When is it appropriate to judge?
The Bible allows us to judge each other in some circumstances.
“Do not judge, so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1
This is one of the most quoted verses I hear among Christians. It is especially common among the youth group kids that I lead every Wednesday night. It seems that anytime someone is being called out for doing something wrong, they quote this verse as an attempt to be left alone.
Judge is seen as a negative word, but all it means is to ‘come to a conclusion.’ Judgement isn’t a bad thing when used in the right situations and under the right conditions. The Bible is very clear about when and how to make a judgement.
The Biblical way to judge
I believe we have become so wrapped up in trying not to offend people that we’ve forgotten that as Christians, God calls us to help fellow believers through sin. And before we can help each other there needs to be judgement (a conclusion) as to whether or not there is a problem to begin with.
The Bible calls this type of helpful, sin-identifying judgement “rebuking”. God allows you to rebuke when:
1. You are not hypocritical about it
2. It is towards a fellow brother or sister of Christ
3. You choose to help them through their sin.
Matthew 7:4-5 gives us a great example of applying these three conditions
“How can you say to your brother, “Let me take that speck out of your eye,” when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
This verse doesn't say not to take the “speck out of your brother’s eye.” It says not to take out the speck until you’ve removed your own log. Meaning, if you’re going to rebuke someone, make sure you’re not judging someone with a similar problem as you.
For example, if you notice one of your fellow brothers or sisters swearing, you have no right to rebuke them if you have a problem with swearing as well.
If you catch yourself judging someone hypocritically, you don’t always have to bury your feelings or try to push the judgement away. Maybe confess your own sins to that person. Let them know that you’re both dealing with the same problem, and ask if they would like to be your accountability partner. Make a game plan for how you’re going to stop the sin you share, so you can work through your problem together.
The verse also uses the word “brother.” “How can you say to your brother…” “…out of your brother’s eye.”
Brother, in this context, means fellow believer.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, “It is not my responsibility to judge those on the outside, but it is certainly your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”
Paul is saying, don’t press judgements on non believers (those on the outside). God will judge them. We need to focus on our church family, to help each other grow in godliness. Our family is priority.
Why should we rebuke?
There are several reasons why God wants us to call out sins of those in our church family.
Firstly, sin spreads like yeast. You can see this in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7. You don’t want one person’s sin to rub off on other people in the church. The Bible is clear that “iron sharpens iron as a friend sharpens a friend.” In other words, you are who you hang out with.
Secondly, we all stray from God at some point in our lives. Sometimes we need other believers to pull us back before we stray too far. That’s part of being a family.
After we have passed non-hypocritical judgement on our brother or sister, we can’t just sit there and dwell in our judgmental thoughts. There has to be action. There’s no point in judging someone if you don’t want to help them through their sin.
Matthew 7:5 says “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
God doesn’t want you to point out your brother’s speck in his eye, and then just leave it in there to get red and infected, he wants you to help them take that thing out.
But of course, everything we do as Christians must be done in a loving way, so be wise and tactful when confronting other believers.