Should We Never Judge?
"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment"; and "You have rightly judged."; and "Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?"; and "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves". (Jesus' Words in John 7:24; Luke 7:43, 12:57 and Matt. 23:15)
There is an extremely serious error that is being believed by the vast majority of people caught up in christian religion. This error is literally making those folks unwilling and unable to discern truth. And what is this error? It is believing that all "judgment" is wrong. If this is true, then what is to be made of Jesus' Words above? In the verses above, Jesus clearly commands people to judge, commends people for judging, and judges himself.
The key point to understand is that not all judgment is wrong, just various types of judgment. The types of judgment that are wrong according to Jesus are condemnation, as well as hypocritical and self-righteous judgment. On the other hand, right judgment is commended by Jesus as we see above. Right judgment includes the judging of truth versus falsehood. The sincere, serious and sober judgment of our own sins, as well as the gentle, and compassionate judgment and correction of other's beliefs or sins.
What is the matter with 'judging'?
Tragically, Satan is doing a masterful job in christianity's organizations in regard to confusing people over the issue of "judgment". People have been lead to believe that it is "un-loving" to correct someone who is in error, whether by word or deed. Certainly many have contributed to Satan's lie of "don't judge anyone" by being harsh, ungracious or unmerciful in their judgments. It is easy for a person - after being excoriated by a modern day Pharisee who is telling them that they are going to hell if they don't believe something that Jesus doesn't even address - to be pushed to believe that all "judgment" is wrong.
In like manner, many more have contributed to Satan's lie by taking the position that anything said to correct someone, no matter how gently done, is "ungracious" or unloving. These folks are the counterfeit believers who dogmatically state that all judgment is wrong (except their own of course!), especially the kind that points out the falsehoods they are believing. I can't count how many times have I heard the accusation, "oh, brother, you should not say that those who believe the doctrine's of the christian church are in error - that is judging them and Jesus says we are not to judge others. You are being divisive by your judgment. You need to come to an understanding of Jesus' love " Notice how I am judged as "un-loving" comparing Christianities beliefs with Jesus' Words. I could be the kindest, most gentle, caring, compassionate, giving, selfless person on the planet (which I am not), but if I believe that the teachings of christianity lead people away from Jesus, then I am judged as "un-loving" and usually much worse. Ironic, isn't it? That when I try to point out how a teaching of Jesus contradicts a doctrine of christianity, I will be judged as a heretic or worse? So, while I try to look at a belief that someone holds, and they don't like the truth that I might be bringing, they are only too quick to break their own "don't be judgmental" belief to condemn my person.
Guess who is being judged as un-loving and divisive in these last days? The True and Real Jesus himself is being judged as un-loving and divisive, for he said, "I am the Way, the truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Of course the Jesus that christianity creates is approved however.
'Watch out - you better not judge'
Surely you have either been accused yourself, or have been the accuser, saying to someone something like, "you had better be careful, brother, you are judging someone and Jesus says we are not to judge". Normally, this response comes when you have said (or have heard someone say) something that is perceived as negative (in reality probably corrective) about some person or belief or event or organization.
The truth is we all make judgments all the time. If you see a man beating up a young child, you will make a judgment that his behavior is wrong and needs to be stopped. If you hear a person say something you perceive as negative about your mother or children, then you will immediately judge that person's words! If you decide not to go into a certain neighborhood during the evening hours, then you are making a judgment. As you listen to some preacher say that God commands you this night to give your entire savings account to his ministry, you will make a judgment. As you are reading my words in this article, you are judging them against your understanding of what is truth. This is a good thing, for the Lord commands it (John 4:24, 8:32), and it is part of the rational mind that God gave us to seek truth.
Telling people not to judge is irrational, for in doing so, you yourself have judged their words or actions, and that is why you told them not to judge! As soon as you tell someone not to judge, you yourself have judged their opinion or judgment as somehow wrong. This can make for an irrational go around of accusations of 'you better not judge'. The real issue that must be recognized before the emotions get too impassioned, is what is the truth regarding the matter at hand. Instead of accusing one another of 'judging', what should happen is the more spiritually mature person should ask the all important question, "what does Jesus say in regard to this issue?" This is always the proper way out from accusations of "judge not". Sadly, in many circumstances, those accusing another of 'judging' are not interested in what Jesus has to say, but rather in protecting their own incorrect opinions or tightly held traditions of men of which christianity is full.
How to Judge the Lord's Way
How do we untangle this mess about "judging"? The solution is not difficult to understand, but it is difficult to live by. If you will remember and live by these next four principles of Jesus regarding judgment, you will be walking according to the Lord's mercy and truth in this extremely important matter of "judging".
(In regard to this first principle of judging, it is extremely important to distinguish between a person's beliefs/doctrine versus their amoral behaviors or physical characteristics. We are to carefully judge all beliefs against Jesus' teachings, and we are NOT to judge people's amoral behavior. Amoral behavior means non-faith customs, traditions, ceremonies or actions that have no moral or spiritual implication. For example, the way someone brushes their teeth, or how or what someone eats, or the manner of their speaking, etc. We are also not to judge someone's physical appearance i.e. their body shape, skin color or facial structure.)
'Well, O.K, but we are not to judge the heart '
Oftentimes, when trying to point out to someone that someone's beliefs might be wrong, and they don't want to hear that their favorite teacher is leading them away from Jesus, they will say, 'Oh, but we are not to judge the heart'. Now, even if you said nothing about the person's "heart", or the organization's leader's motivations, many people will still try to force you to stop exposing the falsehood by using this emotional battering ram. Who wants to condemn someone's heart? No one, and we shouldn't regarding how the mercy of God might minister to them at the moment or in the future. In addition, we certainly are not to judge the motives of men's hearts, for only the Lord knows for certain the 'why' of someone's actions or words (Jer. 17:9; Matt. 13:28-30; Luke 8:17, 16:15; John 2:24, 25). But, dear reader, this does not mean we are not to correct then, or point out that their thought (or "heart") on the matter, is sinful. For Jesus says, "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." (Matthew 15:18) If I am defiling myself before God and am ignorant about it, I would appreciate someone telling me so that I could stop!
Let us take a look at a few men other than Jesus who made some pretty serious judgments in the New Testament.
First, the sent one Peter said to a man named Simon, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." (Acts 8:20-23)
Now, for the 'don't judge the heart' folks, it appears Peter is sinning here. But if a person believes that all scripture is "God's Word", then that person would have to reconcile their "don't judge the heart" belief with this statement of Peter. Peter clearly says, " for your heart is not right in the sight of God " Cleary, Peter is "judging the heart" of Simon in this passage. Peter must have had these words of Jesus in mind in this situation: "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man." (Matthew 15:18). When Peter saw Simon's actions, and heard the words of Simon's mouth, he could make a correct judgment about the man's heart i.e. that it was "not right in the sight of God". He judged the fruit, not the unspoken motivation. We should keep Jesus' command in Matt. 7:1-6 close to our heart before making such a judgment.
Peter makes a similar judgment in Acts 5:4 against a man named Ananias. In that case, he said to Ananias, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." Again, we see Peter judging a man's actions and words to arrive at a judgment regarding the man's heart - and quite a strong judgment at that i.e. " Satan filled your heart " Again, this author is not saying that Peter's actions were right. But what I am saying is that for those who believe both the doctrine of biblical inerrancy; and the popular doctrine of "don't judge a person's heart"; that these texts provide contradictions for those who hold both those beliefs.
Twisting Jesus' Words: Matthew 7:1-2
Probably the most mis-interpreted and thus the most mis-understood verse on this matter of judgment is Matt. 7:1-6. Here, Jesus gives us His command regarding the wrong type of judgment - the judgment in hypocrisy. Jesus says, "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 to you. 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. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Let us examine these verses a little more closely.
The reason these verses have so much force behind them is because they are spoken by the the Father's beloved only begotton Son. Jesus can condemn hypocrisy perfectly and soundly because of who he is - the sinless Son of God. Thus, when we read his words here, we should be heavily impacted by them and desire to be slow to judge people (Jesus in Matt. 5-7 is giving commands to his disciples, and in 7:3 says "your brother's eye"). However, what is equally clear is that Jesus doesn't contradict himself, and yet he clearly, on other occasions, commanded men to make judgments (John 7:24; Luke 7:43, 12:57). If you interpret his Words as meaning "You are not to judge", then Jesus clearly broke His own command on numerous occasions (Matt. 23, John 8). If you believe this, then his breaking his own commands would make him a hypocrite, and thus would disqualify him from being God's Messiah. If you are a true follower of Jesus, then you will not end up at this conclusion and will seek a little deeper.
The key verse and word for understanding Matt. 7:1-6 properly is found in verse 5, and that word is "hypocrite". If you recall the four points of judgment given above, Jesus is addressing point number two here, the second most important point. Jesus is dealing with hypocritical judgment in these verses. It addresses one of our biggest problems as people who retain the sinful nature. We are so quick to judge others more strictly than we judge ourselves. Our own sins always look so much worse on other people! [link to Ignoring the One You Love?] If we stop and solemnly examine our own walk before the Lord, we should arrive at the conclusion that to avoid hypocrisy, we really ought to be slow to judge! This problem cannot be overstated too much. In fact, it is the primary problem stemming from our pride, which leads us to walk according to our flesh rather than abiding in the Son.
In fact, the main point Jesus wants us to understand from these verses is that we are not to judge hypocritically, and thus we are to judge slowly, patiently and mercifully. However, these verses certainly do not teach that we are never to try and correct those who are erring. This truth is born out by two important phrases in these verses. First, verse 5 which states, "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Obviously Jesus is allowing for humble, compassionate judgment here by saying that after you understand your own struggle with sin, THEN you can help your brother with his sin. Again, his whole point is that we are not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously.
The second point that reinforces the fact that Jesus does not condemn all judgment in these verses in Matt. 7, is verse 6. It is a curious verse seemingly out of place after verse 5 and before verse 7, but it is in just the right place. It is a follow up on verse 5. What it is teaching is that if you do approach your brother - the one mentioned in verse 5 with the speck in his eye - with humility and true compassionate love, and he/she rejects your gentle correction, then they are to be avoided as those disregarding the Lord's commands and yet claiming to be his disciples. The implication of this is far reaching - I hope the reader meditates on this truth until he/she understands it.
This principle is the same one Jesus states in the upcoming Matt. 18:15ff. In Matt. 18:15ff, the Lord lays out the type of discipline that is to be occurring within the local Families of believers. In summary, the principle is that if someone calling themselves a follower of Jesus, is involved in unrepentant sin, then that person is to be corrected with increasing levels of earnestness. If that person rejects the attempts of the other disciples to bring correction, then they are to be avoided, in as much as they are to be treated as, "heathen and tax collectors" (Matt.18:17). Matt. 7:6 has the same meaning as Matt. 18:17. Thus, at the end of the "judgment" passage, Jesus teaches we are to stay away from whose who say they are his disciples, yet who reject him and his ways.
In summary, those who are quick to castigate someone with Matt. 7:1-2 must do so by wrenching the scripture out of context and ignoring the following verses 3 - 6. This is most unfortunate, and might be a sign that the individual who does so is not walking in the Lord's truth and holiness.
Truth cannot be found without searching for it. Logic is useless if people are unwilling to take a few steps into the argument to find the truth. All truth that is eternally important is found in Jesus' Words and truth is understood and received by the enlightenment of the Spirit. Jesus was so concerned about the truth that He said regarding himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Jesus was so concerned about the truth that He said regarding the Holy Spirit, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you things to come." (John 16:13). Jesus was so concerned about the truth that He said regarding His Father, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth." (John 17:17) Jesus was so concerned about the truth that He said regarding his salvation, "If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
It is remarkable that a brief article like this had to be written - that those professing to believe in the one who says he is the Truth - are believing that all correction of a person's doctrine or belief is sinful 'judgmentalism'. This article has proved from Jesus' Words that this irrational position of 'judge nothing' is wrong. The truth is that the false gospel of self esteem preached by so many psychologizers of the faith, has contributed heavily to believing the falsehood that all 'judgment' is wrong. The psychologizers have labeled all corrective judgment as "negative" or "harsh" or their favorite, "un-loving". The only type of judgment approved by the psychologizers is "positive" or "uplifting" or "encouraging" "advise"[link to Can 'Christian' Psychology Help Me?]. Yes, believers are to encourage one another IN THE FAITH, for there is far too little encouraging of one another. Yet we cannot follow Jesus without a love for him and for his Words which he says are the Truth.
Blindness and confusion reign these days in christian religion. How we ought to have a strong passion and desire to avoid being the object of these Words of the Son of the Father, "depart from Me, for I never knew you".
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
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