Does the Bible Give us Permission to Judge Others?
By Shane Pruitt – @shane_pruitt78
We’re living in a day that values tolerance above all. In fact, tolerance has become aggressively militant in recent years. A steady progression from tolerance to acceptance to celebration to forced participation has occurred right before our eyes. People are being forced to participate in actions that go against their religious beliefs and to participate in paying taxes that ultimately fund government-supported abortion clinics. Now, Christians are not only judged by what they say and believe but also by what church they attend and its beliefs on cultural issues. Ironically, our extremely tolerant culture becomes incredibly intolerant with people who disagree with certain agendas, beliefs of celebs, alternative lifestyles, or opinions.
In these situations, Christians are constantly reminded by those outside the faith, as well as those inside the faith, “You know what the Bible says, ‘Christians aren’t supposed to judge.’” Unfortunately, the very people that are repeatedly restrained from speaking out against the actions, beliefs, and practices that contradict their core values from Scripture; these same people are often the most judged people group on the planet. They’re constantly judged on television shows, in the movies, and on news outlets. Christians are portrayed as mean, uptight, odd, and out of touch with reality. The Christian college student who is still a virgin is portrayed as someone who is extremely weird and desperate to lose his or her purity. In the media, the conservative Christian is archaic, a bigot, and a racist. Christians with a past are not seen as forgiven but as hypocrites, constantly reminded of their shortcomings. These are all major judgments made about a people group that are constantly told they better not judge anyone themselves.
If we’re honest, none of us like to be judged. We’ll quote Matthew 7:1 out of context, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Most of us like to believe that “our business” is just that, “our business.” We like to say, “It’s my life. I’ll do with it what I want.” We may even boldly shout, “Only God can judge me!” However, this is Tupac theology, not biblical theology.
What if Jesus had a lot more to say about judging than what is in Matthew 7:1? What if we’re actually supposed to judge? What if it’s actually one of the most loving things we can do? What does the Bible actually have to say about judging?
First of all, in context, when Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged;” it was not a warning against speaking out against certain actions or behaviors. Matthew 7:1 is actually a precursor given to us by Jesus on how to judge correctly. It’s as if He is telling us to judge but to do it in a particular manner and warning His followers of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. If we’re going to correct someone, then we must expect to be held to the same standard. If we judge with aggression, then we can expect to be judged with aggression. However, notice that the Son of God doesn’t say to sit idly by while your brother has a speck in his eye. We are supposed to judge others carefully and lovingly; we just need to make sure we’re also carefully judging ourselves. Even though we remove the plank in our eye, Jesus still says we must remove the speck in our brother’s.
There are also many other places in the Bible that speak on judging. Surprisingly, the word “judge” in its various forms (judge, judges, judging, judgment, judgments) is found in God’s Word over 460 times. A whole book in the Bible is titled Judges, for it was written at a time when God raised up judges to lead His people, the Israelites. John the Baptist judged King Herod for hooking up with his own sister-in-law. Jesus judged the Pharisees by calling them hypocrites. Paul judged the Corinthians by calling out their many sinful acts and rebuked them for not judging a man in their church who was sleeping with his “father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5). The apostle John tells his readers to test the spirits, and Peter says to reject false teaching. It takes a lot of judgment to obey these Scriptures.
God expects His people to judge. Christians have a responsibility to be proactive in society and address issues, whenever possible, before harm takes place. One of the most unloving things we can do as Christians is to stand by passively while people are heading for destruction. What if you’re watching someone drown, you have a life preserver in your hands, but you refuse to throw it because “you don’t want to hurt their feelings or butt into their business”? How unloving would that be?
However, here is what the Scriptures teach us: we must judge sin in love. First, we’re to judge what the Bible calls a sin. We’re not commanded to judge preferences, styles, or traditions. Most people get turned off from church, not because of its stances on sin but because most of the energy is spent on judging and fighting over styles of music, dress codes, and traditions. Second, we must be motivated by love. If our motivation is anything other than love, then we need to keep our mouths shut.
However, if you’re motivated by a love for God’s holiness, the purity of His Word, and a deep love for people, then proceed with caution. But still, proceed. As you proceed, you must also constantly judge yourself by asking, “Do I love this person? Do they know I love them? Is this thing really a sin, or is it just something that I don’t personally like? Am I willing to spend the time to help this person change?
As Christians, we must be willing to answer, “Yes” to these questions. Knowing that the old cliché still holds true, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.” God expects and commands His children to judge; however, we must only judge in the way that He prescribes. We need this. The church needs this. The world needs this.
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