If you have been alive for more than 10 days, you have probably heard someone quote (or misquote) the most popular verse in all of scripture: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This verse is very popular among those who do not hold to Christianity, and certainly do not hold scripture to be a holy book. This is also one that is popular among many Christians who do not always put scripture into its proper context. With all the sin that is in the church, and the onslaught of moral and ethical issues facing our society today, I think it would do us well to understand what this scripture really means, and just who we are not supposed to judge, and who we are to judge . . . if anyone.
We are not to judge those outside the church:
Let me be clear about what I mean by this heading. Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:12-13, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Christians are not to judge those outside of the church. We are to witness to outsiders, but not judge them. Anyone that has been in church for any length of time will understand that we are all sinners. God has made it clear that He is the judge of all, and those who are not found righteous will be judged for their sins. So, in a way, those outside of the church are right when they say we should not judge them. However, Christians understand the penalty for those who do not know the Lord and walk in sin and thus should always warn those who are walking a path contrary to God. Warning and judging is not the same thing.
We are to judge those inside the church:
While most people understand that Christians are to witness to and not judge those outside the church, it gets a little more tricky and difficult with the responsibility of those within the church to help judge the body of Christ. This is something that is very foreign in many churches today. Scripture is clear that we are to hold each other accountable (Proverbs 27:6, Matthew 7:1-5, John 7:24, I Corinthians 5, Etc.). It must always be done with humility and love. However, we must realize that if done properly, judging each other is a healthy and good thing. Often people want to say, “get that log out of your eye, before you get the spec out of mine.” Those who say that often miss the word “before.” Jesus was not saying to never call someone out on sin, but BEFORE you do, you need to make sure that you are clean of it as well. The church has a responsibility to hold each other accountable for the way we live our lives (Matthew 18:15-20). Church discipline (the final act of judgment from a church) is actually a loving thing. It shows the person that is being disciplined that sin is a big deal, and has consequences. It shows the church member the same thing. It is not loving to let someone continue in their sin without cautioning them. It may not be easy to confront them, or seem loving . . . but to let someone willfully spit in the face of God by sinning and say nothing to them shows a type of hate for that person. A word of correction is loving, if done humbly, wisely, and with care.
We will all be judged by a righteous judge:
Paul Washer was right when he said, “The most terrifying truth of all of Scripture is that God is Holy, and we are not.” God is a righteous judge and must always judge righteously. I have heard so many people say, “God is my only judge.” The scary thing is, everyone will go before the judge one day. He will see one of two things when judging you. He will see your piles and piles of sin that must be paid for with eternal hell, or He will see one that is righteous because Christ imputed it to them. Christ paid for the sins of his people at the hand of the righteous judge already. However, there is an impending judgment for those who do not know Him by faith. He is a good and loving God, but He is also a good and just judge who must render a proper sentence. My plea to anyone that is reading this is to get on the right side of the judge now, so that you do not have to bare His wrathful sentence later.
When I hear people say, “Don’t judge me.” I know what most of them are thinking. Nevertheless, I want to say, “Please judge me!” It is not always easy to hear a corrective word, but as Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” I want to live a life that is most pleasing to God. To do this I need to be conformed to the image of Christ as much as possible. One of the ways of doing this is to have other godly people look at my life, speak into it, and call me out (judge) if I am veering off the path. So, we need to always take “Judge not, that you be not judged” in its proper context. We do not need to judge those outside of the church, but need to share with them the gospel. To those inside the church; we need to lovingly, humbly, and regularly examine ourselves and hold each other accountable to God’s word in a way that is both scriptural and practical. So, again I say, “Please judge me!” If you find I am veering away from God’s righteous path, tell me . . . and I hope you are willing to do the same.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B Burrell