"Judge Not That Ye Not Be Judged"
At a very superficial level, I find this quite entertaining. Almost every time someone tries to use Matthew 7:1 ("Judge not that ye not be judged"), it is usually in defense of a clearly sinful act. But nevertheless, is Scripture actually saying that people are wholly banned from passing judgment on those around them in every context?
The apologist missionary preacher, Paul Washer, makes the bold statement in response to those who wrongly utilize this passage, saying, "Twist not Scripture lest ye be like the devil." Whoa. Is he taking that too far? Or is he on to something?
Let me be very clear: Matthew 7:1 does not support, in any way, the idea that Christians are not allowed to make any sort of judgments as to the rightness or wrongness of an act or circumstance. Ironically enough, merely saying that it is wrong to pass judgment on someone else is itself an act of judgment!
So what did Jesus really mean, then? How can we know what he meant by such a strong command? Well let's let Scripture inform Scripture on this...
Biblical Support and Mandate for Judging Properly
John 7:24 - Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
How do we judge rightly? What is our standard of judgment? Well, the standard is that which has been put forth by God. God is the judge, and his Word is our ultimate blueprint that lets us know what actions are judged as right or wrong. If the Bible makes a claim that something is wrong, then by nature of the One whose yardstick ultimately measures all things, that thing must be wrong. In contrast to the world's current movement toward everyone being their own judge of what is right and wrong and the misguided desire to provide everyone the freedom to do what they want, Scripture clearly indicates that God holds the ultimate say over the rightness or wrongness of the actions of his creation.
So if we are to judge, who are we to focus the judgment upon? Should we be concerned with every little thing that is wrong in the world around us? To be sure, we should care to a certain extent. We are the representatives of Christ, sent into the world through the Great Commission to preach the Gospel, which by necessity includes the judgment of God regarding the sins of the world. On the other hand, the unbelieving, unsaved person does not live for God, does not submit to his law, and is in fact unable to obey God by virtue of the fact that his heart is not conformed in any respect to the image of God through regeneration (1 Cor. 2:14-16; Romans 8:7).
Therefore, trying to pass judgment on non-Christians, though not sinful, is ultimately not going to be of much good. Unsaved people don't ultimately understand their need to obey the commands of God. We must be more (note: not only) focused on ourselves and the state of our own hearts and the hearts of believers around us. If we see people who claim to be Christians living in unrepentant sin, we are not only right in calling it out, but we are actually supposed to do it! 1 Corinthians tells the story of a man who is known for his sexual relationship with his own step-mother (or mother, depending on how you translate it). The Apostle Paul is quick to judge how sinful and inappropriate this man is acting, and actually commands the Christian church in Corinth to kick the man out of their church altogether. Now, going into this more will extend beyond the scope of this blog, but suffice to say, Paul is not advocating that Christians should keep their mouths shut when they see other Christians (or self-proclaimed Christians) sinning. 1 Corinthians 5: 12-13 says, For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judge those outside.
So How Do We Properly Judge?
- If the person is not truly a Christian, God will ultimately be their judge. Fear for their lives and preach the Gospel in love, both in word and deed, in the hopes that they come to repentance and find salvation. Lording their sin over them will not do much ultimate good, and may in fact put up barriers to the Gospel being preached as you provide a poor example of what Christians are and who Christ is.
- If people claim to be Christians but are living in repetitious and apparently unrepentant sin, we are commanded to kindly speak the truth in love and draw them back to Scripture, pointing out their sin, and offering the support, encouragement, resources, and accountability (through yourself or someone else) to get him/her back on track with living righteously before God. This action of calling out the sins of other Christians is essential. If they do not turn from their sins and seek the forgiveness and restoration of God, they are living as unbelievers and should be treated as such.
So the next time you see fellow believers repeatedly sinning without apparent care, remorse, and repentance, don't be fooled by them telling you that you are not allowed to judge them! If they are truly Christians, they need someone to point out the sin in their lives in love and respect. If they aren't actually Christians but just think they are, they need the correct understanding and application of the Gospel in their lives. Remember, judging isn't wrong. Judging wrongly is wrong.
What has your experience been with that phrase, "Judge not"? And how does this then apply to people who call themselves Christians but are engaged in adultery, unbiblical divorces, alcoholism, pornography, habitual lying, homosexuality, uncontrollable anger, etc.?
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below!
Please share this article with others using the options below.