“Judge Not.” We have all heard it used for countless different reasons, in a variety of situations and by all sorts of people–both in the religious community and in secular society. “You don’t like what I’m doing? Judge not!” “Stop being so judgmental! We are called to ‘judge not.'” “I have no right to speak into that-the Bible says ‘judge not.” “But who am I to judge?” Sound familiar?
If someone has religious background the likelihood is that, when asked why they say “judge not”, they will be thinking of Matthew 7:1; “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” or Luke 6:37, “”Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” Upon first glance, it seems pretty cut and dry-and it makes logical sense that people have derived such a negative connotation from that word.
As with every non-fiction account ever written, every dialogue heard on TV, every personal conversation ever had, it is crucial for us to read, listen and hear something in context. Matthew 7:1 is no exception; written for a certain purpose-not up for us to individually interpret as we desire.
It is crucial for us to read, listen and hear something in context.
In the verses following the command to ‘judge not’, Matthew discusses the realities of those inside the church who hypocritically pass judgements upon others for the same offenses they are committing. The famous “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?” is in this passage, which says to remove your plank so you are then more able to help your brother remove his speck. The speck still needs to be removed from our brothers eye, but not until we have first dealt with our own sin.
We once again see this call for accountability within the Church in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, as well as a reminder about who it is we are and are not to judge according to these Biblical standards. Paul says “I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler…what business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.”
The command to judge is regarding those who claim the name of Christ, for those who claim the name of Christ represent His name with our actions. Thus, the call and need for accountability is high. Paul reminds us that to push away everyone with sin in our lives would be absolutely impossible; for not only do we all sin, but unbelievers don’t have a Biblical standard in which they have submitted themselves to, nor are they tarnishing the name of Christ while committing their sins.
Protecting God’s name and God’s church is such a bigger charge than making sure we don’t make people feel uncomfortable or hurt their feelings. God is jealous for His name and His glory (Ex 34:14, Deut 4:24, 2 Cor 11:2). When we claim to be a Christian, everything we do shows others that our actions are representative of one who belongs to Christ; and ultimately of who our Lord and Savior is.
“Protecting God’s name and God’s church is such a bigger charge than making sure we don’t make people feel uncomfortable or hurt their feelings.”
Matthew 7:15-20 (and large chunks of 1 John) even discusses knowing those who are truly of Christ based on the way that they live; for the way we live is an outpouring of what is going on inside of our heart and soul.
When the time does come, and come it will, to confront a brother or sister in Christ, Galatians 1:6 gives specific instruction on the way in which we should approach them– “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” When we do approach another believer about a sin, we must do it with a spirit of gentleness and love. It is so easy to allow anger, jealousy, selfishness or pride to be our underlying motivations. So we must check our hearts, our reasons and make sure the confrontation is covered in prayer. If we do feel that before the Lord our hearts are pure and that our motivation is absolute love with the ultimate desire being to restore the other to Christ, we must remember that just because we do this gently doesn’t mean it won’t be an intense conversation or that they will be happy with us.
So is every sinner to be thrown out of the church? Absolutely not. In fact, church is the very place we want people struggling with sin to be; sitting under the transformative truths of God’s Word and among people who care enough about them to lovingly help them grow according to the truths in Scripture. None of us will be perfect until we die. If someone claims to be a Christ followers and is in blatant, unrepentant sin (meaning they have been lovingly approached according to Matthew 18 and refuse to change), they are to be held accountable by the church for defaming the name of Christ. The hope is that through accountability they will be restored, as we would hope for ourselves if we were struggling with and blinded by sin. But the truth remains, brothers and sisters, that God’s glory is more important than our comfort and in submission to Him alone will we truly find peace and joy. Restoration and love are foundational desires in helping a fellow believer see their sin, but don’t forget that God’s definition of love (not our confused western idea of self-help, boost each other’s ego love) is laid out in 1 Cor 13, and one of the attributes is that love “rejoices with the truth.”
“Restoration and love are a foundational desire in helping a fellow believer see their sin”
May we all run hard after the Lord, remembering that He is the One we are to give an account to in the end; not man.