Sunday, January 10, 2010

Judging Others

I am always amazed how those, when told by a Christian that they are sinners, accuse the Christian of being judgmental. They claim that the Bible, a text that Christians claim is the inspired word of God, says we are not to judge others because of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1
"Judge not, that you be not judged".Matthew 7:1
First off, it would be wise to know that originally there were no such things as chapters and verses in the Greek and Aramaic texts. They were added later to facilitate ease of use. It was not until Cardinal Hugo de Sancto Caro began to create a concordance of the Latin Vulgate, that he found the need to use chapters and verses. These made it easier for others to cross reference verses and look up the information that he was listing in his concordance around 1244 to 1248 A.D. The original manuscripts that made up the Bible were fragments of letters written by the authors. Many of which were but copies of the original letters passed along from church to church for the defense against heresies, education, and edification of the many followers of Christ. Others give credit to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who started his listing and categorizing 1227 A.D. When Wycliff translated his English version of the Scriptures he used Langton's verses and chapters as a guide in 1382.

So now we get back to the present day when we see those who wish to live immoral lives, attack Christians for judging their immoral behavior by citing Matthew 7:1. Is it any wonder you never hear them add the rest of the thought process of Jesus into their accusation? That is correct, I said the rest of the thought process of Jesus, because the verse separation divides a statement by Jesus into two versus. In reality, if they had known in 1200 that men would attempt to use the Bible to justify their immoral behavior, then maybe they would have ended Matthew verse one after the statement by Jesus in verse two. If they had, Matthew 7:1 would say;
"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.

The key to accurately interpreting this passage would be to first recognize that the phrase "Judge not" is a part of a larger context which includes, "When you judge....". Further more, the very structure of the language which was originally in Greek reveals that the intended meaning of this whole statement by Christ was to prohibit the constant use of judgment as a way of life. It was not meant to stop judgment of evil, or wrong doing, but rather to warn against a judgmental attitude towards every little thing in life, especially when you are guilty of the same things you judge others of as the Pharisees were.

Now, I will inevitably be asked what exactly I consider to be legitimate judgment. Judgment is legitimate when it follows what Jesus told the people in John 7:24, where He was accused of working on the Sabbath by healing and performing miracles, to which Jesus said to them;
"I did one work, and you all marvel. Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." John 7:21-24
Righteousness in the New Testament is the equivalent of the revealed will of God in the Word. So judgment is righteous, and warranted, when it agrees with Biblical principles. Judgment that is a matter of personal opinion or that is antithetical to (against) Biblical principles is the type of judgment that is forbidden by the statement Jesus made in Matthew 7:1-2. Paul touched upon this when he wrote to the Corinthians about spiritual wisdom and our need to watch out for false prophets who would lead us into all kinds of evil practices. Paul told them, thus he tells us that;
the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ, 1Corinthians 2:14

So on one hand, we are commanded by our Lord Jesus, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" Matthew 7:1. On the other hand, the Bible also exhorts us to beware of evildoers and false prophets and to avoid those who practice all kinds of evil. How are we to discern who these people are, if we do not make some kind of judgment about them?

There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment. In Matthew 7:2-5, Jesus warns us against judging someone else for a sin we too are committing, or if we are committing a worse sin. That is the kind of judgment Jesus commanded us not to do. If a believer sees another believer sinning, it is his or her Christian duty to lovingly and respectfully confront that person about their sinful behavior. Matthew 18:15-17 This is not judging, but rather pointing out the truth in hope that the ultimate goal would be to bring repentance in the other persons life and to restore them back into fellowship. We are to speak the truth in love, and we are to proclaim what God's Word says about sin. Paul gives us an excellent example of how to do this when he told the Corinthians to expel a brother from the church for sleeping with his fathers wife.

Which leads to the fact that a majority of Americans still call themselves Christian, and it is our duty to judge such men who claim to be in fellowship with Christ. We can do nothing but take their word for their faith and by doing so they lay their lives open to be judged by other brothers and sisters of Christ. If we do not, then we are at fault for not correcting a brother or sister. As for judging the world of sinners who are not walking in the way, we are to let them know that they are wrong in their behavior and offer them the gospel of Christ Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6 If they refuse to accept the message then we are to follow the guideline of Christ when He sent out His disciples by twos, saying;

And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"
So when we judge we should judge evil with a righteous judgment that can only come from those who themselves are not living a life of unrighteousness. We should judge those who are in a position to influence our children, our friends and our country. As a Christian, I would be sinning if I allowed my child to go off with an individual I thought was doing drugs. As a Christian, I would be sinning if I allowed my friends to be ripped off by a person I knew was a con artist. As a Christian, I would be sinning if I allowed anyone I know to have their money stolen, their car damaged, or their lively hood to be diminished, especially if I knew it was happening. So judge I will, but I will do so righteously and with an understanding that it is my duty as a Christian to be upfront and honest about my intentions for any and all rebukes. It is a fine line we Christians must walk while in the world, but it is a line none the less if we are to be the light that shines the love and truth of Christ on a dark and lost world.

I pray that those who have ears to hear will hear His voice and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen


  1. The point of bringing it up that someone is judging someone else is the very act of judging.

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