Objection: Jesus said we are not

to judge others

Objection: We have been commanded not to judge

This must be one of the best known, and least understood, sayings of Jesus. The suggestion is, of course, that it is no one’s business to comment negatively on someone else’s lifestyle. If this were true, it would prevent Christians from saying anything negative about homosexuality. Indeed, those who do, would themselves be sinning.

Response

 It is not true that Jesus said we must never judge – or, at least, not in the way that is so frequently suggested. We must look a little more closely to see what Jesus meant – and it is not difficult. Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  2  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Judging is a specific example of reaping what we sow. If we judge, we will be judged. That seems pretty clear but what did Jesus mean by “judge”? What are we not to do? Assessing Or Condemning? In one sense we make judgements all of the time. Life would be impossible without it. We weigh things up; we make assessments. Can I make it across the road before that car arrives? Am I in the presence of friends or enemies? Which of these two shirts should I buy? Should I buy a shirt at all? Often those assessments might be about people. Can I trust this person? Is he drunk? Clearly there are dangers. Our judgements may be wrong and it is always wrong to pre-judge on the basis of some characteristic that is irrelevant to the question at hand. On the other hand, relationships depend on making assessments. Conversations flow only when we weigh up how much is being understood, whether we need to repeat things etc. If we did not make assessments, we would be naive and vulnerable. We would make no useful contribution to any relationship. A judge, in a court is constantly weighing up the evidence, seeking to discern what is true and what is not. But another meaning of “judge” is “to condemn”. At the end of the case, a judge might pass sentence. Was Jesus meaning that we should never weight things up; that we should be undiscerning with regard to other people? Or, was He meaning that we should not condemn? The answer is obvious. And it is obvious in this very passage. In the verses that follow immediately after Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus says that we should take the plank of wood out of our own eye so that we can then see clearly to remove the speck from another person’s eye (vv.3-5). He then said not to give dogs what is sacred or throw pearls before pigs (v.6). A little later He said to watch out for false prophets; wolves in sheep’s clothing (v.15) and said that we would know them by their fruit (vv.16, 20). In the first instance, there is a clear warning against trying to deal with other people’s problems before dealing with our own. That would apply to the issue of homosexuality. Christians should not try to “fix” homosexuals if there is far worse in their own lives. However, having said that, how can a person take a speck out of someone else’s eye (which, please note, is an act of kindness) without first recognising that there is a speck in that person’s eye? How can a person avoid giving dogs what is sacred and throwing pearls before swine without discerning that certain people are “dogs” or “swine”? It requires judging and then taking action on the basis of that judgement. How can a person avoid false prophets without discerning that they are false prophets? Indeed, Jesus told us how to judge: You will know them by their fruits. It should be clear that Jesus expects us to be discerning and to make judgements about people. He therefore cannot have meant that we are to never draw any conclusions about people. (Positive and negative conclusions are all judgements.) That leaves the other option i.e. that Jesus forbad us from condemning people; writing people off as having no hope; de-humanising people; concluding and declaring that certain people will be damned. Judgement, in terms of final judgement, is God’s prerogative. It is simply not our job. So what does this mean in relation to homosexuality? No Christian has the right to treat a homosexual as less than human or to conclude that he/she will go to hell. He/she may yet repent. No Christian has the right to be demeaning or hurtful. No Christian has the right to reject a homosexual or to conclude that he/she is not worthy of love. On the other hand, Christians are expected to be discerning. One cannot deal rightly with another person without knowing something about that person. Is this person irresponsible and promiscuous and therefore a danger to people I love? Or is he/she responsible? Is this person defiant in his/her sin? Or is he/she repentant and seeking God? Or is he/she simply confused? How can I best show love without giving wrong messages? How can I communicate? It is not a Christian’s responsibility to declare that a homosexual will burn in hell but it is that Christian’s responsibility to lovingly warn of that outcome if there is no repentance. The Christian must also discern the best time to speak honestly. All of that requires judgement in terms of assessment but not in terms of condemnation. Not judging does not mean never confronting and never telling the truth. Indeed, confrontation can be one of the most loving acts, not only because truth needs to be heard but because the Christian runs the risk of being rejected as a result but will speak up anyway because of concern for the homosexual. Confronting – done well – is a very selfless act. Jesus clearly assessed people. He criticised the disciples for their slowness to understand, for their lack of faith and for their pride. He confronted the Pharisees and pulled no punches. His words were direct and, we would consider, cutting (e.g. Matthew 23). But Jesus always did what was right and He was discerning enough to know how to respond to each situation. There are times to be gentle. There are times to be blunt. We must learn what is right from Jesus, not from our social conventions or what is demanded by pressure groups. The command not to judge was never intended to mean that Christians could not speak the truth but the truth is always to be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus did not issue a blanket ban on judging. Indeed, He told us to judge. Those who keep quoting “do not judge” as if it was a blanket ban, have not looked sufficiently at the topic. Jesus did not say that we should never say that a person is wrong. The biblical writers frequently say that others are wrong and frequently challenge those who are wrong. Jesus did the same. It is not wrong for Christians to say that homosexual acts are sinful or to speak the truth to individuals. It is wrong not to. Inside Or Outside The Church
There are other biblical examples of people confronting what was wrong. In one sense that was the role of the
prophets.
Paul, and the other apostles, and the New Testament writers, spoke out strongly against what was wrong. They
also took action against people who were sinning. One example occurred in Corinth and Paul wrote about it in
the fifth chapter of his first letter to that church. It would be wise to read that whole chapter.
Apparently a man was sleeping with his step-mother. Paul says that, far from being proud, that should have
caused the church to mourn and to have put that man out of their fellowship. That sounds like judging. Indeed,
Paul goes on to say that he has already passed judgement on that man in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1
Corinthians 5:3). The man is to be handed over to Satan but notice Paul’s motive here: “for the destruction of the
sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (v.5).
It is tough action but the hope is that the man might ultimately be saved. The discipline is designed to be
redemptive. The temptation in modern churches is to avoid the confrontation, turning a blind eye to the sin,
having little concern for people’s eternity.
Apparently the Corinthian church was proud of this sin in its midst (see vv. 2, 6) but Paul chastised them. There is
another example of confrontation. His argument is that “a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough” (v.6). If a
church does not deal with sin, it will spread throughout the whole church. Strong action is required to protect the
people, and the integrity, of the church.
It seems incredible that a church would be proud of sin in its members, but that is exactly what is happening
today when liberal churches feel particularly virtuous when they promote homosexuality.  Nothing has changed
and Paul’s words need to be heard all over again.
Then comes an important and interesting distinction. Paul had previously told them not to associate with the
sexually immoral. He clarifies here that he was not referring to those outside the church. If that was the case, the
church would have to leave the world (vv.9-10). The world is full of sinful people. The church could not avoid
them all without isolating itself completely from the world. That is not the intention. In fact, the church is to be in
the world (but not of it (John 17:6, 11, 14, 15.))
However, Paul’s words do apply within the church. He said, “You must not associate with any who claim to be
fellow believers but are sexually immoral or greedy, idolaters or slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. With such
persons do not even eat” (5:11). The key phrase there is “who claim to be fellow believers”.
It is not the job of Christians to judge those outside the church but it certainly is to judge those who claim to be
fellow believers. Paul sharpens the distinction with four short statements:
It is very clear that we ARE to judge those who claim to be believers. Church discipline is necessary if godly
standards are to be maintained.
There are dangers. People can go too far. The self-righteous (those with planks in their eyes) can set themselves
up as judges of everybody else. Etcetera. But that does not mean that we stop challenging sin in the church. It
simply means that we have to do it humbly and prayerfully and according to proper biblical procedures.
But we still haven’t completely answered the question. Clearly, Paul said that it was none of his business to judge
those outside the church. He described the judging as not associating with them. Paul had no business refusing
to have anything to do with sinners outside the church. But that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t warn them of the
consequences of their sin. In fact, isn’t that what he constantly did?
The prophets frequently listed the sins of the nations neighbouring Israel and Judah. John the Baptist challenged
Herod because of his relationship with his brother’s wife.
There are times to stand up against wrong, including wrong “outside the church”.
The purpose though is not to merely condemn but to seek repentance. God confronts and names sin in the hope
that people will listen and repent. That applies to people both within and without the church. God wants all
people to be saved.
In the present context, the application is obvious. Jesus did not command His followers to never challenge sin.
While it is primarily the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of sin, He frequently does that through the words of
other people – people who care enough to confront.
Most often that will be done humbly and lovingly. Humbly because the Christian will remember his/her own
propensity to sin. Galatians 6:1 Brothers and sisters, is someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. However, there may be times when God leads a person to take a more confrontational approach just as Jesus sometimes did. There is more on the topic of judging within the church, in the section on Judging Those Who Claim To Be Christians.

Objection: We are all sinners. No one can judge anyone else.

Given what Jesus said about taking the plank out of our own eye before we try to remove a speck from someone else’s, if we are all sinners then none of us is in a position to challenge sin in the life of someone else. To suggest otherwise is hypocritical. Or, so it is claimed.

Response

As is often the case, there is a little bit of truth in this but a whole lot of distortion. We are all sinners. 1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. However, there is a massive difference between the person who rejects God’s truth and defiantly sins, and the person who stumbles sometimes and is deeply ashamed and repentant. The latter, knowing his/her weakness, will be hesitant to accuse someone else but will also know the importance of maintaining godly standards in the church. Even though he/she may be condemned as being judgemental, he/she loves Jesus and His church enough to risk a condemnatory reaction from those who want to keep on sinning. Clearly, if no one could uphold godliness in a church, we would be in huge trouble. The Church would be as sinful as the rest of the world. Jesus wants His church to be spotless and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 25  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (See also 2 Peter 3:14.) The church may never be perfect but that is not an excuse for sin. Christ sacrificed Himself to make the church clean, radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless. If no one could challenge blatant sin, none of the maintaining of standards mentioned above could happen. It is obvious that Jesus does not expect everyone to simply turn a blind eye to sin because everyone is equally immersed in sin. The church is not meant to be a society of sinful people but a community of recovering sinners – people who have repented and been forgiven, who are now committed to pleasing God but who still need His help to do that, and who sometimes mess up. They are not perfect but they are seeking to live godly lives; they desire that the church be holy and they love people enough to care about their salvation, and therefore to warn them of the consequences of unrepentant sin.

Related pages

For further research Unwinding the “Judge Not” Knot - Marty Duren
© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
Main sections Main sections

Objection: Jesus said

we are not to judge

others

Objection: We have been commanded not to

judge

This must be one of the best known, and least understood, sayings of Jesus. The suggestion is, of course, that it is no one’s business to comment negatively on someone else’s lifestyle. If this were true, it would prevent Christians from saying anything negative about homosexuality. Indeed, those who do, would themselves be sinning.

Response

 It is not true that Jesus said we must never judge – or, at least, not in the way that is so frequently suggested. We must look a little more closely to see what Jesus meant – and it is not difficult. Matthew 7:1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  2  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Judging is a specific example of reaping what we sow. If we judge, we will be judged. That seems pretty clear but what did Jesus mean by “judge”? What are we not to do? Assessing Or Condemning? In one sense we make judgements all of the time. Life would be impossible without it. We weigh things up; we make assessments. Can I make it across the road before that car arrives? Am I in the presence of friends or enemies? Which of these two shirts should I buy? Should I buy a shirt at all? Often those assessments might be about people. Can I trust this person? Is he drunk? Clearly there are dangers. Our judgements may be wrong and it is always wrong to pre-judge on the basis of some characteristic that is irrelevant to the question at hand. On the other hand, relationships depend on making assessments. Conversations flow only when we weigh up how much is being understood, whether we need to repeat things etc. If we did not make assessments, we would be naive and vulnerable. We would make no useful contribution to any relationship. A judge, in a court is constantly weighing up the evidence, seeking to discern what is true and what is not. But another meaning of “judge” is “to condemn”. At the end of the case, a judge might pass sentence. Was Jesus meaning that we should never weight things up; that we should be undiscerning with regard to other people? Or, was He meaning that we should not condemn? The answer is obvious. And it is obvious in this very passage. In the verses that follow immediately after Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus says that we should take the plank of wood out of our own eye so that we can then see clearly to remove the speck from another person’s eye (vv.3-5). He then said not to give dogs what is sacred or throw pearls before pigs (v.6). A little later He said to watch out for false prophets; wolves in sheep’s clothing (v.15) and said that we would know them by their fruit (vv.16, 20). In the first instance, there is a clear warning against trying to deal with other people’s problems before dealing with our own. That would apply to the issue of homosexuality. Christians should not try to “fix” homosexuals if there is far worse in their own lives. However, having said that, how can a person take a speck out of someone else’s eye (which, please note, is an act of kindness) without first recognising that there is a speck in that person’s eye? How can a person avoid giving dogs what is sacred and throwing pearls before swine without discerning that certain people are “dogs” or “swine”? It requires judging and then taking action on the basis of that judgement. How can a person avoid false prophets without discerning that they are false prophets? Indeed, Jesus told us how to judge: You will know them by their fruits. It should be clear that Jesus expects us to be discerning and to make judgements about people. He therefore cannot have meant that we are to never draw any conclusions about people. (Positive and negative conclusions are all judgements.) That leaves the other option i.e. that Jesus forbad us from condemning people; writing people off as having no hope; de-humanising people; concluding and declaring that certain people will be damned. Judgement, in terms of final judgement, is God’s prerogative. It is simply not our job. So what does this mean in relation to homosexuality? No Christian has the right to treat a homosexual as less than human or to conclude that he/she will go to hell. He/she may yet repent. No Christian has the right to be demeaning or hurtful. No Christian has the right to reject a homosexual or to conclude that he/she is not worthy of love. On the other hand, Christians are expected to be discerning. One cannot deal rightly with another person without knowing something about that person. Is this person irresponsible and promiscuous and therefore a danger to people I love? Or is he/she responsible? Is this person defiant in his/her sin? Or is he/she repentant and seeking God? Or is he/she simply confused? How can I best show love without giving wrong messages? How can I communicate? It is not a Christian’s responsibility to declare that a homosexual will burn in hell but it is that Christian’s responsibility to lovingly warn of that outcome if there is no repentance. The Christian must also discern the best time to speak honestly. All of that requires judgement in terms of assessment but not in terms of condemnation. Not judging does not mean never confronting and never telling the truth. Indeed, confrontation can be one of the most loving acts, not only because truth needs to be heard but because the Christian runs the risk of being rejected as a result but will speak up anyway because of concern for the homosexual. Confronting – done well – is a very selfless act. Jesus clearly assessed people. He criticised the disciples for their slowness to understand, for their lack of faith and for their pride. He confronted the Pharisees and pulled no punches. His words were direct and, we would consider, cutting (e.g. Matthew 23). But Jesus always did what was right and He was discerning enough to know how to respond to each situation. There are times to be gentle. There are times to be blunt. We must learn what is right from Jesus, not from our social conventions or what is demanded by pressure groups. The command not to judge was never intended to mean that Christians could not speak the truth but the truth is always to be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus did not issue a blanket ban on judging. Indeed, He told us to judge. Those who keep quoting “do not judge” as if it was a blanket ban, have not looked sufficiently at the topic. Jesus did not say that we should never say that a person is wrong. The biblical writers frequently say that others are wrong and frequently challenge those who are wrong. Jesus did the same. It is not wrong for Christians to say that homosexual acts are sinful or to speak the truth to individuals. It is wrong not to. Inside Or Outside The Church
There are other biblical examples of people
confronting what was wrong. In one sense that was
the role of the prophets.
Paul, and the other apostles, and the New
Testament writers, spoke out strongly against what
was wrong. They also took action against people
who were sinning. One example occurred in
Corinth and Paul wrote about it in the fifth chapter
of his first letter to that church. It would be wise to
read that whole chapter.
Apparently a man was sleeping with his step-
mother. Paul says that, far from being proud, that
should have caused the church to mourn and to
have put that man out of their fellowship. That
sounds like judging. Indeed, Paul goes on to say
that he has already passed judgement on that man
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians
5:3). The man is to be handed over to Satan but
notice Paul’s motive here: “for the destruction of
the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on
the day of the Lord” (v.5).
It is tough action but the hope is that the man
might ultimately be saved. The discipline is
designed to be redemptive. The temptation in
modern churches is to avoid the confrontation,
turning a blind eye to the sin, having little concern
for people’s eternity.
Apparently the Corinthian church was proud of this
sin in its midst (see vv. 2, 6) but Paul chastised
them. There is another example of confrontation.
His argument is that “a little yeast leavens the
whole batch of dough” (v.6). If a church does not
deal with sin, it will spread throughout the whole
church. Strong action is required to protect the
people, and the integrity, of the church.
It seems incredible that a church would be proud
of sin in its members, but that is exactly what is
happening today when liberal churches feel
particularly virtuous when they promote
homosexuality.  Nothing has changed and Paul’s
words need to be heard all over again.
Then comes an important and interesting
distinction. Paul had previously told them not to
associate with the sexually immoral. He clarifies
here that he was not referring to those outside the
church. If that was the case, the church would have
to leave the world (vv.9-10). The world is full of
sinful people. The church could not avoid them all
without isolating itself completely from the world.
That is not the intention. In fact, the church is to be
in the world (but not of it (John 17:6, 11, 14, 15.))
However, Paul’s words do apply within the church.
He said, “You must not associate with any who
claim to be fellow believers but are sexually
immoral or greedy, idolaters or slanderers,
drunkards or swindlers. With such persons do not
even eat” (5:11). The key phrase there is “who claim
to be fellow believers”.
It is not the job of Christians to judge those outside
the church but it certainly is to judge those who
claim to be fellow believers. Paul sharpens the
distinction with four short statements:
It is very clear that we ARE to judge those who
claim to be believers. Church discipline is
necessary if godly standards are to be maintained.
There are dangers. People can go too far. The self-
righteous (those with planks in their eyes) can set
themselves up as judges of everybody else.
Etcetera. But that does not mean that we stop
challenging sin in the church. It simply means that
we have to do it humbly and prayerfully and
according to proper biblical procedures.
But we still haven’t completely answered the
question. Clearly, Paul said that it was none of his
business to judge those outside the church. He
described the judging as not associating with them.
Paul had no business refusing to have anything to
do with sinners outside the church. But that
doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t warn them of the
consequences of their sin. In fact, isn’t that what he
constantly did?
The prophets frequently listed the sins of the
nations neighbouring Israel and Judah. John the
Baptist challenged Herod because of his
relationship with his brother’s wife.
There are times to stand up against wrong,
including wrong “outside the church”.
The purpose though is not to merely condemn but
to seek repentance. God confronts and names sin
in the hope that people will listen and repent. That
applies to people both within and without the
church. God wants all people to be saved.
In the present context, the application is obvious.
Jesus did not command His followers to never
challenge sin. While it is primarily the Holy Spirit’s
job to convict people of sin, He frequently does
that through the words of other people – people
who care enough to confront.
Most often that will be done humbly and lovingly.
Humbly because the Christian will remember
his/her own propensity to sin. Galatians 6:1 Brothers and sisters, is someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. However, there may be times when God leads a person to take a more confrontational approach just as Jesus sometimes did. There is more on the topic of judging within the church, in the section on Judging Those Who Claim To Be Christians.

Objection: We are all sinners. No one can

judge anyone else.

Given what Jesus said about taking the plank out of our own eye before we try to remove a speck from someone else’s, if we are all sinners then none of us is in a position to challenge sin in the life of someone else. To suggest otherwise is hypocritical. Or, so it is claimed.

Response

As is often the case, there is a little bit of truth in this but a whole lot of distortion. We are all sinners. 1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. However, there is a massive difference between the person who rejects God’s truth and defiantly sins, and the person who stumbles sometimes and is deeply ashamed and repentant. The latter, knowing his/her weakness, will be hesitant to accuse someone else but will also know the importance of maintaining godly standards in the church. Even though he/she may be condemned as being judgemental, he/she loves Jesus and His church enough to risk a condemnatory reaction from those who want to keep on sinning. Clearly, if no one could uphold godliness in a church, we would be in huge trouble. The Church would be as sinful as the rest of the world. Jesus wants His church to be spotless and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 25  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26  to make her holy,  cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (See also 2 Peter 3:14.) The church may never be perfect but that is not an excuse for sin. Christ sacrificed Himself to make the church clean, radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless. If no one could challenge blatant sin, none of the maintaining of standards mentioned above could happen. It is obvious that Jesus does not expect everyone to simply turn a blind eye to sin because everyone is equally immersed in sin. The church is not meant to be a society of sinful people but a community of recovering sinners – people who have repented and been forgiven, who are now committed to pleasing God but who still need His help to do that, and who sometimes mess up. They are not perfect but they are seeking to live godly lives; they desire that the church be holy and they love people enough to care about their salvation, and therefore to warn them of the consequences of unrepentant sin.

Related pages

For further research Unwinding the “Judge Not” Knot - Marty Duren
© Peter Cheyne 2017.
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
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