Should You Judge Others?*
Does the Bible ever tell you to not judge others? The quick answer is no, but with some caveats. But before I explain that, let us discuss the word “judge”.
To judge is to hold to some sort of standard or law. Olympic sporting events have judges and these judges are judging the contestants according to a standard. A policeman who gives you a speeding ticket is making a judgement as well. If you don’t like his judgement you can appeal to a higher authority, which would be a judge.
But more likely than not, when you encounter that word it will refer to negative thoughts supposed to be had by someone. For example, when I see a young man walking down the street with his pants hanging down around his knees, my thoughts about that young man will be negative based on the social standards of my place and time. Those negative thoughts are what judging is in the current sense. It is considered a sin by Secular Humanism to have bad thoughts about someone else’s behavior or beliefs.
Be aware also that many times when you encounter that word it will be the result of self-judgement projected onto others. A man might walk into church and get the feeling that he’s being judged by people there. But unless that man is a mind reader, he can’t know what kind of thoughts others are having about him, positive or negative. But he may know deep inside that he is falling way short of the standards in the Bible. And he may feel as though all there are looking down on him because of that. If that man would come to his senses he would know that all the other people there are falling short too, and that the work of the Church is all about building up the body of Christ, not deciding who is “good” and worthy, who is not. Real Christians are conscious of their own sins, and therefore love Jesus for going to the cross and accomplishing the work that He did there. The key is to work with others so they can help you overcome your failings as you help others overcome theirs. When you are living in relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ in this way, you are in the body of Christ. On the other hand, if you walk in daring anyone to “judge” you for what it is that you know that you have done, then you are on the outside looking in.
With this in mind let us go to the often quoted scripture in which Jesus tells us “Do not judge…”.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at 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,’ and behold, the log is 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. (Matt 7:1-5)
A few things to point out here. First, as you can see here, the main goal is to help the brother. We are all about picking logs out of eyes so that we believers might see more clearly. Can you see how that would build The Body up? Keep in mind that this requires that we also must be open to the idea that we have a log in our own eye, and not get offended if someone try to help us with it.
Second, it is a loving thing to do to help the brother get the speck out of his eye. Jesus is not here telling us to get off by ourselves and get the logs out of our eyes so that we can come together as speck pickers. We are to build each other up as Paul aptly points out here:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16)
How will the Church ever “build itself up” if it turns a blind eye to every sin as it refuses to “judge”?
Third, it is always important to determine who it is that Jesus is speaking to in a passage. This passage is Jesus speaking to His disciples instructing them how to interact with brothers. If every time a brother fell we excommunicated him our church’s would consist of empty buildings except for those able to hide their sins. When you fall, dear children, first admit it to yourself, then to those close to you. Repent, then work toward restoration. Then be willing to work with others who have fallen.
Forth, always look at any passage of scripture in the context of the rest of the Bible. If we take the words “Do not judge” in a wooden sense, we will set it up against the rest of scripture, including Jesus Himself in the same sermon who warns us against bad fruit and false prophets.
So now let us look at the second, and perhaps the least known and quoted scripture regarding judging. It comes from 1st Corinthians 5:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (1 Cor 5:9-13)
We can see how the building up of the Body reigns supreme. Paul distinguishes between those who are part of the Body and those who are not. The two will behave differently, but they are also to be treated differently. We are to expect unrepentant sinners to sin without remorse. But we see our brothers and sisters in light of God’s standard and His grace. The key is repentance. If we sin without blushing, and dare anyone to “judge” us while throwing Matthew 7 out there, then we are unrepentant and so love demands that we be removed in order to protect the Body, and in hopes that the unrepentant one will find it in himself to turn from his wicked ways.
Also, be on your guard. There are many false teachers in our day. And it is a favorite thing for them to set Jesus against Paul. This passage would be an example of such a tactic wherein some will try to make the case that Jesus and Paul contradict each other. But the Bible doesn’t tell us to just “kick someone out of the Church”. There is a process, and none other than Jesus gives it to us in Matthew chapter 18:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. (Matt 18:15-18)
The world hates God and His law. As an ambassador for Christ, it will hate you also. Some express that hatred outright. Others try to infiltrate the Body in order to destroy it from within by preaching false doctrines on judging others. But as Jesus points out, His sheep know His voice and when a stranger comes they see him as a thief and robber and so they run the other way.
So dear children, love your brothers and sisters. Let grace reign in your hearts. But do not be afraid of seeing yourself, as well as others, in the light of God’s law. Such will bring us to love the work that was done on the cross. Live a life of repentance, as you help your brother’s and sisters in Christ do the same. Admit your sin to yourself, and to others. Don’t be afraid to call sin sin, whether it be in yourself, or others. Desire rather to restore the repentant brother or sister than to excommunicate, but do not be afraid to live according to God’s plan for the Church. I pray your success in all these areas. It will not be easy.