Buckle up, Kemosahbe. Here we go.
Ever heard the saying, “I can do all things through a verse taken out of context”? This couldn’t be truer when it comes to judging.
Did Jesus actually say, “Do not judge”? Yes.
First, YES! As clear as a bell in Matthew 7:1-6.
BUT, BUT, BUT, it’s more than that.
Context is everything. You must keep in mind the whole section (not just the verse), the rest of Matthew’s gospel, and the rest of the Bible to understand what Jesus is fully saying.
He’s saying, “Don’t have a judgmental spirit.”
A judgemental spirit is where you live to find fault with others–disappointed if you can’t find something and unsatisfied until you do.
It’s when you look for the worst about another(s), view them only according to their worst moments, and without having all the facts.
Yet, Jesus also instructs that WE MUST JUDGE.
– In Matthew 7:5, after our own self-reflection for blind spots and repentance of any judgemental spirit, Jesus says to point out the speck in the other’s eye.
– In Matt 7:6, Jesus instructs us not to cast Biblical Truths and the gospel before “dogs and pigs” (more on that below).
That’s some strong judging.
– In Matt. 7:15-20, Jesus says to watch out for false influencers who appear as caring sheep but are deceptive wolves to lead you astray from Biblical Truth.
In fact, 22 out of the 27 New Testament letters deal with false influencers and false doctrine. Scripture’s harshest language and actions are often used toward these folks.
– In Matt. 18:1, Jesus says if your brother sins, go to them privately about it.
– In John 7:24, Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
Jesus verbatim tells us to judge. But in the right way (humbly, carefully, loving, privately).
Then there’s the rest of the New Testament.
We must judge other professing Christians (1 Cor. 5:12).
We must judge even to the point that a professing Christian in unrepentant sin is expelled from the church (1 Cor 5:13), turned over to satan (1 Tim 1:20), and left alone (Titus 3:10; Matt 18:17).
Suffice it to say that if you are not a Christian, or claim to be a Christian void of a high view of Scripture, rightly interpreted for thousands of years, this will all sound like nonsense, even cruel.
Yet, this is how the Scriptures, even Jesus, instruct us.
Along similar lines, judging isn’t meant to be punitive.
Judging is when you love the person so very much that you’re willing to take God at His word and risk it all–your relationship with them, even condemnation from them, and from others.
You risk it all for their good in the hope that they’ll feel the unbearable gravity of their sin, feel beat up and lied to by Satan, then repent/return to Christ, Truth, and godliness.
Simply put, judging is to intervene in someone’s life who is self-disintegrating and/or self-destructing in faith and conduct; and who has flaws of character that are damaging to their life, reputation, relationships, and gospel testimony.
The safest way to judge is noticing and having a clear sense of where another Christian’s life is in rebellion toward Scriptural truth regarding faith and conduct.
As a brief example, Romans 1:18-32 deals at length with the sin of homosexuality as under God’s wrath AND the sins of greed, gossip, and breaking promises, to name just a few.
We are all guilty to some degree, so we need each other to point us back to the gospel and repentance. To remind us to take up our crosses and deny ourselves.
In addition, the mentions of Romans 1 are not nebulous things but clear Biblical sins to “judge” (and be judged by) in a humble, caring, loving spirit and approach.
The goal of judging is not to put someone in their place, shame or condemn them.
The goal is to win their heart and life to the gospel and Biblical wholeness (hol-iness), obedience, repentance, restoration, joy, and true freedom.
Sadly, the danger is that they respond in the way Jesus compares with dogs and pigs–outraged, angered, condemning, attacking, blaming, mocking, accusing.
If so, Jesus says to leave them to their own devices.
After all, if you feed a ravenous dog or pig what they don’t like, they will turn on you and eat you.
That’s Jesus’ point.
Still, even with those who respond in that way, they might not stay there, so we continue to pray and hope for their repentance. And should they repent, Paul has this to say:
“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Cor. 2:5-8).
If/when I’m ever in flagrant sin, and/or behaving in a way that makes my character questionable, I pray to God almighty that another brother and/or sister in Christ will judge me in unconditional love, and not support me with unconditional acceptance.
That’s truly the way of Jesus.
Dear Pastor Jarrod,
Could it be that the context for “plank” here is not an actual plank: Have you ever seen a person with a literal plank in their eye? I believe plank in this context connotes something like “a thousand specks.” So getting them all out of our own eye will take so long we’ll never get back to our preoccupation with the one speck in our neighbor’s eye.
You give it half a sentence emphasis and from the news we learned the SBC is not overly keen on self-reflection either; how’s that working for them? Jesus used the word “hypocrite” in this very teaching, a sobering word we don’t utter nearly often enough when we look in the mirror.
I don’t quote Kenneth Copeland frequently but I once heard him bellow “YOU do the loving; it’s up to GOD to do the judging!”
Thanks, my brother—
Dear Pastor Jarrod,
Thank you so very much for this very timely, urgent, and most important message. I am in attendance at church every Sunday and therefore know that you never point out sin without first pointing the finger at yourself. Your messages are always spoken in true humility and love. Of course none of us are perfect – myself included. None of us have all the answers and none of us are as pure as the driven snow.
I have a dear friend of many years who I had a couple discussions with recently about the very subject matter discussed in your blog. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12 NIV). It seems to be a very clear statement. We either accept it and obey it or reject it. This friend is one of the most beautiful, sweetest, loving, committed Christians I know. BUT…..she can’t seem to accept this Scripture – as many can’t. She kept telling me how we are all sinners and God is the Judge and look what King David did. Of course, there was lust, adultery, lies, and a premeditated murder plot of his faithful warrior servant Uriah. I kept repeating ONE thing which my friend apparently cannot hear and that is this: ‘BUT DAVID REPENTED!”
When I used to see the above Scripture put into practice by certain groups of people, I thought it seemed rather harsh also. But I never questioned that what they were doing was BIBLICAL. I think perhaps what was bothering me was the lack of love at times. There is usually no reason for lack of common courtesy, kindness, and civility.
It matters not to me if a literal plank is in my eye or 1,000 specks. I’ve never seen a big fish swallow a man and spit him up on shore either. But I believe it happened. The Lord has a purpose and Divine plan behind every word in the Bible and sometimes I wonder if it’s just to amuse me. Like today, for instance. I did not recall that Dagon, the ‘fish-god’ was worshiped in Ninevah and throughout the region. (Judges 16:23, 1 Samuel 5:1-7, 1 Chronicles 10:8-12). Isn’t it just like God to use an object which apes their object of worship to literally spit out a man to deliver the Gospel?!
Judgment begins in the House of God. (1 Peter 4:17) and there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed (Luke 8:17). Surely, there have been many churches and church denominations with sin and cover-ups exposed. Over the last couple days, I have been looking at the matter reported from a non-denominational church in Indiana which was recently in the news. Even for this heinous crime, there is certainly forgiveness from a loving God if one is truly repentant turning from his/her sin. If we speak to people who are professing Christians and we see they are still in sin year after year instead of fleeing from the temptation such as young Joseph did with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12), we need to confront them in love. With true repentance comes turning from the sin. If not, it not only puts that person’s soul in danger, it confuses and disgusts people who are not yet Christians, and it hurts The Church. (The ENTIRE Body of Christ).
In the Indiana case, a pastor had an altar call and then a ‘confession’. He confessed to adultery 20 years before [not an accurate statement]. Actually, it was more than adultery. He was in a position of trust and authority over the girl and exerted a serious abuse of power. Not by Indiana law maybe, but by the victim’s words, he raped a 16-year old parishioner in his office and who knows how many times when her parents were away and she stayed at his home. This went on for years. He says she was the only one. However, with child molesters, there are usually MANY victims before they are caught, and although the Statute of Limitations may be up on this one, I hope they will investigate this wolf in sheep’s clothing very long and deeply.
Before the Pastor’s ‘confession’, he said his name and there was a rousing round of applause from the congregation. AFTER the confession, there was a rousing standing ovation. For what? When the victim and her husband approached the altar after the pastor spoke, she pointed out that it was 27 years – an extra seven years in hell for her – since he first took her virginity when she was 16 years young. What was the ovation for? Is this what the Church has come to? He was exposed by the victim and her brother 27 years later and only THEN did he ‘confess’.
She and her husband approached the front wanting to speak, with her husband showing incredible love and amazing restraint. His wife acknowledged that she tried to get help, that several people in the church knew – and they didn’t stop it. They didn’t even try to get her counseling. At some point in another report, the pastor it is said, was told not to make the confession. In the end, her husband held up a necklace the pastor had given the victim and the purity ring she wore when he had taken her virginity. He threw it on the floor and said he did not want it in his house.
What hurt me even more was that as the couple walked out, a large throng of people went right up to console and gather and pray around the pastor……while this young couple walked out alone in quietness with just a couple hugs along the way (which possibly may have been family). THIS is what ‘LOVE’ looks like when The Church does not follow the FULL counsel of Scripture.
Our beloved country is in a dreadful mess of late on so many levels. What is more worrisome is that so is The Church. It is up to us to change the heart of our nation. If our country is in such a mess, whose fault is it? It is ours – The Church. Did the Lord not promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My Face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and WILL HEAL THEIR LAND. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” Is He a liar? He WILL do what He promised if we do our part.
Thank you for all that you shared! Insightful and thought-provoking. Thank you.
You’re very welcome, Pastor and have a blessed day. Looking forward to worship tonight!
Beautifully said. ❤️