Should Christians judge ... or not?
What does the Bible say about judging others?
As a Christian, it's easy to get confused about judging, because...
- In one sense, we are commanded to judge (John 7:24 says, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make it right judgement.")
- But at the same time, we are told that we are not to judge. (Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.")
So, which is it? Well, it's both.
When we shouldn't judge
Jesus knew that we would struggle with judging others, so He gave us a strict warning saying,
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure that you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay not attention to the plank in your own eye? ... You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)
What Jesus is telling us here is to not judge others hypocritically. Instead of condemning others for their sin, we need to recognise our own sin first. In other words, we need to remove the plank from our own eye so that we may help the other person.
When we should judge
It is important to be able to discern the difference between the judging that is mentioned above in Matthew 7:1-5, and the kind of judgment mentioned in John 7:24, "Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly."
For example, if a fellow Christian sins against us, sometimes the most loving thing we can do from them is to use our 'judgment' and point out their mistake in a respectful and loving manner. Matthew 18:15-17 says,
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just go between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen to even to the church, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector."
The ultimate goal in confronting someone is to bring that person to repentance. We aren't judging the person in a negative and critical way, but with the goal of bringing repentance and reconciliation.
God commands us to point out the truth with hope, love, and Christ-like compassion. As Ephesians 4:15 says, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ."