Should Christians Judge?
If you are like me, then you have heard countless times comments like, “Christians aren’t supposed to judge” or “the Bible says not to judge”. Well, how often do we say that something comes from the Bible but we cannot actually give any references? Let’s look at the most common Scriptural argument for this subject.
1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “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? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 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
Of course, at first glance, we see the phrase “do not judge”. Unfortunately, most of the time that is where we stop reading. This would be like if I said, “I hate peanut butter getting stuck in my teeth”, but all you heard was, “I hate peanut butter.” Well, I don’t hate peanut butter, but I hate it getting stuck in my teeth.
When we continue reading the full teaching of the passage, we see that judgment is actually not condemned in itself but only in certain forms. “Judge not, lest you be judged” teaches us that we should not judge unless we are prepared to be judged also. If we continue we see a story about someone who tried to judge hypocritically, attempting to help someone when they had the same problem but in an even larger scale. Fortunately, the story does not stop there. Verse 5 reads, “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.” He was not supposed to fix himself and then leave! He was supposed to fix himself and then help his friend. This is judgment, but it is done in a helpful, loving, non-hypocritical way. Nonetheless, it’s still judgment.
Part of the problem with our thinking on judgment is how we define judgment. Too often we define it as something akin to Westboro Baptist. We think of it as cruel, hateful, and unhelpful. Protesting, picketing, condemning. Yet, we all grow up learning about accountability in church. What is accountability? It’s judgment! Accountability is the biblical type of judgment that is taught among God’s people. It’s not the condemnation to hell judgment that only the Lord has the right to. Although, we do have the duty to express biblical truths to the world. It is unfortunate, though, that speaking biblical truth can be construed as judgment. Nonetheless, in Matthew 7 we see an accountable type of judgment between two followers of Christ. We must note that there is a difference in the biblical teaching on judgment between Christians and non-believers.
12 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” – 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
So we see that judgment is clearly taught in the church, but like previously stated, this is not to be confused with unkind, unnecessary, unhelpful judgment. This is to be loving, necessary, helpful accountability. We also see that it is not our place to judge those outside the church. Our place with those outside the church is to speak the truth in love. Granted, sometimes speaking the truth does not come off as loving to the lost, but we must do it nonetheless.
Scripture teaches clearly that the church is supposed to keep itself pure and holy. We have the duty to purge sin from the church. We must remember, though, that we also need to be prepared to be held to the same standard. And we must not judge hypocritically. The first person we need to judge is ourselves. Once we are in the right place and can see clearly to help our brother, then we must help him. We cannot leave him with the speck in his eye. My challenge for you is to not let sin go without addressing it and taking the necessary steps to get rid of it, both in yourself and in your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Commanded and Called,