Turing the Tables on “Judge Not”
I recently posted a video clip of John MacArthur talking about Joel Osteen simple to get people talking, boy did it work! I received several “Judge Not Comments”. I get that a lot as a Christian and it reminds me of a Metallica song called “Holier Than Thou.” In it, the singer repeats a refrain, “Judge not lest ye be judged yourself.” That phrase, I’ve come to realize, is an anthem that our culture cries at every opportunity.
The source, for most people, of the idea that Christians should not judge comes from Matt. 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Many people conclude based on a single verse that Jesus is telling people not to judge but then comes the not so small matter of context. Sentences in the Bible, like other historical documents, need to be read with a frame of reference. It’s important to know what surrounding scripture says in order to fully comprehend the true meaning of this verse.
In Matthew 7:1-5 gives a more accurate account of Jesus and the subject of judging. In verse 5, Jesus says, “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.” Here is the key to what Jesus is saying. He is speaking out against hypocritical and self-righteous judgments. He is not saying to never judge; he is saying how to judge rightly.
In fact, it would be extremely strange for Jesus to tell us to never judge in Matt. 7:1 when just a few verses later, in verse 6, he tells Christians to beware “dogs” and “pigs” so that we don’t waste time giving them knowledge of God. The only way you can detect a metaphorical “dog” or “pig” is to judge other people’s actions! There are numerous verses in the New Testament that exhort believers to judge other people. (Matt. 7:15-16, John 7:24,1 Cor. 5:9, 2 Cor. 11:13-15, Phil. 3:2,1 John 4:1, 1 Thess. 5:21).
To say that Jesus teaches us not to judge other people’s actions is obviously and plainly wrong. But how should Christians judge? Here are some biblical guidelines.
One Should Judge:
Consistently, not hypocritically
With humility, not superiority
With facts, not assumptions
Words and deeds, not motive and intent
Biblical issues, not personal preferences
Sins, not sinners
Temporal matters, not eternal matters (salvation) and finally…
A goal to show people Christ, not how good I am!
It is vital for Christians to learn how to judge Biblically. The more I share the gospel and have theological debates the more I need to remind myself that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up”. I must look at Jesus examples of discernment, humility and truth spoken in love. Christ’s words were not always well received but they were invariably shedding light into darkness. This is gospel living at it’s core.
In John chapter 2 Jesus comes across those who are taking advantage of people in the temple. What did Christ do? Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. Jesus then poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. Furthermore Christ told those who sold pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
To keep God’s commands, it is important to first judge what is right and what is wrong. 1 Cor. 5:11-13 says, “… you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 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 man from among you'”.
In these verses, God tells us to judge church members and expel them if necessary. Then Rom. 12:9 states, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good”. How can I do that if I don’t first judge what is good and what is evil? So, I must make judgments about what is right and what is wrong in order to live according to God’s commands.
What about personal actions that are debatable, you know, the grey areas ? To decide if a personal activity is disputable or not ask yourself, “Can this affect someone’s salvation?” If the answer is yes, then you can be sure that the Bible warns us against doing it and we should warn others.
James 5:19-20 says, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” It’s not possible to follow these instructions, and save this man from death, without first judging his actions.
As hard as it may be to do, it is an act of love to confront a sinning brother or sister and it is uncaring not to try to help them. In Ezekiel 33:1-9, God warns the Watchman that if he fails to sound a warning, then he will be held accountable. All Christians are Watchmen so let us lovingly encourage brothers and sisters who have gone off the path of righteousness. Also, if we don’t keep God’s standards of holiness, sin can soon work it’s way through the people and the church will become just another unholy social club.
Our culture cries “Judge not lest ye be judged yourself” but actually this is a deeper cry of the rebellion that separates us from God and the rejection that is common in the human experience. God judges and expects us to judge as well. Not with gavels and scowls but with love and healing. It is condemnation that leaves people with a bad taste in their mouth. Jesus promises no condemnation, rather, loving conviction that actually helps us to live life in freedom. Biblical judgement holds us accountable but also frees us to enjoy the blessings of Christ centered living.
“The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”
God bless!!! Jim Rippey
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