In the context of Scripture, we know that the Apostles, particularly Paul, judged the people in the church and Jesus Himself was rather candid in judging many of the religious leaders of His day. So we must ask ourselves, in what sense are we to understand the command against judging if judging was not altogether avoided by our Lord?
I believe that if we examine the relevant Scriptural passages in proper context, we will discover our answer. In Matthew, Jesus tells us "Do not judge, or you too will be judged…" But we note that He does not stop there. He includes a significant detail later in the verse, "first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." These and other passages seem to suggest Jesus was instructing us against engaging in HYPOCRITICAL judgment. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is more succinct. First He tells us what is unacceptable judging and then He tells us what is acceptable judging: UNACCEPTABLE: "…Stop judging by mere appearances, ACCEPTABLE: “make a right judgment" (7:24).
The key here is making a right judgment. It is not a matter of first impressions, opinions, biases or assumptions. It is only when we probe beneath appearances that we are able to make right judgments. We must consider the facts that are not evident to the human eye. Ignorance blinds judgment. And, if we do not know the facts we make ignorant judgments and this is what Jesus warns us against.
Proper judgment is always loving in nature. If we observe moral or spiritual shortcomings in a person, we should strive to help him/her progress toward greater faithfulness. This is what Paul sought when he admonished the Galatians - "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." 6:1a
Even though Jesus does not seem to renounce all judgment, it is crystal clear that He forbids hypocritical judging. He draws a sharp line between ethical/Christian appraisal and mean criticism. As Christians, it is incumbents upon us to always focus more attention on our own imperfections than the imperfections of others. As someone said, "we are to view our own shortcomings as logs and those of others as mere specks."