“Have we misjudged ‘judging’?”
I’ll say we have! In fact, this one is a ‘pet peeve’ of mine. Many good Christians appear to have a skewed understanding of this topic. They are very much aware of Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” But they stop at that, unaware that by doing so other believers could stray into sin.
Jesus is here addressing nit-picking Pharisees, hypocrites who fault-find over the minutest deviations from their own excessive legalism. He warns these, “….in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He’s saying that if you intend to be that strict with others, then I will be just as strict with you!
It is a well-established principle in scripture, that God responds to us according to our own behavior and character. As David sang following a deliverance from Saul,
To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. (Psalm 18:25, 26)
Yet the Matthew passage goes on to describe a more fitting attitude…
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? How 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? 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. (Matt. 7:3-5)
Notice, He does not say to only deal with the plank in your own eye and then to mind your own business about your brother’s ophthalmological issues. No, he says to first deal with your sin, then from this spirit of humility and with love approach your brother.
Paul exhorts the Galatians to take a similar attitude and approach…
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)
The problem is that we have confused condemnation and discernment. We have dumped them both together in the word “judgment,” and, in throwing away judgment we have thrown away discernment too! — The baby along with the bath water, if you please.
As we continue along in Matthew 7 Jesus addresses many issues which require clear judgment: narrow vs wide gates (v.13-14), true vs false prophets (v.15-19), true vs false disciples (v.20-23), wise vs foolish builders (v.24-27) and on it goes. “Judge with righteous judgment,” taught Jesus (John 7:24, NASB).
Paul even scolded the Corinthians for not judging sin among themselves,
…do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? (1 Cor. 6:2-5)
The Corinthian church had been deflecting all matters of dispute to the law courts outside the church. For this Paul levies the harsh words above. But what would a correct implementation look like? Scripture has outlined a very clear three-step process (see Matt. 18:15-17)
In John 8:1-11 we read the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus’ response to her capsulizes the perfect ‘judging’ balance between condemnation and discernment. After asking the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” she replies, “No one, sir,” Jesus says to her, “Then neither do I condemn you,” (no condemning) “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (but a clear discerning).
Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.