Why can’t Christians just exercise their own faith, and leave alone those people who have other beliefs? After all, isn’t it judgmental and unloving to criticize someone else’s religious beliefs? And with regard to Christianity, Matthew 7:1 is often quoted (or should I say “misquoted”) to discourage Christians from putting other religious teachings and practices to the test. We can judge qualifications, however we cannot judge qualities. Qualities are internal motivations known only by God Himself.
Discussion 4/27: Judge Not? Or the contrary?
Why can’t Christians just exercise their own faith, and leave alone those people who have other beliefs? After all, isn’t it judgmental and unloving to criticize someone else’s religious beliefs?
Because we live in an age of tolerance where almost anything goes, openly questioning or criticizing other people’s belief systems can quickly get you labeled as judgmental, narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful, and even ignorant.
We can tolerate anything except the person who won’t tolerate anything! No wonder our favorite Bible verse is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”
The new “unpardonable sin” is “judging.” Hypocrites can flaunt their violations of the Word of God and yet parade unchallenged as Christians. No one dares call them hypocrites for (“Oh, Horrors!”) that would be “judging them.”
And with regard to Christianity, Matthew 7:1 is often quoted (or should I say “misquoted”) to discourage Christians from putting other religious teachings and practices to the test.
Tell anyone nowadays that he or someone else is doing wrong and you will be immediately rebuked, “Don’t Judge!” Is such a use of this verse proper?
Tolerance when it comes to personal relationships is a virtue, but tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty.
1″Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For 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? 4How 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? 5You 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.
6″Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
Judging and Loving
The Bible clearly speaks out not against passing judgment in general, but against rendering inaccurate and unfair judgments (Prov. 24:23; 31:9; John 7:24). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:15 that Christians are called to make “judgments about all things.” Our judgment, though, should not be based on what God has not revealed, rather on what he has revealed and not on human wisdom alone (v. 13).
If we as Christians really want to follow our Lord’s teaching to love our neighbors, we can’t escape our responsibility to warn them about the spiritually destructive roads paved by non-Christian belief systems (Prov. 14:12). True love and compassion should move us believers to sound warning cries “” even in the face of opposition “” in order to avert countless lives from heading toward an eternity of doom.
It can’t mean that we must give up all spiritual discernment in order to be “loving Christians.” Five verses later Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). This command assumes the exercise of spiritual discernment. A few verses later Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets…You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15, 16, 20). Again, Jesus demands spiritual discernment. In Jesus’ view, it is not “judging” to conclude that someone is a false prophet.
Is it, perhaps, our duty to keep such discerning conclusions to ourselves in order to avoid “judging”? Emphatically not! Matthew 7:1 does not teach that it is sinful to confront and, if necessary, publicly expose evil. If this were so, how could Jesus say, “And if you brother sins, go and reprove him…?” How could Jesus go on to say, “And if he refuses to listen…tell it to the church”? (Matthew 18:15, 17). How could Jesus’ apostle, Paul, say, “Do you not judge those who are within the church?…Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Corinthians 5:12, 13).
It’s time for Christians to stop being bound by such false interpretation and to start dealing with sin. “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them” (Proverbs 28:4)
So what does Matthew 7:1 mean? In this context, Jesus is forbidding forming or expressing conclusions about others by those who won’t see or deal with their own sins.
If, on the basis of Matthew 7:1, you refuse to form and express (when necessary) moral opinions, you are confessing your refusal to see and deal with your own sins. The refusal to exercise moral discernment is a confession of moral bankruptcy! May God embolden you to stop tolerating sin in yourself and others, to your hurt and to theirs!
We can judge qualifications, however we cannot judge qualities. Qualities are internal motivations known only by God Himself.
Although at first glance these passages may appear contradictory, a few basic considerations lead to a different conclusion:
- most of the passages in the “Do Not Judge” column clearly refer to not judging people hypocritically or arbitrarily according to human rules or opinions (eg: see Matthew 7:1-6,15-22 ; Romans 14:1 cf v10,13 ; etc.). The passages in the “Do Judge” column are all examples of judging by or according to God’s revealed standards in His Word.
- Clearer passages
John 7:24 states: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (NKJV) . God’s righteousness is revealed in His Word, so it follows we are to judge by it. Hence, it is clear from even this one passage that there is a superficial judging which is forbidden, and a godly judging which is commanded and commended. This confirms our findings above.
From our considerations above, we can conclude:
- The judgment that is forbidden is hypocritical judgment.
- The judgment that is commanded is judgment according to God’s Word.
It is God’s Word that judges, while we are to follow its verdict:
He has commanded us to judge/test those in the church according to the standards of His Word so that we should not be deceived ( 1 John 4:1 cf Matthew 24:23-25 ; Acts 17:11 ; 1 Corinthians 14:29 ; 2 Timothy 4:2-4 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 ; etc.). This is what we are seeking to faithfully do. In doing so we do not need to fear the accusation of “judge not” – for we seek to judge faithfully by His Word. Because we stand on God’s Word, we are willing and able to be corrected and judged by it ourselves if shown to be wrong in our stance.
Those who criticize people who seek to judge by the standards given in God’s Word seem oblivious to the fact that in their criticism they too are judging those they oppose by labeling them ‘judgmental’! However, is this critical judgment being based upon God’s Word, or upon those things by which we are forbidden to judge: traditions of men, party spirit, autonomous human opinion, reason or experience, etc.?!
|Do Not Judge||Do Judge|
1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
|1 Corinthians 2:15
The spiritual man [ie: the believer] makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
|1 Corinthians 5:12-13
12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 … Expel the immoral brother!
|1 Corinthians 6:1-4
1If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church.
|1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
|1 Corinthians 5:3
Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this [sin of incest], just as if I were present.
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