I have a pet peeve.
It bothers me when people use Scripture out of context to advance their agenda.
Satan was the originator of that method (Luke 4:9-11) and people still do it today. Some people do it out of ignorance, and some do it in order to deceive.
I have actually always wanted to do an entire sermon series on “The Most Misinterpreted Verses of the Bible.” The series would cover Phil. 4:13; Jer. 29:11; Hab. 1:5; and 1 Cor. 10:13 just to name a few.
Most definitely the series would include one of the most misquoted and misinterpreted and most-damaging-when-taken-out-of-context verses of the Bible: Matt. 7:1. That verse contains the words of Jesus when he said:
Judge not, that you be not judged.
The Mantra of American Christianity
“Judge not” has become the mantra of American Christianity.
We aren’t supposed to delve in anyone else’s business. Who are you to say anything anyway? If you ever call out sin in another, you are criticized for being “judgmental” and “un-Christlike.” We are all sinners, right?
Absolutely. We all sin, but we all don’t sin the same way. And we all don’t sin in the same amount. And we all don’t sin with the same level of conviction and brokenness following the sin.
“Isn’t God the judge?”
You are correct. God is the righteous Judge (Ps. 50:6). He is the Judge, Lawgiver, and King (Is. 33:22). He is a just judge who is angered with wickedness (Ps. 7:11) and will administer judgement to people (Ps. 9:8).
Jesus will judge all (John 5:22) with his word on the last day (John 12:48). And when he judges, he judges in righteousness (Acts 17:31).
So, God is our judge. So, it is not our place to judge another, right?
The thought process that we ought not to judge one another is biblically and tragically inaccurate.
People rip this quotation from Jesus out of context and, oftentimes, use it without any realization concerning what the following verses state.
Let me help finish the thought. Jesus stated:
Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 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? 4 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? 5 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.
Just a simple follow-through reading of the following verses reveal something paramount: this passage does not teach to abstain from judgment; it warns of being a hypocrite.
Jesus never taught to abstain from judgment. He warned against being a hypocrite.
If Jesus really didn’t want us to judge one another, then why did he give us specific instructions in this passage concerning how to do it?
What Did Jesus Really Mean?
His point is this: if you don’t want to be judged, then don’t judge.
Stop saying “judge not” if you don’t know what it means.
It’s only fair that whatever standard you use on others should be used on yourself. So, when and if, you see a brother or sister in Christ in sin, you need to call it out. But before you call sin out in another, you better do some self-evaluation to see if there is any sin present in your life.
Take out the “log” in your eye in order to take the “speck” out of another’s eye. You can tell in this passage that Jesus is actually wanting us to help remove specks from others’ eyes, but he is teaching that we can’t see how to do that until we remove the logs from our own eyes.
In fact, he instructs hypocrites like me: take out your log first, in order that you can see clearly how to take out other’s specks.
Judgment given in love is a good thing for two reasons: 1) it addresses the sin in my life (log), and 2) it addresses the sin in your life (speck).
That’s called a win-win.
And ultimately, there is a worthwhile pursuit concerning issuing judgement given in love: the glory of God.
Whether I am performing surgery on myself or providing diagnosis concerning another, my goal is simple: I want the name of Jesus lifted high.
I don’t want the reputation of Jesus marred due to mine or yours hypocrisy.
So, that is why I will judge if you are a Christian. And if you are a Christian, I earnestly want you to judge me.
That’s why Jesus taught to judge one another.
We are to let our light shine before others so they will glorify God (Matt. 5:16). As Christians, we are to keep our behavior at such a godly level among such an ungodly society that they would in turn, not praise us, but praise God (1 Pet. 2:12).
We judge one another so that we aren’t hypocrites.
Blatant Biblical Instructions Saying We Are Supposed to Judge One Another
If Jesus wasn’t clear enough, allow Paul to make it crystal clear. After hearing about the immorality rampant within the Corinthian church, Paul wrote these believers a letter in which he addressed many sin issues (gasp – how dare he?!).
And note this is coming from a man who claims he is the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and yet he is not waiting on personal perfection before instruction towards others.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul reveals that he is aware of a type of sexual immorality within the church that is not even tolerated with those outside of the church. Within this chapter, he commands the church to remove this person from among them (1 Cor. 5:2), to deliver his flesh over to Satan in order to get his attention with the hope he will repent (1 Cor. 5:5), and then, if he persists, not even to eat with this rebellious, unrepentant, immoral church member (1 Cor. 5:11).
He then makes it loud and clear what our responsibilities are in the area of judgment:
1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Did you catch what Paul is saying? He is not saying to judge the outsiders. Those who are not following the teaching of God’s Word should have lives that reflect that reality. Why wouldn’t they be sexually immoral, greedy, and idolatrous? Outside of a desire to obey God, who wouldn’t go down that path?
But if you are a follower of Christ, you know better. If you are a brother or sister in Christ, you ought to look like our Father. You should be striving to live better. You aren’t perfect, but you should be broken and repentant of your sin.
The Bible clearly teaches: Christians are to judge the insiders, God is to judge the outsiders.
We Have Done the Complete Opposite of What God Instructed
Paul teaches that Christians should judge those inside not those outside.
As a whole, American Christianity seems to judge those outside and not those inside.
We judge sin outside the Church and ignore sin within, and yet, God has instructed us to do the complete opposite.
We bang our pulpits, create our picket signs, and post our statuses about those heinous sins outside the church with which we have never struggled.
But when it comes to the people within the walls and within the family and within the Body of Christ, it is taboo to call out someone in love concerning those “respectable sins” that we deem trivial.
And God has taught us to do the complete opposite.
If we were to obey the Bible in this area, it would mean we would have a complete shift in our reactions and responses to situations.
It means that I have two complete different reactions and responses to the same sin based upon the identity of the one sinning.
If an outsider is sexually immoral, I befriend him, love him, encourage him, instruct him, and share the gospel with him understanding that he is only doing that which he knows how to do.
If an insider is sexually immoral, I rebuke him, confront him, instruct him, and expect him to repent of his sins or else I’m getting other people involved. There’s too much at stake to be passive. We are ambassadors of Christ and represent his name to a dying world (2 Cor. 5:20).
So, step up and live in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Eph. 4:1).
Stop hiding your sinful behavior behind the misinterpretation of when Jesus said, “judge not.”
Loving People Enough to Rebuke Them
This type of thinking seems so foreign to us today as we attempt to live out our individualistic walks with Christ and ignore the repeated instructions of rebuking one another.
- Jesus gave a clear set of instructions concerning how we should rebuke another from starting privately, bringing another along, then bringing it before a church group (Matt. 18:15-17).
- Better is an open rebuke than hidden love (Prov. 27:5).
- Whoever hates reproof is stupid (Prov. 12:1).
- We are actually called to rebuke constant sinners in the presence of all so that it causes everyone to get scared they might be next (1 Tim. 5:20).
- Pastors are commanded to rebuke with all authority without giving allowance for the rebuked to disregard you (Titus 2:15).
- This is not our own opinions, but we point to the Word of God when sin is present in order to rebuke (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Tim. 4:2).
- Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov. 27:6).
- Confronting a sinner saves his or her should from death and covers over a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).
- If your brother sins, rebuke him, but if he repents, forgive him – that’s the goal (Luke 17:3-4)!
- Someone who is wise will love you if you rebuke him or her and give cause to further growth and development (Prov. 9:8-9)
I love my brothers and sisters in Christ very much. And I pray they love me. But I love Jesus too much not to desire earnestly that sin be called out and dealt with within the Church.
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. -James 5:19-20