The title makes it rather clear that I am going to talk about judging others, and it also encompasses the question of our age. Should we, as Christians, judge people, or not? I cannot deny it, this is a tough subject, just like every other, and therefore should be addressed. And like most tough subjects, it is one that is shied away from by most.
When the subject of “judging” is brought up, it is usual in the context of one person, typically a Christian, saying that something that another person is doing is wrong. Then either the accused or a third-party stands aghast and proclaims, “Thou shalt not judge!” or in the modern tongue “The Bible says you can’t judge people!” And from there, the argument falls apart and people part disgruntled and nothing is solved. The Christian, knowing that Christ wants us to love people, believes that he or she should keep their mouth shut and not hurt other people’s feelings. And the other person, Christian or not, feels like they’ve won and can continue in what they are doing. Thus, both people end up doing wrong.
And I some of you are reading and thinking, what? How can they both be wrong?
Simple: God’s Word must be upheld.
But we’ll get to that in a moment. First, context must be given for the verse that is misquoted so very often.
In Matthew 7, there are three words that are brought up probably more than any other fraction of a verse of Scripture and that is “do not judge”. What seems to not be such common knowledge is the rest of that verse and the verses that follow.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck our of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:1-5 ~
So we got the no judging thing down, but why are we told not to here? First, because in the way we judge, that same measure will be used against us to. If I tell someone not to steal, or I berate them for stealing, and then I steal I am a hypocrite. It goes the same with any sin, be it murder, adultery, or lying. If I were to judge someone for doing something wrong and then I do it, I am just as guilty by my own standard, and even more so, by God’s. In a similar way, I can’t just go around judging people saying, “Look at all the bad you do and look at all the good I am.” In doing that, I am not showing God’s love, helping others, or repenting of my sins. This sort of rebuking is very wrong. I need to look at myself first, look at the things that need to be worked on, and then ask for forgiveness. I need to change my behavior and be changed by God so that I can then go out and say, “Look at Who has forgiven me! He can forgive you as well!” But I can only do that after I can see clearly, my glasses cleansed from the sin that obstructs my view.
But that leads to an issue that seems all too prevalent today. What do we do in regards to sin? Do we ignore it? Leave people do what they want and just accept it? Condone it? The answer is plainly no, for God’s way is perfect.
There is a little passage in the Bible that has become overlooked. Luke records Jesus’ Words when He says,:
So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times a day and seven times he comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him. ~ Luke 17:3-4 ~
In the verses before this, Jesus is telling his disciples that there will be things that cause people to sin. He guarantees that. Just like He warns us that in this life we will have trouble but to take heart, for He has overcome the world. Sin and bad things are bound to happen and have happened. We got that. First off, Jesus does not say, “If your brother sins, berate him and everyone like him.” But Jesus also does not say, “If you brother sins, condone his behavior and move on.” God hates sin. As aforementioned, God’s Word must be upheld. For the first scenario, we know that if a brother sins, we are to rebuke them, judge them if you will, say “what you’re doing is wrong”. Show them in the Bible where it says they are wrong. But if they repent, forgive them. Always forgive them. Just as when we repent, God forgives us. If he sins against us and then says, “I repent”, forgive him again, and again, and again. Human experience in just a day should demonstrate how often we screw up. And Yet God still forgives and loves us. How can we do any less?
But there is another part to all this that should be made very clear. If someone sins, do not condone what they are doing. This is when we get to the heart of the problem. Too often when Christians are presented with a “judge or not judge” situation, they get confused because they don’t know how to answer, “The Bible says not to judge, but to love, you hater.” They think, “Oh, I guess I should stay quiet on this subject and move on. I don’t want to not show love to someone.”
No. Stop right there. To think that telling someone they are doing something wrong is wrong itself is incorrect. Let me explain it this way. Lets say you and I are walking down a path together that I have traveled before. I know the turns and what lies ahead because I have been here before. I know very well that if I walk too far to the left, I will fall into a small hole and hurt myself. How do I know this? Because I have done it once before. Now if I knew that and didn’t warn you ahead of time and you got hurt, would you not be upset? I know I certainly would be.
In the same way, we as Christians are to warn others of stumbling blocks along the way. Oftentimes, it is because of a past sin we struggled with, or because it hurt someone close to us. Or maybe another’s sin hurt us. But the bottom line is that there is a right and a wrong that God has laid that out for us quite clearly in his Word. We are to say to people what is right and what is wrong. We are to speak that truth in love, but to still speak the truth. We are to say,” What you’re about to do will not only hurt you physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it will also hurt your spiritually.” That is what we are supposed to do. To not judge someone on their wrongdoing under the guise of “I want to love them” is simply untrue.
God disciplines us as well. Yes, to any unbeliever reading this, when we don’t follow God’s Word we also get rebuked. God is just, we all get punished for wrongdoing. But He disciplines us, just like a father does a child.
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. ~Proverbs 3:11-12 ~
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
~ Proverbs 13:24 ~
I could quote many verses from the Bible in regards to disciplining Children and God’s disciplining of His children. This idea is one in the same. God gave us His Word and His life to teach us about what we should and should not do. Not because He doesn’t want us to have fun, but because He loves us. My parents told my little brother lots of times not to put his hand on the hot stove. But there is something about human nature that makes us want to do exactly what we’ve been told not to do. So what to we do? We do it; we get burned. And it hurts. And we cry our to our parents (or to God, in this case) and say, “Why did you let this happen? Why didn’t you warn me?” When the fault lies with us entirely.
So why do Christians judge people? Because that is what we are supposed to do. Directing people away from death and towards life is a good thing. To point them in the right direction is to love them. God does not make rules for no reason, He does it to protect us. Just like a mom telling a child not to touch the stove, or a father warning against playing close to the road. God also warns us of sin and what its consequences are. That’s right. He tells us what not to do and why. Not because, “I said so”, although He did and we should just take His Word for it, but because He wants to protect us. And Christians pretending like that’s not true and they should keep their mouth shut will not help anyone. Let me repeat: not judging people will not show them the truth, nor bring them closer to God.
HOWEVER, this does not mean we can just go out and hate on people telling them how awful they are and then expect them to come running to Churches with open arms and bowed knees in repentance! Love, my fellow Christians, is the key. It is the foundation of our belief. Christ died for us while we were still steeped in our sin because He loved us. He still told us what was wrong in our lives and how to live like He did because He loved us. And we, as Christians, should live as He did. To speak the truth in love and with meekness in fear. But always, always, the truth. Always. No and’s, if’s, or but’s. The truth will be the truth regardless of what society says. But holding up signs saying “sinners go to hell” is not helping. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. We all sin, that’s why we need God and His grace. It’s not like we did something special to receive God’s mercy. If that were true, it wouldn’t be mercy or grace now would it?
That leads to a big point: repentance. Repentance is a great thing. The Bible records the many times when people repented and were baptized. John called for people to repent and be baptized. Peter answers the crowd with “repent and be baptized” when they ask what they should do. Jesus preached that people should repent. Big clue here: we do wrong, we need to say we are sorry, turn from that wrong, and ask for forgiveness.
I for one have had to repent for many things. My life is not perfect. “There is none who is righteous, not one” and again “there is no one who does good, not even one.” We are not perfect. I am not perfect. And I have to go to God more than seven times a day and say, “I repent.” And you know what? God says, “I forgive you.” Every time, for He is faithful. God is gracious, He is good, He is righteous. And He has shown me what that looks like by the life He lived and the Word He gave. I see the log in my eye. I’m pretty sure it’s a California Redwood. Yet God saw past that and saved me. That doesn’t mean I get to go around and do what I want. It means that I have to live my life like His. That includes warning people of the consequence of sin. It eats away at us and makes us dead in this life, not to mention the separation from God in the next. How could I keep silent about that? For the record, John called the Teachers of the Law a brood a vipers, and Jesus called them and the Pharisees white-washed tombs. Calling people out on their sin isn’t a bad thing. If they aren’t told, how will they know that they shouldn’t do wrong? Christians, we were not called to condone sin, but to condemn it. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit. AND to teach them to obey everything that He has commanded us. We can’t do half of the job and call it good. We’ve got to do it all. Rebuke, repent, forgive. Over and over. It doesn’t stop for anyone just like Christ’s forgiveness and Love never runs out.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. ~ Hebrews 3:13 ~
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
~ Romans 10:14-15 ~
So encourage your fellow christians, and lift up those who are weighed down by sin. Let us not be hardened, or desensitized, or blinded by sin. Let us bring good news to those who have not heard the truth. Let us not close our eyes to sin and falsehood, but point people towards the truth and Christ’s salvation.