Do not judge, or you too will be judged. — Matthew 7:1
Perhaps one of the most misinterpreted commands in all of scripture is the instruction not to judge. Unquestionably, the Bible is serious in its command about not judging; however, like all things literary, it is important to read the Bible in context in order to know the kind of judgment God is specifically instructing Christians to avoid.
Context is a critically important tool required to accurately interpret scripture. Due to the fact that atheists are—more often than not—deeply estranged to the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, they are not familiar with the context of scriptures, which inevitably leads to their misapprehension of key texts. When context is removed, it is painlessly easy to argue that the Bible makes all sorts of absurd contradictions. However, when the correct biblical context is in place, the Bible is a stunningly consistent, error-free guide to living.
Supposed inconsistencies and contradictory verses do not demonstrate that the Bible is fallacious; they only expose the inability of the arbiter to properly distinguish correct biblical context. For example, if one were to take Matthew 7:1 and come to the illogical conclusion that God believes that all judgment is wrong, one would inevitably be concerned when one arrives at scriptures like John 7:24 or 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, which specifically instruct Christians to judge.
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. – John 7:24
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? [A]nd if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? [H]ow much more things that pertain to this life? – I Corinthians 6:2-3
(Of course, atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins would arrive at these two verses, juxtapose them with Matthew 7:1, remove all the respective contexts from all of the verses, and immediately argue that they are demonstrative of the Bible’s inconsistency and untrustworthiness. That’s the only way atheists know how to argue.)
The Difference Between Right and Wrong Judgment
The wrong type of judgment that the Bible instructs Christians to steer clear of is any judgment that takes the place of God. In other words, adjudging people as being “too far gone” to be reached by the grace of God is the kind of judgment that the Bible speaks negatively about.
When most people use this kind of judgment, they tend to cloak their personal judgments in biblical language. For example, we know what the Bible says about homosexuality and adultery; however, because the Bible takes a negative position on such sins does not give Christians the right to judge sinners. More often than not, Christians tend to hold in greater contempt sins that they personally do not commit. A Christian who tells lies would probably have no qualms with people who tell “inoffensive” lies, but they would probably have serious problems with adulterers and murderers. Clearly, according to scripture, a liar is no different to a masked murderer because God does not separate sin in categories based on capricious human metrics. Sin is sin—fortunately, however, Jesus Christ died for them all. The only requirement is that men choose to accept His payment.
It is easy for Christians to fall into the trap of believing that they are holy because of their relative righteousness when compared to other sinners like homosexuals, adulterers, and murderers. However, a true Christian must recognize that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that even those Christians who consider themselves relatively good are not considered good in the sight of Jehovah God because our righteousness is as filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6). Sans the washing and covering of the Blood of Jesus, no human being has the authority to go boldly to God’s throne room of grace to communicate anything at all (Hebrews 4:16).
The right kind of judgment is about discerning things based on scripture. For example, a Christian committed to biblical holiness should never be seen anywhere near a strip club or a crack house because, according to scripture, these things are morally improper and Christians are commanded to abstain from every appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). The mere fact that one abstains from these evils does not win a Christian brownie points with God; however, a true Christian would aspire to live this life because such a person would understand that the price that was paid on the Cross for our sins is too costly to continue in sin so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1).
That’s not to say, however, that a Christian should turn their noses up at drug addicts and strippers. Like I have relentlessly said throughout my life, if Christians are too hoity-toity to talk to sinners, how would these people ever be converted to the Kingdom of God? Christians who believe they are too sanctified to deign to converse with sinners tend to cite 2 Corinthians 6:14 about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers as a “biblical” justification for their hands-off approach with unbelievers. (I’ll save that discussion for another essay.)
While it is comfortable to dress up in one’s best Sunday regalia and play church, real Christianity is about doing the hard work of winning the lost for Jesus Christ. This means that ministry extends far beyond the comfortable pews and prestigious ministerial positions found in megachurches.
God is the Judge—But I Am Permitted to Quote Him!
Frequently, throughout the culture, you’ll encounter people who tend to believe that merely quoting the Bible’s stance on a particular issue is tantamount to passing a judgment in a way that is biblically improper. For example, you’ll commonly hear the idiotic remark, “Who are you to judge?” when someone talks about the immorality of homosexuality, abortion, or pre-marital sex. However, merely affirming the Bible’s position on a moral issue is not the same thing as passing a judgment in a way that the Bible instructs us not to do.
If it is the case that God doesn’t want us to ever point out the immorality of an issue, what was the necessity of the Bible being written? Better yet, what is the point of having a Body of Christ? The Bible was written for correction and reproof (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the Christian’s obligation to speak the truth of God’s Word.
The fallacious interpretation of the instruction against judging has been used explicitly as a tool to inhibit Christians from articulating biblical positions on the most important moral issues of the day.
Take a look at this clip from the pastor of America’s largest church on Larry King:
Astonishingly, Joel Osteen found it difficult to articulate the truth of the Bible regarding who does and doesn’t go to Heaven. If Osteen cannot confidently articulate the most fundamental message of Christianity, then in what sense does Osteen consider himself a pastor? Saying “I’ll let God be the judge” is a nice politically correct answer to a question regarding how one gets to Heaven; however, it is not a biblically accurate answer. When the pastor of one of the world’s largest churches doesn’t understand the difference between correct and incorrect judging, we have serious problems in Christendom. Citing the truth of the Bible is not passing an un-Christian judgment.
(For the simple truth of the Bible regarding this issue, please read John 3:16.)
Additionally, it is this false idea that quoting the Bible is the same as issuing un-Christian judgment that I believe has given rise to one of the most heinous distortions of Christianity I have ever witnessed in my time on the planet thus far—the Gospel of Inclusion:
The approach of a Christian in pointing out the biblical position on a moral question should be based on love and correction, not on judgment and damnation. The primary purpose of such conversations should be to bring sinners out of the oppressive clutches of sin, not to callously condemn them with their sin. It is, frankly, an insult to the redeeming power of the Blood of Jesus to suggest that someone is “too far gone” to be reached by God’s grace. It is demonstrably oxymoronic to simultaneously believe that the Blood of Jesus possesses an ineffable amount of redeeming power, while also maintaining that certain sinners are beyond the reach of God’s grace.
On the other hand, it is also an insult to the Word of God to know the truth of the Bible without articulating it. Opting for the safe, “I’ll let God be the judge” line is as bad as telling a lie. Christians are patently obliged to speak the truth as the Bible declares it.
He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone
It is also important to note that the fallacious interpretation of the “Do Not Judge” command is also used as a tool to obfuscate the timidity of some Christians vis-à-vis social issues. People use this fallacious idea to sit on the fence on key issues, while conveniently avoiding causing offense to those who oppose what the Bible deems as moral and proper.
Because Jesus saved the adulterous woman from being stoned in John 8, people who need a biblical excuse to sit on the fence argue that this means that Christians have no right to talk about the sins of others. This interpretation is both biblically illiterate and insane. Rather, my interpretation of the biblical command of not judging is a much more accurate way to interpret this story. It is an un-Christian form of judgment to believe that someone should be cut off from the grace of God merely because they sinned, which her accusers were manifestly guilty of by calling for her to be stoned to death. Any person who believes that God’s grace should not flow to certain people because of sin that they whimsically deem as intolerable is in violation of the biblical command against judgment.
The fact that Jesus stated, “He who is without sin cast the first stone” was a clear argument in favor of the position that no man is above sin and that everyone is worthy of being cut off from God’s grace. What Jesus did in this story was a precursor to what he would eventually go on to do on the Cross for all of mankind — save us from the penalty of sin, despite the fact that not a single person deserves it.
Without question, judgment is something that Christians are called upon to do. This mandatory judgment that the Christian must engage in is about discernment and avoiding obstructions in one’s walk with Christ. Christians are not called upon to treat unbelievers as inferiors solely because they engage in sinful behavior. We must extend the same grace to non-believers that Christ did to us (Romans 5:8). However, Christians are called upon to speak the truth of the Bible—and doing so is not a violation of the instruction against judging. In point of fact, a Christian who knows the truth and refuses to speak it is unwittingly doing the work of Satan by acting as an impediment to the dissemination of the Gospel.
The Bible says it best in John 8:32:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
If only Christians had the boldness to speak the truth with a healthy balance of authority and love.