Sadly, a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words has led many well-meaning Christians to abdicate their God-given right to evaluate, discern, and exercise judgment. As a result, sin and deception are allowed to run rampant as believers stand in muted silence lest they be accused of being judgmental. There is a difference between exercising godly judgment and being judgmental.
Was Jesus forbidding believers from exercising judgment when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? Not at all. Later in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus taught on how to discern when someone is a false prophet, and that involves judging. And in John 7:24 Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with right judgment.” Did you see that? Jesus Himself told us to make judgments. The critical point implied in John 7:24 is that there is a right way to do it, and there is a wrong way to do it.
Judging wrongly includes hypocritical judgment. This is pointed out in Matthew 7:3 where Jesus went on to say, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” The prohibition of Matthew 7:1 isn’t against practicing biblical judgment. It’s against engaging in hypocritical faultfinding (Romans 2:1).
Judging wrongly also involves judgment that has no basis in truth. To project my personal preferences or opinions upon another could be considered being judgmental. But holding to the righteous standards of God’s Word is judging according to truth (Romans 2:2). When you base your judgment on what the Bible says, the ensuing argument is really not with you but with God.
As a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) we are given the right and responsibility of exercising judgment in this life. So how do we respond when someone attempts to silence us by saying, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Refuse to be intimidated
Don’t be shaken or intimidated into silence by people accusing you of being judgmental. Simply point out that the accusation itself is an act of judging. As long as your judgment is based on God’s Word, you are on solid ground.
2. Respond with truth
Don’t back away from speaking the truth. Hebrews 12:4 says, “The Word of God is living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.” The truth of God’s Word has the inherent power to cut through every lie, deception, and argument presented.
3. Respond with love
Always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Remember that the person with whom you are having the discussion is someone for whom Jesus died. The goal is not to win an argument, but to rescue a soul for Jesus. So respond in love. This includes treating people with respect.
There are two extremes we must avoid. The first has already been stated. Do not abdicate your right as a believer to exercise biblical judgment. The second extreme is to go overboard and become a self-appointed, full-time judge. God has called us to be Christians, not critics.
Avoiding the two extremes, find the middle ground and embrace your God-given right and responsibility to exercise biblical judgment. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “He who is spiritual judges all things” (1 Corinthians 2:15).
Pastor Todd Weston