When Jesus wrote, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” He did not mean that we are to sit back and never make evaluations of a person’s conduct, character, or faith. In reality, Jesus did instruct us to make judgments. The exclusions are in relation to a person’s motivation and in regards to their salvation. Those things are hidden from us.
However, I also ask you to consider Luke 12:57, “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” Consider John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
If we are never to judge any person regarding anything, how do we determine who is qualified to hold an office of responsibility in the church? How are we to decide who can be trusted and who can’t? Does “Judge not lest ye be judged” mean that any person can do whatever they want and not be held accountable and responsible for their actions?
When people wrongly apply “Judge not lest ye be judged,” the Church becomes filled with rebellious Christians, wolves, and tares. It was because of a wrongly applied “Judge not” mentality that the Corinthian church was castigated by Paul for allowing a man to remain in the fellowship who was having an affair with his stepmother! In 1 Cor 5:3 Paul actually told the church he had pronounced judgement on the person for their sin!
While no person can say with difinity whether or not a person is saved, it is possible to evaluate their conduct and determine if it is consistent with one who is a genuine believer. It is possible to say to an individual, “Your conduct is not in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Compare with Philippians 1:27).
Jesus’ words “Judge not lest ye be judged,” must be kept in context as found in Matthew 7:1-5! His point was NOT that evaluations must never be made, but that we are to live lives of such a kind that we can help (!) our brother and/or sister in Christ recognize their own evil, sinful, and destructive behavior… and help them correct it! The context of “Judge not” requires a desire to live a godly life for the purpose of helping… not condemning… others. Thus what is found in Galatians 6:1-2.
The fact of the matter is that a rebellious society of believers does not want to be held accountable by anyone (Including The Church) for their conduct. They want to be “free” to do whatever they want and still enjoy unbroken fellowship with the community of faith. But Paul demanded that kind of attitude was wholly improper as found in Romans 6:1-2.
The truth of the matter when it comes to judgment is that it ultimately rests with God. Yet the church as been given the authority to pass judgment also (See Mt 18:18).
It would be wise to ask ourselves why we herald quickly “Judge not.” Is it because we have hidden and unconfessed sin in our own lives that we don’t want to let go of? Is it because we want to continue in a practice we know is wrong and therefore we try to intimidate others by throwing around “Judge not?” OR is it because we desire to warn others of the importance of living holy lives so that we can help those who are in sin to escape it’s trap and consequences?
Every time we read the Bible we should say the following to ourselves… “It is talking about me, to me.” So next time we (I!) think of “Judge not lest ye be judged,” we (I!) would do well to contemplate what it is deep in our soul that is motivating us to quote that verse.
May we all “Conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). Not for the purpose of condeming others… not for the purpose of rationalizing our own sin… but to honor God and help fellow Christians live lives that bring glory to God!
To read the second part to this study, click here (June 5, 2007)