Written on January 27, 2013

(Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org)

Last week I wrote a blog about the evil of abortion and one reader posted this comment: “We must be careful not to judge others for their actions. We don’t always know the full story and only God knows our heart. We only need answer to him, not the ones pointing fingers and yelling ‘Sinners’”!

Sadly, the postmodern mind bristles at labeling anything as sinful or calling anyone to repentance. The seventh chapter of Matthew says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” That phrase is a favorite with those who think there are no absolute standards of morality and that right and wrong should be determined individually. How many times have you heard, “Who are you to judge?” Or, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!” from people who insist we should never evaluate the appropriateness of someone else’s behavior?

However, this same Jesus who said, “Don’t judge” also said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). The Son of God did not contradict himself, so obviously when Jesus said, “Don’t judge,” He was not forbidding the use of God-given wisdom to discern right from wrong. In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus instructs us to recognize false prophets by examining their fruit. To inspect the fruit of people’s lives requires wise judgment.

John the Baptist judged Herod for living with his brother’s wife. Simon Peter judged Ananias and Sapphira for having lied to the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul judged Elymas the sorcerer, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!”

It’s imperative that we practice careful discernment about whom we marry, whom we hire, whom we trust with our money, whom we vote for, and whom we allow to babysit our children. There’s a national outrage right now about people using assault weapons to kill others. Obviously we have to make some reasoned judgments about those who have a constitutional right to own guns and those who lack the character or the mental stability to do so. We can’t just say, ‘Don’t judge!” because we know instinctively that we have a right and a responsibility to make judgments about the character of others.

What exactly was Jesus forbidding when he said, “Do not judge?” I think the needed, delicate balance can be summed up as follows:

(1) Don’t judge unless you have first examined your own life and motives. “First take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” Hypocrites are repulsive.

(2) Don’t judge unless you are willing to have the same standard imposed upon you. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” That’s why it’s always wise to err on the side of grace.

(3) Don’t judge anyone’s eternal destiny. Consigning someone to heaven or hell is a prerogative that belongs only to God since He’s the only One who sees the total picture. “Don’t condemn or you will be condemned.”

(4) Don’t judge prematurely. When we don’t have all the facts we make surface, erroneous judgments. Wait until you see clearly.

(5) Don’t judge others unless it’s constructive to do so. Jesus didn’t say to take the log out of your eye and then ignore your brother. No that speck in his eye is hurting him. For his sake and for the sake of others who are influenced by him, help him get the speck out. That’s why Galatians 6:1 instructs us, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

-Bob Russell lives in Louisville, KY. He is the retired minister from Southeast Christian Church