Have you ever heard that phrase? What do you think about it? Well, it definitely sounds good; in fact, it sounds very biblical. After all, doesn't Matthew 7:1 say "Judge not, that you be not judged"? In today's Christianity, churches are accused of being judgmental and hypocritical. People want churches to be "judge-free zones." "It's God's job to judge; it's my job to love." The problem with that phrase is that it's only half true.
Before we go any further, carefully read the following passage:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people--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. 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you.'"
--1 Corinthians 5:9-13
How does that sit with you? Does this mean that it is the job of every church member to snoop around looking for people stuck in sin and cast them out of the church? Is the church meant to be a place full of busybodies and snitches? No. In the case of the Corinthian church, the problem of sexual immorality didn't need to be "sniffed out," it was obvious--so much so that word of it got all the way to Paul. The church knew about it and tolerated it; in fact, they were "arrogant" (vv. 1-2). There was an obvious problem, and it wasn't being addressed. They were guilty of neglecting to judge a professing believer. For the sake of the Church's purity, their job was not to tolerate the sin, ignore it, or "cover it with grace"; their job was to address it, judge it, and remove it.
There is a lack of judgment and confrontation in our churches today. Actually, let me restate that: there is a lack of Christlike judgment and confrontation in our churches today. Indeed, our churches have no shortage of judgmental attitudes and critical spirits, which lead some churches to cast off all confrontation and place it all under grace. Just love people and God will change their hearts. Why do you think church discipline is almost non-existent in churches today? Because it's not comfortable, it doesn't sit well with people, and to remove people from your church doesn't sound like the best strategy for church growth.
The purity of Christ's Body is more important than the membership role. If you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, you will judge them in a Christlike and loving way. This brings us back to the "Judge not" passage in Matthew 7. This passage is not a command to never judge or confront a fellow believer, but a warning to someone who is about to judge a fellow believer. Matthew 7:3-5 is the well-known passage about the log in your eye and the speck in your brother's eye. This passage is not saying, "worry about yourself and don't judge others." It's easy to overlook verse 5, which provides the purpose for which you must remove the log from your own eye: so that you can "see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Examine your own life so that you can judge your brother righteously.
If you know a fellow Christian who is living in sin, the most unloving thing you could do is to ignore it. If a pastor knows of a church member who is living in open sin, the most dangerous thing he could do is to look the other way. This is what the Church is all about: a place where sinners saved by grace can help, exhort, confront, and yes, even judge fellow believers. God has given you the wisdom to judge righteously. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul rebukes the believers for taking their disagreements and problems to a secular court instead of dealing with it themselves. In disbelief, Paul says in verses 2-5,
"Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?"
Judging others is not a sin. It is a sin if you do so without examining your own life first or if you confront them in an unloving or prideful way, but if you judge others with love, understanding, and humility, it is a virtue. Judging others in a righteous way is not easy. Sometimes it will result in separation from a fellow believer or personal loss. Ask God for the wisdom that only He can give, and through God's grace, you can practice righteous judgment within the body of Christ for the growth of the church and the glory of God.
Aaron Berry recently graduated with an MA in Theology from Bob Jones Seminary. He plans to pursue an Mdiv from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. During his time at Bob Jones he served as student body president and was instrumental in starting many different outreach and discipleship ventures. He and Caleb Phelps have been friends since they were at camp together in high school. During their time in school together they shared many different preaching venues.
This post was originally published on Aaron's own blog "Eyes on Him." Please take the time to read some of Aaron's other posts.