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Judge not!

June 14, 2015

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”- Matthew 7:1

Just about everyone knows this one! But what does Jesus mean? Are we just to keep our mouths shut when we see something we disagree with? How do we know if we are disregarding Jesus’ words?

Our English word “judge” (krino in the Greek) has many meanings. A judge can pass sentence in court. We judge performances on American Idol. Then there’s our moral evaluation of either good or bad actions. Finally, there’s judging someone as in,”to condemn them.” It is this type of judging that Jesus forbids. Jesus clearly condemns condemning.

Jesus points out our hypocrisy and self-deception. We judge (condemn) someone for the speck in their eye but miss the log in our own (Matthew 7:3-4). As Andy Stanley recently pointed out, “Self-righteous people are the least self-aware.” And that’s the point, we can’t condemn because we ourselves aren’t innocent! When we try to condemn others, we’re like condemned criminals condemning others!

So does this mean we can’t speak up? Are we guilty of “judging” when we point out an injustice, abuse, or immoral action? That depends.

First, what’s our focus? Are we condemning a person or evaluating an action? When someone does something evil or wicked we must (sometimes strongly) protest. However, we must not take the additional step and condemn the person. A severely toxic person may need to be removed from a church (I Corinthians 5) but even in these cases we only condemn their actions. God alone can condemn a person. This is God’s role. (Gen. 18:25; John 5:22, 26-27; Romans 2:16, 12:17-21)

Second, what’s our intent? Motives matter. The principle difference between condemning a person and judging someone’s actions is the intent. When someone condemns another they want to destroy someone. They are acting in God’s place and are trying to mete out vengeance and judgment. However, when someone confronts someone after witnessing abusive or immoral behavior they can do so for the desire to restore peace– either to that person or those they’ve hurt, or both. Peacemaking requires confrontation and this requires “judging.” (I do this all of the time as a parent of three girls under 10!)

Finally, what’s our posture? The person condemning another is self-righteous and lacks self-awareness. However, the peacemaker is humble. He’s well aware of the “logs” in his own eyes. And as scholar Scot Mcknight observed, “Self-awareness leads to self-judgment.” Now with humility of spirit, he fights for peace and justice.

We must not condemn but it would be unloving not to evaluate!


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