To Judge, or Not to Judge
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:1–5 (ESV)
Far too often, people mistakenly understand this passage as a command to let people live; however, they desire. One will hear such statements as, “We aren’t supposed to judge others,” or “Just worry about yourself,” will be made when a brother or sister attempt to correct another in their sin. Even more troublesome is the statement, “Only God can judge me!.” Truly, every person should be in fear and trembling when you consider such a phrase, for God is holy and just. If he were to judge us accordingly, which he will, not one will escape the punishment of our sins, which is death. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ, as Lord, that we are atoned for our sins, and from such faith, we are conformed to His image. And if we possess true faith, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26) will be produced, in which pride of our sin is not part of.
Not only are these “judge-me-nots” incorrect, but I tell you that it is pure hatred to not help somebody ending their sinful ways.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.1 John 3:11–24 (ESV)
If we synthesize the two passages, we will come to a more complete knowledge of what love is, and how that might look in practice.
The Parable – Matthew 7:1-5
In the parable from Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus gives us a simple story that is very specific in meaning. Before we look at other’s faults, it is necessary that we look inwardly at our own. An illustration of this necessity can be found here:
One day a man was building a new deck for his yard. He worked diligently—he reviewed the blueprint of the design he had made, made his measurements, cut the boards, and installed them. After doing this for hours, a splinter from the wood flew into his eye while he was using the saw (Always wear safety glasses!). He flushed his eye with water, but the splinter remained. Because of the discomfort and inability to see out of that eye, he had his wife drive him to the ophthalmologist to have his eye examined. After waiting for some time, the doctor was ready to see the man, but something was not right. The doctor had a very large stick in his own eye! The man had but a small splinter, but the doctor that needed to do the delicate work of removing it, had such a large stick in his? How could the doctor see clearly to remove the man’s speck from his eye?
Jesus’ parable does not teach us to not discern right from wrong, nor does it teach us not to lovingly correct others, but instead, it teaches us to not be hypocritical about such things. Before we can help others, we need to correct our own problems so that we may help others more clearly. In the same way, during Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were quick to judge others while they remained steeped in sinful motivations themselves (Matthew 12:34). For them, the appearance of righteousness was far more important than true righteousness.
How Do We Love Another? – 1 John 3:11–24
From 1 John 3:11-24, there are several important points we should note:
- Keeping God’s commandments is a sign of our faith in Christ.
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.1 John 3:24 (ESV)
- We know what love is, for Christ showed us true love by sacrificing Himself to atone for our sins. Likewise, we shall lay down our lives, or simply, prioritize others before ourselves.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.1 John 3:16 (ESV)
- We must love another—if we do not, we are actively hating them, which means we have murdered them.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.1 John 3:15 (ESV)
- If we see another in sin, in need of food, or clothing, and we do nothing to aid them, then we cannot have Christ in us.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?1 John 3:17 (ESV)
- If one judges another person, for doing what God has commanded us to do i.e. correct another lovingly, then they are acting as Caine, who murdered Able.
We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.1 John 3:12 (ESV)
If we see another steeped in sin, then we must recognize that they are living contrary to God. Anybody that lives contrary to the Lord is perishing, or as I like to call, the “walking dead.” Yes, their heart is beating, and they are breathing, but they are already dead in their sins. It is true that when one comes to a salvific faith in Jesus Christ, the person is imputed with the righteousness of Christ and their sins are forgiven, but sanctification proceeds from salvation. In the conversion of a person, their repentance is both a requirement of their professed faith and a result of their sanctification. A professing believer in Christ cannot continue in their sins without conviction from the Holy Spirit. No, they will not be perfect, but there will be changes in their attitude towards sin, so that sin is not so much part of their life, but occasional events. For example, a person unsaved may use terrible language, but upon their salvation, they realize they should not speak this way. In time, they stop using foul language; however, if they hit their finger while hammering a nail, they might use a strong word expressing their pain. While this is quite understandable, it does not excuse the use of the language. Despite their shortcoming, their typical language is appropriate, and that was simply an atypical occurrence in their new life in Christ.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to be sanctified, that we are conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). The only path to sanctification is not through the charisma of the Spirit, but also through the community, or body, of Christ. We are called to be one body (1 Corinthians 12:25), so we cannot have different parts of the body acting counter to each other, but instead, they must act as directed by the head of the body, that is Jesus Christ, and in one Spirit (Titus 3:10–11). In fact, the Scripture speaks to this—we are to help correct the other parts of the body so that we are all of one mind.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:1–2 (ESV)
It is very clear that we are to correct one another—not from a heart of hatred, self-righteousness, or other evil motivation, but out of love for one another. After all, it is the love we show to one another, both in charity and sharing burdens, that they will know that we are followers of Christ (John 13:35).
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.1 Timothy 5:20 (ESV)
**Note: I’d like to provide a note on 1 Timothy 5:20, that we may use the context of this verse to go as far as removing a person from fellowship because of grave sins that have caused division in the church. It is a very serious matter, which the larger context of the passage outlines. Essentially, it requires multiple eyewitnesses and the elders deciding the fate of that person.
We must use the entirety of Scripture to guide us in our lives to live as God intends us to (2 Timothy 3:16–17). It is of utmost importance that we aid another in our journey with Christ, that we continue to be conformed to the image of Christ, so that we may glorify the Lord. Scripture is packed with situations where Jesus Christ, the Father, prophets, and the Apostles corrected others for their misguided ways. Even Paul corrected Peter over the situation with the Judaizers in the early church! If we are to love another, we must keep in mind:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (ESV)
So, in all you do, do it for the glory of the Lord. Show love to one another as Christ showed the world. Yes, we will all be imperfect, but that does not mean that we cannot continue to be conformed to Christ. If we share each other’s burdens, we will ensure that we do not fall to reprobate minds and that we will see each other again in eternity, having received our glorified bodies, finally perfected without sin, worshipping the Lord as one body.