Judging others…this is one of the most difficult topics to discuss for Christians. It is extraordinarily difficult to feel judged, to react when someone comes to you with a criticism of your behavior, and to accept when you may not be living up to the example set by Christ. But the question remains: is it ever appropriate to judge others?
The answer according to Scripture is yes. But are there certain conditions that must be met for judgment to take place appropriately? Again, a resounding yes. What does Jesus say about judgment in the Sermon on the Mount?
“Do not judge lest you be judged.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged;
and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck
out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
Your 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.”
Jesus is saying that at times judgment of your brother is appropriate. But a very important thing must happen first: directly addressing your own sin (taking the log out of your own eye). By doing this first, you will then be able to see clearly to approach your brother about his sin. Part of addressing your own sin first is prayer and knowing the Word of God — these actions will further allow you to be right in the eyes of God before you correct your brother.
God has many purposes for judgment. James 5:20 tells us, “…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Salvation. Covering sin. Restoration. Building up one another and the body of Christ.
Kay Arthur provides an excellent summary of the issue of judgment in her book Lord, I’m Torn Between Two Masters:
“A careful study of [the] scriptures — including Matthew 7:1-5 — shows that judging is not forbidden. Irresponsible behavior, wrong doctrine, and sin must all be discerned, clearly identified, and dealt with…Righteousness is to be upheld, the gospel is to be earnestly contended for. Judging, therefore, is not wrong if it is done properly. It is fine to correct a brother as long as you do it in a spirit of gentleness, as long as you are spiritual, realizing that you are not above temptation yourself. It is all right to judge as long as the motivation of that judgment is love of God and love of your neighbor. The goal of judgment, remember, is not to condemn but to restore.
It is all right to judge as long as we judge with a righteous judgment, a judgment that is in accordance with God’s Word. We may judge dogs and swine, false prophets, sin, wrong behavior, and wrong doctrine. But we cannot judge the motives of a man’s or woman’s heart. But above all…we must continuously judge ourselves!” (pp 226-227)