To Judge or Not To Judge

I am often amused and, at times, irked when I hear someone voice an opinion to rationalize any particular behavior that may have found acceptance in the popular culture, but is knowingly contrary to the righteous standards set forth in the Word of God.  Amused and irked, not because they don’t have a right to their opinion, but that they would quote Scripture, out of context, in an attempt to silence those who would dare to raise issues of right and wrong, sinfulness versus godliness, good versus evil.

The current, favorite, hi-jacked, out of context Bible quote, used by the secular community is, “Don’t judge, lest you be judged”.

Now, I can understand their ignorance in latching onto an available stick to beat those pesky Bible believers with, but it is sadly unfortunate that so many who profess to be Christians have adopted this same mantra of supposed tolerance, regarding identifying sin as sin, so as to avoid being labeled as “judgmental”. 

They are ill equipped to refute this “judgment” of being judgmental due to the sad reality that most professing Christians are woefully ignorant when it comes to Biblical understanding, since they are unfamiliar with the Book they claim to believe for matters of faith and practice.  They do not know exactly WHAT to believe, nor do they know WHY to believe it.

So, let’s address the issue of whether, as Christians, we are to judge or not judge.  The misapplied, popular quote above is derived from the verse in Matthew chapter 7, verse 1.  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” 

Taken out of context, these words may be used to foster the false idea that Jesus was saying any sort of behavior is alright and shouldn’t be the subject of condemnation, by anyone else.   We will see, as we study this verse in context, that it is not the case that He is condoning any such acceptance or excusing of sinful conduct.  In addition, this interpretation would be found in direct opposition to a significant number of other scriptures that clearly define the believer’s responsibility to judge some important issues.

Being mindful of our context (Matthew chapters 5 through 7) we find the Lord Jesus addressing His people Israel and divulging the foundational doctrines of the prophesied Kingdom, that they had been promised.   As He lays out those Kingdom principles in His “Sermon on the Mount”, He cautions several times about the need for genuine righteousness to prevail, as opposed to the hypocrisy manifested in the lives of the religious leaders in Israel (the Scribes and Pharisees) who had perverted God’s Law to advance themselves personally. 

Mt. 5:20… “For I say unto you that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Mt. 6:2…  “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.”

Mt. 6:5…  “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.”

And now, Matthew 7:1-5…  Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

Jesus is here identifying for His hearers the basis for proper judgment. The hypocritical Pharisees and scribes were not exercising righteous judgment with regard to sin, but condemning others personally, in order to establish their own righteousness rather than submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. He identifies them as hypocrites, since they were quick to identify an issue of sin in someone else, but failed to acknowledge their own, more serious issue of sin that needed to be remedied, in their case.

(Also, in the context of how God was dealing with Israel under the Covenant of the Law, Jesus warned them that they were to be judged on the same basis as they were judging others.  Today, God dispenses forgiveness of sins on the basis of how He has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Total forgiveness based on His faithfulness and righteousness, not ours… Ephesians 4:32)

Reference Luke 18:9-14…  “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Those who would espouse the misguided notion that a Bible believing Christian is not to be “judgmental” when confronted with issues of sin are simply looking for a way to justify their own behavior, or the behavior of those they sympathize with.  In many cases this attitude is due to ignorance of the clear teachings of the Word of God.  Among others, it is due to a conscious choice to oppose Biblical truth.  They invoke the name of Jesus and proclaim that He would not do such things.  Really?

I ask you, would some folks say that it is being judgmental to label someone a “hypocrite”?  That is exactly what Jesus did in the above quoted references. The important point is that Jesus was rightly appraising (judging) their sinful condition and need for the righteousness of God.  They, as previously stated, were going about to establish their own righteousness and used the tactic of looking at others as inferior to themselves, though they stood in just as much need of recognizing that they were sinners, as well.

Is it in the purview of a Christian to “judge” the sinner?  To consider himself as somehow better than anyone else?  NO!  That is to deny that our only righteousness is found in Christ, and that His death avails to pay sin’s penalty for every sinner. 

Is it in the purview of a Christian to judge and condemn sin?  YES! 

Jesus said (John 7:24) “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

John, chapter 8 recounts the event of the woman taken in the act of adultery. Jesus challenges the scribes and Pharisees regarding their own sinful condition, when He says “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”  Convicted by their own conscience, they drop their stones and walk away.  He subsequently deals with the woman and says, “Neither do I condemn thee, go, and sin no more.” 

Here is the point.  Did Jesus say, “Neither do I condemn thee. Who am I to judge how you live your life. Now, go, and have a nice day.”  Not at all.  His proper judgment of her sinful behavior prompts Him to say “Go, and sin no more!”

Someone has well said, “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay the way you are.”

This same principle of caring for the sinner but dealing with the sin is revealed to us in Galatians 6:1… “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

One cannot study the Bible and honestly contend that God ever condoned or excused sin, but rather judged it and condemned it consistently. The terrible price paid by the Savior at Calvary clearly demonstrates that truth.  That same sacrifice also shows forth the unfathomable Love of God toward the sinner.  It is indeed God’s desirous will that all would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. 

It is evident in Scripture, that God has always promoted a standard of holiness and godly behavior for His people, whether that is His earthly people, Israel, or His heavenly people, the Body of Christ.  Standards of godly conduct are replete throughout Scripture.  Just as God’s objective for Israel was for them to be a “holy nation”, it is His will that the members of the Body of Christ be a holy people, as well. 

The following verses (among many others) speak to the point that Christians are called to a life that is separated unto God and His righteousness. 

Romans 6:11-13…  “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in you mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those who are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

Titus 2:11-12… “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly (right thinking), righteously, and godly, in this present world.”

As we comprehend who we are “in Christ”, we will find ourselves standing for godly principles and standards of conduct that will put us at odds with popular culture (in and out of the church) and result in being labeled as “judgmental”. In addition, you will find that voicing such Christian views are not deserving of being tolerated by those who insist on tolerance of their viewpoint.  Anytime you stand FOR something, you will automatically be AGAINST something else.

More importantly, don’t be surprised if you find yourself accused of being judgmental or “legalistic” by some in the “Christian community”, if you stand in agreement with Biblical standards of behavior. 

So, back to the original question.  As a Christian, are we to judge or not judge?

Well, it all depends.  Romans chapter 14 instructs us not to be judgmental regarding “non-essential” issues.  In this case, we have a weaker brother (a newbie in the Faith) who believes that eating meat is not good.

Romans 14:1-3… “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations (arguments over trivial matters).  For one believeth that he may eat all things; another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth, for God hath received him.”

I would recommend that you read the entire chapter of Romans 14, to understand that we are not to major on minor issues that do not affect another believer’s position in Christ and the potential for spiritual growth and maturity.

What about “essential” issues, then?  Understanding that we are to acknowledge people as to who they are (folks for whom Christ died ) is it right to voice our belief in Biblically based, absolute standards regarding what constitutes sinful versus righteous behavior?  Let’s look at another situation where a judgment is made that clearly identifies sinful behavior and the need to actually cut off fellowship with the individual in question.  Note that this is dealing with matters of calling out sin, in the church.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13… “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators; yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.  For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?  But them that are without, God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”

Are we being judgmental if we tell our children that cheating on an exam is wrong, when the Bible says we are to provide things HONEST in the sight of God and men?  While we are making a judgment, based on a standard of truth we hold as a conviction, we are not uncaring for the sinner.  Indeed, we are to care/love them too much to let them stay the way they are.

Here is an awful list of sins that God identifies as “the works of the flesh” that are contrary to godliness and righteousness. 

Galatians 6:19-21… “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Would we be judgmental in letting someone know that any of these particular sins are wrong, when the Bible that we believe in for matters of faith and practice, says they are?  Of course not. 

Would it be unbecoming for us to be rude and abrasive in pointing this out to someone? Yes, it would.

As Bible believing Christians, we are to speak the truth in Love, while promoting, agreeing with, and standing for what the Word of God has established as right and wrong.  We may judge sin based on the clear standard of God’s truth, with the objective of presenting the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate solution to the problem of sin.

Therefore, do not be discouraged or take undue offense when someone tells you that you shouldn’t judge.  Don’t be surprised when they say, “Who are you to call me a sinner?”   Take the opportunity to let them know that Christ died for sinners (just like you) and has His righteousness to offer in exchange for sin.  Remember, we are to love them as Christ loves them, but love them too much to let them stay the way they are.

Grace and Peace to you!

Larry Gabbard

One Comment Add yours

  1. Rod Jones says:

    Amen Brother Larry!

    Liked by 1 person

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