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“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”—Romans 2:1 (NKJV)
The word judge gets a bad rap. We’ve all heard phrases like, “Who are you to judge?” or “Don’t judge me!” These comments probably stem from the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV).
Many people focus on the first two words of the verse, which can elicit a hypersensitivity to being judged or a fear of being labeled as judgmental. Sadly, this overshadows what Jesus meant. As a result, many Christians are afraid to say anything that could come across as critical, but that’s an ingredient for disaster within the Church.
To prevent any misunderstanding, let’s look at what Jesus said in context. In verses 3-5 of Matthew Chapter 7, Jesus says we should first look at our own behavior before exercising judgment on someone else. It’s the same principle we see in John’s Gospel when the woman was caught in adultery. Her accusers were told that anyone without sin could cast the first stone at her. No man could.
For us, it might look more like this: Do you routinely break traffic laws and then yell at other drivers when you see them do a “California stop”? Well, there you go. Jesus says, “Don’t do that.” Rather, Jesus encourages, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
What we do need to understand is that judgment isn’t forbidden, but hypocritical judgment is. This is what Paul points out in today’s verse: It’s inexcusable to judge someone’s behavior if we practice the same type of behavior.
But what is also inexcusable is not exercising judgment when the need presents itself. If that’s difficult, or you think tolerance is the better option, consider this: God disciplines those He loves. To exercise judgment as guidance or discipline is a form of love. Jesus tells us if we see someone sin, rebuke them (Luke 17:3). But do so lovingly (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 16:14). The motivation should be to restore the person, not condemn him (Galatians 6:2).
A healthy church includes careful judgment. It’s a blend of ensuring one’s own walk with Christ is upright, and then scripturally counseling others who stumble along their way. We don’t want to pick on people, but rather pick them up. That’s the message Jesus conveyed in His teaching, and that’s the message we should convey to the watching world.
DIG: What do you think Jesus meant when He said to look at the log in our eye before trying to remove the speck in someone else’s eye? What is the significance of a speck versus a log?
DISCOVER: To discover more about how to judge righteously, read and study Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 5-6, and James 5:19-20. What are the differences between biblical and unbiblical judgment?
DISPLAY: Are you judgmental? Are you afraid to judge? These are both extreme forms of perfect judgment. In what ways can you move to a healthier balance?
Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.