Do not Judge?
An Often Misunderstood Verse
Any time a Christian sees evil in the culture and says something about it, inevitably you will hear someone take the quote of Jesus out of context that says: "Judge not, that you be not judged." And they will tell the Christian that they shouldn't be judging others. In our society of "tolerance", many use this verse to attempt to silence believers, so they can be allowed to continue doing their evil practices without someone telling them that it is wrong. If we took their admonition to the extreme, we would never be able to say that murder is evil, or that it is wrong to rape and steal. Someone might say: "You can't be calling that guy a rapist. Remember, the Bible says not to judge!"
I. How the Christian Must Judge
The sad thing is, that most people don't know that the quote comes from the Sermon on the Mount, or that Jesus is just getting started talking on the subject of judging. He goes on for a whole paragraph after that. Here is the entire context:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement that 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 in in your own eye? Or how can you say
to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye', when there
is a 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." Matthew 7:1-5
Some would make the ludicrous claim that Jesus himself never judged people's actions as evil while he was on earth. All you have to do is read the gospels and know that this is not true. Just turn a few more chapters to Matthew 23 and see what he has to say about the Scribes and Pharisees and you'll know that he had some pretty strong condemnations of their actions. And of course he had some strong views concerning divorce and remarriage, and what constitutes adultery as well (Mark 10:11,12).
Also, we see Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17 telling us that if we see a brother sinning, that we should respectfully confront them with their sin. This is with the goal of pointing out the truth of their sinful lifestyle, in order to elicit repentance and have them restored to fellowship. (James 5:20).
Paul, in I Corinthians 5 , tells the Corinthian church that they need to do something about the person who claimed to be a brother in Christ and was sleeping with his father's wife. Here is what he says in verse 3: "For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present." He then goes on to tell the church that they must throw him out of the fellowship until he repents.
The Apostle Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:15 that we are to speak the truth in love to people. And he says in II Timothy 4:2 that we are to preach the Word: "Be prepared in season and out of season: correct, rebuke and encourage- with great patience and careful instruction." Notice the words correct and rebuke here. We are indeed to point out that sin is sin. But it is always with the goal of leading a person to repentance.
The Bible, in many places, also tells us to beware of those who do evil, and of false prophets. Scripture tells us that we are to avoid them. For instance, I John 4:1 says: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." Obviously, this requires some sort of judgement or discernment on our part to be able to do all of this.
II. How the Christian Must Not Judge
So what did Jesus mean in Matthew 7:1 when he said not to judge? The context here is hypocrisy, specifically hypocritical judging. It is when we tell someone that they are sinning, while all the while our sinful lifestyle is worse than theirs. That is what he means by the speck in your brother's eye and the log in your own.
This type of judgement includes putting down others for the purpose of exalting self. It is the act of finding fault when you are totally overwhelmed with fault. You cannot possibly expect to help your brother get out of a sinful lifestyle, when you embrace it yourself.
What Jesus is also saying is that every Christian should go through times of self-examination to see if their life is pure and above reproach. If it is not, then the follower of the Lord must rid themselves of the sin in their lives. So, in other words, judgement begins at home. We must be ever vigilant to keep our lives free from anything that will harm our witness and make us unfit to help others to get out of their sinful lifestyles. The motto: "Physician, heal thyself" comes to mind. We must practice what we preach.
Jesus also said in the Sermon on the Mount that a Christian is the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). One main thing that light does is dispel darkness. In this case, darkness is the sinfulness in the world. The Christian is to be the reflector of the true light of the world, Jesus Christ. But we can't do that if our light is hidden in some way by the way we behave. This world needs to see Christ's life in us. But we simply cannot live a hypocritical lifestyle and ever hope to be an effective witness for our Lord and Savior. Let us examine ourselves before we criticize those around us.