Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | October 6, 2014

The “Christians Should Never Judge” Fallacy

There’s a lot of confusion in the Body of Christ in regards to the subject of judging. Many use Jesus’ “Judge not, lest you be judged” statement in Matthew 7:1-2 as justification for the idea that Christians should never judge. But is this truly biblical? Does Jesus or the scriptures really teach the Christian to never engage in judgment toward another?

It’s easy to use a biblical proof-text to justify most anything. Rather than do that, lets take a look at Jesus’ teaching within context in Matthew 7, and also look into this topic within the light of additional scripture:

“Do not judge, or you to will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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.”

What Jesus is saying here is not to engage in CONDEMNING judgments; that is, judging someone with no other motive than to condemn them… to tear the down…. in order to make yourself feel superior. That’s wrong and it’s spoken against throughout scripture. What Jesus is also saying in the above scripture is not to engage in hypocritical judgments; that is, don’t think about pointing out another’s sin until you examine your own heart to make sure you’re not committing that same sin!

However, judging people for the sake of instruction, correction, and in some cases discipline within the body of Christ is scriptural. In fact, it’s normal operating procedure and is indicative of healthy Body function. Consider the following:

1) The same Jesus who said the proverbial “Do not Judge” in Matthew 7:1 also said, “Do not judge by mere appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” in John 7:24.

2) Peter judged Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 for desiring to purchase the empowerment of the Holy Spirit with money, saying to him, “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

3) Paul passed judgment on a man in the Church in Corinth for unrepentant sexual immorality and instructed that he be put out of the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5). He also had some strong words for those who were doing nothing about it.

4) One of the gifts of the Spirit is the discerning of spirits (or distinguishing between spirits) which often involves judging.

The idea that Christians should “never judge” is a fallacy. As mentioned before, judging… not to condemn but for the sake of instruction, correction and in some cases discipline with the Body of Christ is perfectly acceptable and normal. And it’s also important to mention that such judging is done with the health and edification of the Body in mind, as well as the best interests of the person on the receiving end! The desired result of such judging is the fruit of repentance.

With that in mind, what was the result of Peter’s harsh words for Simon the Sorcerer? Simon the Sorcerer’s response is telling:

“Then Simon answered, ‘Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me (Acts 8:24).'” Sounds to me like Simon’s heart was moved to repentance.

And what about the man expelled from the Church in Corinth for sexual immorality? Paul later instructed those in Corinth to forgive and comfort the man, so that he would not be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow, and to reaffirm their love for him (2 Corinthians 2:7). The man expressed a godly sorrow for what he had done and Paul did not ignore his repentant heart.

But I think the greatest picture of righteous judgment being made with someone’s best interests at heart, and in the light of God’s love and mercy for us, is how Jesus handled the situation with the woman caught in the act of adultery:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Wow! What a great picture of mercy triumphing over judgment. Jesus did not condemn her! He granted her mercy! Yet Jesus, out of His love and concern for her, did indeed judge her with a righteous judgment meant for her own good. He told her to leave her life of sin. What the woman did with that instruction was up to her.

So let us not pass condemning judgments toward others. Yet out of our love for others, let us understand that some issues are serious; there is no virtue in standing by silently and watching a brother or sister in Christ wreck his or her life. Also, consider the effect that the person’s issue can ultimately have on the faith community if it is allowed to fester. If the God you serve is compelling you to speak, then follow His lead.

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Responses

  1. Great post Harry. Jesus never said “Do not judge” period. He said “Do not judge, without understanding that you will be judged with the same standard.” So the admonition was not against judgment as much as it was against judgment made from hypocrisy, and bad intent.

    Matthew 7 is a warning to us all to be sufficiently self-critical before we criticize someone else. Even in the end of the passage He says not to cast your pearls before swine or give dogs what is sacred. To obey those commands requires judging others to be swine or dogs.

    The scriptures are full of calls for judgment, but just judgments from just judges, not hypocritical ones or those with their own interest or agendas. We are to judge prophecy, teaching/doctrine, idolatry, immorality, and men and their character. While Paul warns us about judgments in Romans 14:4 & 10, he calls us to it in 1 Corinthians 6:2 & 3 in the affairs of men.

    The issue is 1) the condition of our heart. We must deal with the log in our own eye to take the spec from someone’s eye. And, 2) our intent must not be retribution or condemnation, but to bring conviction through the Holy Spirit and then complete restoration. Restoring one to fellowship and right relationship with God, and man, is to be the outcome of just judgment.

    In our time and culture the church, at least many believers, have been duped by the call for “tolerance” But tolerance that is an excuse for not calling to repentance of moral wrong is just as unjust a judgment as judgment that is hypocritical or founded in wrong intent.

    For believers, forgiveness and restoration is to be our pattern. But it comes at a high cost; namely the death of Jesus. Grace must abound, but not that sin should abound all the more. We must not be led into tolerance that accepts and endorses all things.

    William J Bennett wrote in The Death of Outrage: “Tolerance rightly understood serves an important public good. In classic liberal understanding, it means according respect to the beliefs and practices of others, and learning to live peacefully and civilly with one another despite deep differences. Tolerance allows for ‘free trade in ideas’ which is the best way to ensure that right beliefs will emerge. It assumes that all reasoned opinions will get a fair hearing, even when what is said may not be popular. Tolerance can serve as an antidote to destructive passions inflamed by (among other things) misguided religious beliefs.”

    “ So tolerance is a great social good, which is precisely why it needs to be rescued from the reckless attempt to redefine it. For it is a social good only up to a point, and only when it’s meaning is not massively disfigured. But ‘tolerance’ can be a genuinely harmful force when it becomes a euphemism for moral exhaustion and a rigid or indifferent neutrality in response to every great moral issue–when in G.K. Chesterton’s phrase, it becomes a virtue of people who do not believe anything. For that paves the way to injustice.

    “In the view of many people today, it is imperious to be judgmental. But judgment is not bigotry; and tolerance may just be another term for indifference. If to make judgments of better and worse, good and bad, fit and unfit, sound and unsound, competent and incompetent is to be judgmental, then there is a need to be judgmental and no need to apologize for it. For a free people, the ordeal of judgment cannot be shirked. To try to shirk it is not to be sensitive and tolerant, it is to avoid responsibility.”

    “Moral judgments—thoughtful and careful, but explicit and unapologetic, must be made, not for the sake of satisfying a ‘Puritan passion’ or ‘rigid moralism’, but because we human beings live better, more noble, more complete and satisfying lives when we hold ourselves to some common moral understanding.”

    Mr. Bennett wrote this in the wake of President Bill Clinton’s moral failures, and for political purposes. However, the truth of it still stands in our culture and, remarkably, in the church as well

    Without holding up some standards, the church becomes salt that has lost its savor and a light placed under a peck basket. We then, may as well embrace hedonism, nihilism, and moral relativism. These are the foundations for the world’s call to Mammon/self-reliance, not Jesus call to exhibit His Kingdom through obedience and submission to Him gained by love and God’s heart for restoration and right relationship in love by grace. Grace is not just the forgiveness of sin, but the empowerment not to serve it. “ For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) That is what the proper exercise of just judgment calls those under it to: restoration and life. Read Romans 6:17-18, 20-23 to see the outcome of it. And, that is why, in the church, as believers, we cannot shirk the responsibility of making just judgments in Him.

    It is to be noted that in the example of Jesus handling the woman caught in adultery that the Law required her to be stoned. But, only by those without sin. In that requirement, Jesus is the only one who could have stoned her. But, not only that, under the law He should have stoned her. But the law and the prophets were proclaimed until John the Baptist, since then the gospel of the kingdom has been preached (Luke 16:16). And the King, in His new covenant grace, judged her a sinner, but spoke release and restoration to her saying “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!”; His word empowering her to do just that at the revelation of His love for her.

    Gratefully redeemed,

    Randy Jordan

    Like

    • Wow Randy, well said. My offer for you to be a guest blogger for one of my posts here is still valid! Thanks for the encouragement.

      Like


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