Spiritual Non-Fiction posted July 29, 2017


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Do we have the right?

To Judge or Not to Judge

by MelB


I often hear Christians say, "Don't judge others or I don't have the right to judge." Do we have the right to judge others? I used to believe we didn't have the right, and I certainly didn't want to be judged. Is judging bad? Are we supposed to be "tolerant" or are we called to hold each other accountable?

One of the most popular verses in scripture, aside from John 3:16, is Matthew 7:1, "Don't judge others, or you'll be judged too." The Greek word for judging in the New Testament is krino. It means to determine and discern something. Every day, the choices we make require us to make judgments. We decide what we will wear, eat, how we will behave, and even judge when it is safe to cross the street. In the New Testament, Paul spoke of judging where to stay for the winter (Titus 3:12) and Luke mentions the judging done to determine how and where to travel (Acts 20:16; 27:1).

So, what about judging others? Many assume that Jesus condemned all judging and yet He actually commanded judging in John 7:24. Christ warned against improper judging by our own standard. "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37) This does not mean that if you do not judge others about a certain evil, then you will not be judged by God for doing that evil.

Christ taught in Matthew 7:1-2, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back on you." We are not to judge by our own standard. In John 7:24, we are told to "Judge with righteous judgment."

We are told not to judge hypocritically in Matthew 7:3-5, "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Jesus does not condemn removing the speck from your brother's eye. He even commands removing the speck when one does not have a log in one's own eye.

Christians must judge each other. It is the only way to fulfill the commands to restore those who fall away. In Galatians 6:1, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted."

James 5:19-20 says, "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins."

How can anyone do this without judging? How can someone be restored without first determining they are in sin? Christians must judge and do so righteously.

Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

Paul is stating we don't judge those outside the church, but as far as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we do indeed judge them -- or hold them accountable to Christ's teachings.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." (James 5:16)

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens, you have gained a brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him like a pagan and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

In John 7:24, Jesus proclaimed, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." He didn't say, you can't judge, but rather do it righteously. He also instructed, "Be aware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-16). Paul also instructed those who listened to him to judge what they were taught (1 Corinthians 10:15; 11:13, 31; 14:29).

Somehow, we've fallen into this big trap of thinking we can't hold each other accountable -- and yes, even judge each other's actions against biblical standards -- because of Jesus' command not to judge one another. Jesus was clear we shouldn't judge others, if we are just as guilty or engrossed in sin. We cannot judge another person's heart, their guilt, or punish them. God is the final judge.

But, it is our job to hold fellow Christians accountable to Scripture. In fact, Scripture says that the wise person accepts correction gladly because it is helpful to them. Our motive should be pure, and we should not seek to punish a person. It's natural for us to get defensive, when corrected, but if we can remember the person correcting us cares enough about us to restore us to God's will for our life--they are doing us a favor, and we shouldn't respond by getting offended.


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