Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37, 41-42
What Exactly Does It Mean to “Judge Not”?
Today we take up a well-known passage from the “Sermon of the Mount.” Indeed, to hear some people talk, you would think that it is the only verse they know. That verse is: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Of all people, Christians should be aware of their own sins. Christians know that they are saved by grace through faith in the Son of God who gave his life for theirs (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christians who are living in holiness and following the Lord as closely as they can are even more certain that their righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6 KJV). But how can that be? The closer a light is to a wall, the more dirt you will see on that wall. So it is with us: the closer we get to the Lord, the more filth we see in our own lives, the more grace we know we need to mortify the sin which so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1). So Christians are aware that we should never judge someone else harshly, look upon someone else with contempt, or call another a fool, as we read the other day (Matthew 5:22). But that is not the same as saying that Christians are not to be discerning, exercising sound judgment in their lives. A parent who allows his son or daughter to run with other kids who are a bad influence on their child is a poor parent. Likewise, we must never join those who are doing things we know is wrong (1 Corinthians 10). Christians can and must avoid people who would influence them to evil or destroy their good name. That’s the way Christians must deal with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
As for the Church, Christians are called to make judgments about their brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 5:9-12). Why? Because the primary task of any local church is to help one another grow in the grace of our Lord. That means holding one another accountable. Paul writes, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). In the church at Corinth, a man was living with his step-mother, of all things. Paul commanded the church to confront him, and if he would not listen, to “purge the evil person from among you,” since “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5). Christians are to let God judge the world, but THEY must maintain the integrity of the local church. After all, one day, Christians will even judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)! So do not let anyone sucker you into thinking that you cannot separate yourself from those who are living in an ungodly way. No, you cannot be contemptuous about it. But if they throw this verse up in your face, rest assured they want to live in their sin, untroubled.