgment” is probably better identified as “discernment” — the act of examining a behavior in light of God’s Word, and agreeing with God that the behavior is a sin. That’s the kind of judgment the Bible teaches.
The truth is that practically all people make judgments every day, all day long, each time they make an informed decision and draw a sensible conclusion. As Christ-followers, we do so based on God’s Word, but no matter what measuring stick people use, we are still judging.
Many people love to point out Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This statement is made by Jesus, after all. Does this summarize God’s thoughts about people making judgments?
The thing is, that’s not the only thing Jesus said. Far from it! Jesus continues His teaching with some other statements that reveal He isn’t instructing us not to judge; He’s teaching us how to judge.
In fact, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth harshly for not exercising judgment when they should have (I Corinthians 5:1-7).
But be careful, dear friends, because God’s standard is high; many times Christians exercise judgment haphazardly, without regard to His cautions. Sometimes Christians make themselves feel better about their own sin by wielding a gavel of judgment against someone else. Other times careless judgment might happen with good intentions, but it’s no less damaging.
So although I’ll never be one to point my finger at you and say, “Don’t judge,” I will examine my own heart carefully to make sure I’m judging righteously.
What the Bible Says About Judging
1.)Judge without hypocrisy. Here is Jesus’ full teaching about judgment in Matthew 7:1-5:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Did you catch that last phrase? “Then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” He’s not at all saying, “Pay no attention to the speck in your brother’s eye.” He’s saying, “Take care of your own business first.”
Friends, this is so important. When we judge others while having sin in our own lives, we’re not doing God’s work. We’re only fostering division and strife. In fact, Paul says in I Corinthians 9:27 that a lack of self-control in our lives completely disqualifies our testimony in the eyes of others. How can we expect others to believe in God’s freeing power, if we haven’t yet claimed it for ourselves?
2.)Judge without superficiality. John 7:24 states:
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
Jesus is teaching here that we must be careful not to judge by the way things appear, but to judge only after we know the full story.
That means I ought not judge someone based on someone else’s account about them.
It means I’m wrong to judge someone based on a single incident.
It means I shouldn’t pass judgment on someone because I have hurt feelings unless I’m willing to approach them personally, letting them know that I took offense and granting them the opportunity to explain. (Matthew 18:15-20)
3.)Judge without condemnation. Jesus’ well-known quote in John 8:7 says:
And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The people were ready to stone a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Jesus’ gracious admonition to the people reveals His heart of compassion toward the woman. How much more ought we have compassion toward others, too, knowing the depth of sin from which we’ve been forgiven?
Jesus never denied that the woman was adulterous. He never denied that she was a sinner; in fact, his final statement to her (“Go and sin no more” – v.11) implies that she was just that. But He was giving her a chance to repent and change course. There was no scarlet letter “A” issued by His hand. No permanent mark on her soul. He identified her sin, but granted hope instead of hell fire – and we would do well to do likewise.
4.)Judge if you’re walking in the Spirit. Galatians 6:1 says:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Paul isn’t referring here to the pious kind of spirituality that is flaunting its self-righteousness and good deeds. He’s referring to people walking humbly, aware of their own sin and repentant of it, and striving to live out the holiness Christ secured for them.
In Galatians 5:16, Paul calls this “walking by the Spirit.” Some good marks of whether you’re spiritual are how often you’re lingering in God’s presence, how frequently you’re confessing your own sin (it should be often!), and whether you see the fruit of the Spirit evidenced in your life (Galatians 5:22-23).
Notice also that the goal of judgment is restoration. Do it with gentleness, friends! Don’t confront them head on; come alongside them, wrap your arm around them, and confront your common enemy (Satan) together!
5.)Judge those in the Church. In Corinthians 5:12, Paul asks:
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
“Don’t associate” with certain people? “Purge” them from among us? If that’s not judgment, I don’t know what is! But Paul makes an important point here: we must not expect expect godly behavior from those who are not born again Christ-followers. We must exercise judgment among those who identify themselves as Christians.
Oh, dear friends, this is so important as we engage with the numerous lost souls among us!
The drunkards, the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the homosexuals, the abortionists, the criminals – we must stop using their sin as an excuse to stay away and shield ourselves. We must stop erecting barriers between us and them; doing so reveals that either we don’t believe the Gospel has power for them, or that we don’t care enough to share it.
The very best we can do for them is to point them to Jesus at every opportunity.
Because “Go and sin no more” comes only after an encounter with Him.