“Judge Not.” You’ve heard it used for countless different reasons, situations and by all kinds of people; both those in the religious community to those who have absolutely no religious affiliation whatsoever. With this being such a blanket statement, I began to ask myself a few years ago, is it truly a Biblical principle? Are we, as believers, not to judge those around us? And what does this word “judge” even mean?
If someone has any religious background, the likelihood is that, when asked why they say “judge not”, they will point one to 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 hearing someone say that it is a verse in the Bible, it seems pretty cut and dry, doesn’t it?
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.
After saying “judge not…”, Matthew 7 goes on to say in verse 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.” In the following verses, it becomes very clear that Matthew is discussing hypocritically judging someone for the same offense you yourself 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; reminding the reader that the speck still needs to be removed from his brothers eye, but not until you’ve first dealt with your hypocritical sin.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul actually commands believers to judge other believers in a strict manner. (You can sub the words “hold accountable” if the word judge is making you cringe. I didn’t make up the word “judge” though…the Bible actually uses it.)
It must be said, before explaining further, that Paul reminds the reader that to push away everyone with sin in their life 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.
So whats the difference? Why are we to judge or hold Christians to a higher standard? It is clear in 1 Corinthians 5 that brazenly sinning while claiming to be a Christ follower is very different than if you do not claim to be a Christ follower. 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.”
Brazenly sinning while claiming to be a Christ follower is very different than if you do not claim to be a Christ follower.
You see, protecting God’s name and God’s church is such a bigger charge than making sure you 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). If someone claims to be a Christian, everything they do shows others that those 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 you 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 you live is an outpouring of what is going on inside of your heart and soul.
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. Let’s be real-none of us will be perfect until we die. If someone claims to be of Christ’s followers and is in blatant, unrepentant sin (meaning they have been lovingly approached according to Matthew 18 and refuse to change) (a list of the specific sins are in Matthew 7), 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 a foundational desire 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.