Who Are We to Judge?

Matthew 7:1-5

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

If you have ever had an exchange with a non-believer, this is a verse that is typically used to respond to a Christian witness. Looking closely at the words of Jesus here , what is the right interpretation?

Matthew 7:1-5 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In these first five verses, is Jesus making a blanket prohibition against all judgment and discernment? Not at all. What Jesus is forbidding is self-righteous, hypocritical judgment (see Luke 18:9-14).

So as Christians, who are we to judge? Those outside of the church, inside the church, or both?

If you remember the mass shooting at the nightclub in Orlando where 49 were killed, there was a proclamation from a few churches that the victims received their just due because of their homosexual lifestyle. For anyone to believe this was a Biblically correct response, I would only ask that they read Mark 2:15.

In Mark 2:15, Jesus was able to eat and celebrate with ‘sinners and tax collectors’ without condoning actions that broke the Law of Scripture. He knew that every person on this earth has been created in the image of God. Yes, homosexuality, like every other form of sexual immorality, still is condemned in Scripture in both the OT and NT. But we must be careful when we choose to admonish those trapped in such sin.

If Christians can’t “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15-17) because we differ on political, religious or sexual issues, the problem lies with us, not them. We have become the very groups that Jesus condemns. We cannot live in this world with the hope of bringing those who live a life in contrast to the teachings of Christ if we first do not love them and recognize our own ability to sin as well. Paul clearly states the judgment for those outside of the church rests with God alone (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

But what about those inside the church? In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, we are commanded to judge our brother, but in Romans 14:10, we are commanded not to judge our brother. This appears to be a contradiction. But it isn’t, because the passages are talking about two very different issues. First Corinthians 5 is talking about definite sins for which we are to judge our brothers in Christ in light of God’s revealed truth. We are to go to them in love, confront them, and call them to repentance. Romans 14 addresses matters of Christian liberty (disputable matters). It tells us we shouldn’t judge our brother if he doesn’t feel the liberty to do what we do. And we shouldn’t judge our brothers who feel the liberty to do what we in good conscience cannot.

We should exercise judgment concerning sin. In the other case, where it is gray, we should withhold judgment and give our brother the benefit of the doubt.

Satan’s two-step strategy is simple: first, to tempt God’s people not to judge our brother when we should, in primary areas revealed in Scripture (rather than take appropriate steps by going to him, and following through if he doesn't repent). Second, to tempt us to judge our brother when we shouldn’t, in gray areas not revealed in Scripture. A third strategy, where there is indisputable sin, would be to tempt us to judge it with a spirit of self-righteousness, rather than with what Paul encourages: a spirit of grief and humility.

As members of the body of Christ, we have the duty to judge fellow believers to protect the church from corrupting influence of a self-proclaimed follower of Christ, but we must first examine ourselves for any hypocritical behavior as well as judging from an attitude of superiority. The church has authority and obligation to exercise godly discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1-5).

It is the world to whom we are to witness, to whom we are called to bring the Gospel. We are not to conform to the world (Romans 12:2), but we must be in the world and have contact with unsaved people or we could never evangelize them. God intends us to be in the world so we can be its salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16) and His witnesses to it (Acts 1:8), but not to pass judgment on the unsaved.

That’s His job.