(This blog may be a bit lengthy but please don't let that frighten you. I was merely trying to be thorough.)
If there is one teaching from Christianity that gets touted more than any other I would have to say the subject of judging others would be a strong contender for first place. Christians and non-Christians alike pull out this doctrine in order to silence all kinds of speech and confrontation. The question however, is whether or not the modern way of defining judging is the same as the Bible's use of the term. If it is not, then it is a false doctrine being spread and not a true Christian teaching. Therefore, it would be wise to carefully look at what Christ taught concerning the judging of others in the context of His teaching as well as within the context of the rest of God's word.
We should begin by pointing out that there seems to be an acceptable form of hypocrisy in our society when it comes to what people consider to be judgmental and what they do not. For example, if an individual who bases his moral compass by his faith has an opinion and someone doesn't like it then the person of faith is often accused of being judgmental. However, if a worldly minded individual has an opinion that others don't like then he is a "free thinker" and is entitled to proclaim his opinion. This has become part of the new definition of judgmental.
It is ironic how Christians are not supposed to say anything about wrong actions to anyone or they are automatically judged as judgmental, yet if they do not walk perfectly in all their conduct they are judged as hypocrites. What happened to society's call of not judging others? Perhaps indeed that individual may be a hypocrite. On the other hand he may be someone who is trapped in a habitual sin that he is desperately wishing he could be free of. However, no such consideration is given by those who would most often decry judgment. While those who would like to judge Christians and point out that the Bible says, "do not judge," (which we will address shortly) they seem completely unaware of the following verse:
But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. (I Corinthians 2:15 NKJV)
Of course, the most ironic thing about the new definition of judgmental is the fact that one cannot point out to anyone that they are being judgmental without making themselves into hypocrites. If being judgmental means that one cannot tell another they are doing wrong, even by citing Biblical standards, then one cannot declare that someone is wrong and judgmental without violating their own idea of what being judgmental is! They become even more hypocritical if they try to use Scripture to back up their stance. The double standard would look something like this; "You are wrong for telling somebody that, according to the Bible, what they are doing or how they are living is wrong, because according to the Bible, God is the judge and the Bible says, 'Judge not lest you be judged.'"
This hypocrisy highlights the fact that the modern definition of judgmental is not the Biblical definition. One cannot use Scripture to argue against Scripture. The Word of God works together. It does not defend opposing positions.
Fear of being labeled
Unfortunately it would seem that there are a growing number of Christians who are more concerned with the possibility of being labeled judgmental than they are about warning others of the certainty of coming judgment. We should always see, within ourselves, a red flag when we are more concerned with what others think of us than we are concerned with what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Jesus offended people all of the time. So did the Apostles and the Old Testament prophets. They did not do so with that goal in mind, but God's truth has always been offensive to those who are in rebellion against Him.
One example is that of John the Baptist. He confronted Herod's sin. However, Herod did not silence John's unwanted confrontation by labeling him as judgmental. Instead, Herod threw John into prison.
For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of He-rōdi-as, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (Matthew 14:3, 4 NKJV)
But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning He-rōdi-as, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison. (Luke 3:19, 20 NKJV)
Of course, most people don't have the authority to throw others into prison if they disagree with their speech (although if they had such authority you can bet many would exercise it), so they do what they can and label them with names that society finds distasteful. In effect, they have placed them in a social prison where their speech will hopefully be ignored.
Some believers may hold to the worldly view of what the term judgmental means out of shear ignorance. However, I am convinced that others do so purposefully for it provides an excuse for them not to confront others with their sin. It's a live-and-let-live attitude that ignores the fact that souls end up in hell if they don't come to terms with their sin and repent.
“When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. (Ezekiel 3:18 NKJV)
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40 NKJV)
Removing the confrontation of sin from the Gospel message transforms a soul saving word into something rather sappy and weak. There are Christians who are trying to be nice, spreading a message of, "Jesus loves you and wants to be close to you," all the while avoiding the plight of sin in an individual's life because they do not want to be judgmental. Exactly how are people supposed to receive salvation if they do not know they need to be saved from impending danger? How can they accept the full Gospel of Jesus Christ when we have only offered them half of it? (And to be sure, there are others who have only offered the half dealing with sin and judgment and have left out God's love, thereby doing just as much a disservice to the precious Gospel as those who refuse to talk about sin.)
I am getting ahead of myself however, so let's back up a bit to Jesus' words on the subject.
Christ teaches about judging others
There is a favorite verse of Scripture quoted by non-Christians and uncommitted Christians where Jesus says in Matthew 7:1 - "Judge not, that you be not judged." Let me first say that a non-Christian wielding Scripture is akin to a one year old operating a computer; they may get it to light up but they really have no idea what they are doing. The Bible addresses this very matter:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV)
The idea that someone who has not given themselves to Christ and received His Spirit nor reads the Bible on any kind of regular basis can then pull one verse out of Scripture and declare truthful doctrine is ridiculous. How can someone be expected to correctly apply Scripture that they spend a good portion of their life ignoring?
So let us have a look at Matthew 7:1 in context so we can know what Jesus was really teaching.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV)
It can clearly be seen by the context that Jesus was not teaching a doctrine of silence on the matter of sin, nor was He implying that we should live and let live. (In fact, such teaching would run contrary to the entire context of the Bible.) The over-all idea is that if we are going to point out sin as a sin we better not be practicing that same or similar sin in our own life. Why? Because we will be judged by that same measure. We cannot have one standard for us and another standard for every one else. We must apply God's standard across the board. The book of Romans expands this concept:
Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? (Romans 2:17-23 NKJV)
Notice that the teaching has nothing to do with remaining silent about sin, but making sure an individual examines and corrects him/herself before correcting others. Look at Jesus' teaching in Matthew 7 once again. He says, "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye," (emphasis mine). It is clear that we are expected to help one another remove the specks (sin) from each other's lives. Why? Because love does not leave another individual plagued if they have the means to help, and too many Christians are allowing people to remain in sin because they have bought into the devil's translation of what being judgmental is. Yet, let me emphasize, we cannot effectively address sin in another person's life if we are allowing it in our own.
You may protest and say, "Doesn't that still disqualify anyone from saying anything since no one is perfect?" Here is another area where the devil has been allowed to pervert the truth. The premise is that you are not perfect so just keep your mouth shut. It is the same deflection technique employed by immature married couples during an argument. Instead of dealing with the situation at hand, the accused spouse brings up a past fault of the other. The thought is that the two wrongs somehow cancel each other out and therefore everyone should just keep quiet.
Imagine if we operated our entire society like this. No one would be allowed to teach or correct anyone because no one is perfect. We would quickly degenerate into a barbaric culture where every wrong done is canceled out by somebody else's wrongdoing. It would be complete and unrestrained chaos. Clearly this is not what God expects and such an idea does not fit into the context of Scripture. The prophets, apostles, and other leaders God raised up were all imperfect people who corrected others and, when necessary, corrected themselves. Therefore, perfection is not a requirement for giving correction. Besides, how could one even begin traveling toward perfection if no one is ever allowed to point the way? Sometimes it is more practical to journey along with people than to shout directions from the finish line.
Furthermore, if Christ's definition of judging was the same as as our new definition of judging then a majority of what the prophets and apostles said and wrote would be in violation of that command. The Lord never contradicted the Scriptures or the prophets, but constantly affirmed them and their authority. Therefore, Christ's command not to judge could not have been a command to keep silent about sin.
What about love?
Along with this warped definition of being judgmental comes a warped definition of love which suggests that love just smiles and waves politely while people go on their merry way to hell. This distorted version of love never warns anyone of wrongdoing for fear of offending someone. It makes every action okay and requires nothing more from the disciple of Christ then to be nice. The idea is that the Christian's nice life will eventually lead people to Jesus. However, Jesus made it clear that everyone must come to Him through the door of repentance. If there is no confrontation of sin there will be no recognition of sin and therefore no understanding that one needs to repent!
What about hate?
Jesus told His disciples that the world would hate them because the world hated Him.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:18, 19 NKJV)
However, Jesus revealed to His disciples earlier that the hatred they will face from the world is not really a hatred of them, it is a hatred of the Lord. This begs the question; why would the world hate Jesus and His disciples if they were just being nice and telling people God loves them and wants to be their friend? The Lord revealed the answer to that question in the earlier teaching just mentioned:
“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil." (John 7:7 NKJV)
Did you see that? The world hates Jesus, and therefore His disciples, because their message dares to point out that the works of the world are evil! That's the world's very definition of being judgmental... but it is apparently not God's definition.
I believe this hatred of Christ's disciples is a determining factor of why so many Christians accept this perverted definition of what being judgmental is. People want to be liked, even Christians. Confronting sin and challenging someone to consider their separation from God is uncomfortable and could result in being hated. Therefore, in order to avoid that unpleasant situation Christians have found an escape hatch using the new definition of judgmental. They say, "It's not my place to judge," meaning they don't have to talk about the tough half of the Gospel message.
Consider how that will play out on Judgment Day. All those people you were afraid might label you as judgmental will stand condemned before the judgment seat of Christ. And when they turn and look at you and ask why you kept your mouth shut what excuse will you offer? "Well, I didn't want to be judgmental." How much do you have to hate somebody to let them go to the judgment seat of Christ without warning them because you don't want to be hated?
Of course, there is one other reason to consider as to why some Christians happily buy into this new definition of judgmental; they want to keep the plank in their own eye. Some believers are living a compromised faith and they know it. They also know that their carnal Christianity disqualifies them from being able to address sin in another's life. Therefore they say nothing so that nothing is said to them. They judge not so that they are not judged. They shine no light on the sin of another because they fear having the light shined back on them.
Again, how much do you have to hate someone to do this? How can an individual love their sin and compromised lifestyle more than a living breathing person?! How can a Christian let someone go to hell just so they don't have to walk a straight line with God? Such behavior is the epitome of selfishness and hatred.
So what is judging?
If biblical judging does not match what the modern day definition is, then what does the Bible mean when it addresses the subject of not being judgmental? Judging someone is essentially rooted in the sin of pride. It is the attitude that considers oneself somehow superior to another. Instead of humbly declaring the truth in God's word out of concern for another's eternal soul, the judgmental individual has condemned the other as some kind of sinful degenerate unworthy of God's love and salvation. The judgmental individual forgets that he/she is also a sinner and was undeserving of God's love and salvation as well.
This was the attitude found in many of the Pharisees and Saducees (the Jewish religious leaders) in Christ's time. They constantly looked down upon others as inferior sinners having little or no concern for their souls. They even condemned Jesus for associating with them. This was, in part, what led to their rejection of Jesus because He came, not condemning sinners, but lovingly offering them salvation from their sins. Sins which He pointed out so they understood their need for God's salvation.
Of course, when someone doesn't want to be told they are doing wrong in the eyes of God (the only eyes that truly matter) they have a tendency to perceive anyone who declares God's word as having a holier-than-thou attitude and therefore label them as judgmental. While there are people who obviously have no love for their fellow man and are full of pride and consider themselves superior to others, that is certainly not the case of everyone who holds the Bible to be true. In fact, to decide someone is just full of pride and therefore judgmental simply because we don't like what they have to say would make us judgmental.
The following passages illustrates the way a child of God is to operate in confronting sin and avoiding a judgmental attitude.
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (II Timothy 2:23-26 NKJV)
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:1-3 NKJV)
It is clear that the world's definition of what being judgmental is is a perversion of what Jesus taught. For the non-Christian it means that if you are going to stick to that definition you cannot use Christ's words to back up your position. You are just plain wrong.
For the Christian it means that it is time to stop propagating this false doctrine and start loving people and giving them the FULL Gospel message. It is time to stop hiding from labels and start standing boldly, but humbly, for the eternal souls of men and women. It is time to get our own lives right with God in order to see clearly to remove the speck from our brother's eye. Your excuses to avoid confronting others (and yourself) about sin are biblically invalid.