Many times over the years I’ve heard people say Christians should not judge. If one looks directly at Matthew 7:1 where Jesus says, “judge not,” it seems pretty clear. There is no room for judgment. At the same time, if we do not understand the context of what is being taught, we will misinterpret Scripture.
The first thing that we have to look at is who is the audience or main hearers of Matthew 7? The most judgmental crowd was not Christ’s followers, or disciples, but the Scribes and the Pharisees. These were religious leaders of Jesus’ day who had a theological and political stronghold over people.
To understand this passage, we have to move on to other passages, and then come back to this passage. In John 7:24, Jesus actually tells us to judge. He says, “Judge with right judgment.” So in one instance Jesus says not to judge, in another He tells us to judge. Is He being inconsistent, or contradicting Himself?
We must understand that Jesus is speaking about judgement in two different types of scenarios here. In the famous “judge not” passage, He is telling people not to judge where salvation comes from, or how one earns salvation. Why does He say that? Because the rules for salvation have been written. He is telling the Scribes and Pharisees they can’t judge someone’s salvation by the works that they do, because salvation comes from faith in Jesus.
In John 7:24 Jesus is talking about judging in many other areas of life. Again, He is commanding us to judge. In fact, in Matthew 7, Jesus actually switches His tone to asking His followers to judge. That specific language is not used, but the word, “recognize” connotes being able to judge something to understand it. In the instance of 7:15-20 Jesus is saying that we should judge theological teachers to see whether they are pointing people to, or away from the Gospel.
Now, while we cannot judge how someone earns salvation – other than how Jesus says salvation is given – we should judge in other areas. At the same time, there are rules for judging others in those areas that we need to be careful to follow. When we are to judge, we need to do so by God’s standard, humbly, mercifully, repentantly, and calling others to forgiveness of Jesus. Any kind of judging outside of these parameters is sinful.
Judge by God’s standard. That means that when we are to judge a moral action, we better take time to make sure that it is God’s standard, and not just an amended version of God’s Word by Christians of the past. Judging humbly means that if we are to confront someone with God’s truth, we can’t do so by degrading them. We should always speak truth into their lives with a desire for them to follow God. Winning the argument and/or being right should never be the ultimate goal.
Judgment needs to be done so repentantly. What do I mean by that? When Jesus tells us to first take the beam out of your eye, it means that we need to be spending much more time accessing our own lives than the lives of others. This is especially true when considering that our own life is the only life that we can really control. And there are so many unexpected events in our lives beyond our control.
Two good questions to ask yourself before passing judgement: is this being done repentantly or too harsh? Do you get more upset about your own sin or other’s sin? Or, do you spend more time focused on someone else’s spiritual life, rather than your own walk with the Lord?
We also need to judge mercifully. This means that we desire mercy for others, not judgment. We need to make sure that we are rooting for the person to do what is right, not for them to face quick, swift justice. Also, from the passage, we are not to judge by appearances. Sometimes people are blatant with what they do, and they share their motives. Other times we have no idea what their motives are, and we need to be good listeners, and slow to get angry and cast judgement. Remember James 1:19: Know this, by beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
Lastly we need to understand that judgement protects us. Ironically there are those who say, “do not judge anyone” and are therefore making a judgement of how people should live. Their argument crumbles underneath them. We need to make sure that we are not judging in unjust ways. However, judging can protect you physically, financially, relationally, and emotionally. It helps us make judgement on who we should and should not allow into our lives, how we should spend our money, and the places that we should and should not go. To cast off all judgment is unwise, and often dangerous.
How do you judge others? Do you judge like you want to be judged, or do you judge much harsher than you would ever want judgment? Do you allow people time to repent, or do you expect others to repent quicker than you would? Do you judge rightly, mercifully, humbly, and repentantly pointing others to Jesus? Or is your judgment domineering and unforgiving?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.