“Don’t judge” – the automated response by unbelievers and silent believers alike whenever Christians mention “sin”! It makes me wonder what would happen if we told the highway patrol “Don’t judge” when he pulls us over for speeding? Or, how about we tell the doctor “Don’t judge” when he tells us to quit smoking? Or if people are robbed we tell them “Don’t judge” the thieves? Or when kids are bullied, what if we said, “Hey, don’t judge bullies!”?
Too extreme you think? Perhaps! But that’s exactly what we do when someone holds us accountable for sin and we tell them “Don’t judge”. The Bible clearly lists and describes oodles of sin yet if a brother or sister in Christ loves us enough to hold us accountable, we are still likely to default to “Don’t judge”! We do this for a variety of reasons: We assume we are being judged when our actions are questioned; our conscience is pricked so instead of dealing with the prick we deal with the person pricking; we simply don’t know there is a difference between “judging behavior” and “passing judgment”; or maybe we are in denial about our own tendency to pass judgment leaving us super sensitive to any accountability!
No matter what reasons we come up with, the root of all “Don’t judge” pleas is ignorance about true judgment and its meaning in light of Scripture. When Christian people “feel” judged they will often recite parts of Matthew 7 to demonstrate how others should not make them feel bad about sin. 1-5 “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.’”
People especially love their own renditions of the plank and speck visual which usually leads to the conclusion, “Mind your own business because we all sin!” Unfortunately, this deduction only focuses on sin and judgment while missing the message Jesus is conveying; remove our own sin to see clearly; then remove sin from others in the family.
This reminds me of reading game instructions. Sometimes we would rather just start playing instead of reading through all the instructions first, thinking we can just learn as we go along. We end up playing some games “our way” instead of the way they were designed to be played. Instructions are meant to give guidance and provide more enjoyment when rules are understood.
Christians need to read and understood the “Official Rules” in regard to judgment and sin. They might start something like this: “Matthew 7 Official Rules!” Players: Any number can play at the same time. Players are those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Contents: Sins known as planks and specks. Object: To remain free from judgment while removing sin from self and others. How to play: Carefully consider your own planks, remove them, see the specks in others, then remove those.
Loopholes and exceptions are inevitable in any game, life being no different. Christians should not assume they know how to play without reading the instructions as well as stop making up rules as we go! We need to read all the instructions and ask those with “game” experience for guidance as well as return to the instructions repeatedly for clarification. Doing so assures we understand how to play and that we all play by the same rules.
When Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged”, it was the perfect set up to play by the rules! He was saying don’t condemn, criticize, pronounce judgment, or pass sentence on people. In other words, don’t write people off because of their sin and don’t act the part of judge, handing down a death sentence. He was not suggesting we move through life ignoring our sin and refusing to see the sin in the lives of loved ones. He was not saying “Don’t judge” behavior or actions if it is sin in the body of Christ. Instead we are charged with the privilege and responsibility of handing down a life sentence to people. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Sometimes we just need a little help to acknowledge our sin in order to confess it! We need help removing the specks!
The problem comes with our understanding of judgment because most people jump to conclusions and misapply truths (make up rules) in regard to judging. However, judging something as sin is not the same as “passing judgment”. The most common English definition for “judge” is “to form an opinion or estimate”. When this definition is applied to sin, people conclude that calling out behavior as sin means we form an opinion and make a judgment about A PERSON rather than form an opinion and make a judgment about A BEHAVIOR! Immediately then, defenses go up, and we protest “Don’t judge” because we assume “WE” are being judged rather than the truth, our “SIN” is being judged.
When people play a game without knowing the rules, by using their own rules, or by changing things up as they go, it always causes arguments, frustration, and even anger as people might even throw their hands up in the air saying “I quit!” It’s no fun playing a game with people who cheat or change the rules to benefit themselves. In life, God’s rules get more and more distorted as people refuse to read His instructions and live by His rules, preferring their own set of rules. For example, one person said to me, “If people were REAL Christians they would leave the judging up to God and not spew their narrow-minded opinions. EVERYBODY has the right to love and be loved.”
There is so much wrong and implied in those words! First off, there is only ONE kind of Christian; a REAL one who actually follows Christ. People who don’t follow are not Christian. “REAL” insinuates there is a “FAKE” and “Fake Christian” is an oxymoron! In other words, you can’t be a fake follower because you would be faking your following and that would mean you are not a Christian.
Secondly, leaving the judging up to God is correct in the sense of letting God “hand down the judgment” but knowing we are our brother’s keeper gives the sense of accountability and desire to bring truth for the sake of Jesus Christ! Judging sin based on the Word of God is our responsibility. Naturally (and supernaturally) final judgment is God’s alone, but judging sin and calling it out has nothing to do with being narrow-minded or opinionated and everything to do with love! True, unconditional, God-fearing love motivates us to share the love of Jesus with people as we stay busy removing planks and specks.
Think this through! We cannot and should not rank sin, yet we do. We think our sins are HUGE LIKE PLANKS, therefore we shouldn’t deal with the little specks in others. Instead we need to remove planks from our eyes to remove the specks from our brother’s eye. BUT…for our brother, the speck we see in them is actually a plank to them. So they must remove their plank (that we call a speck) so they can see the speck (that we call a plank) in us. BUT… the speck they see in us is actually a plank and our plank is actually a speck! You get the point! Plank or speck – Sin is sin! This teaching from Jesus is all about getting rid of sin and in the process, refusing to pass judgment on each other because sin is sin is sin is sin!
Thirdly, “Everybody has the right to love and be loved” is an interesting concept that makes me think about children, love, and obedience. Children disobey parents! But even when they disobey, they are still loved! They have no “right” to disobey and they have no “right” to be loved. Love is a gift! We simply live passionately in love with them because we belong together! Our acceptance and love for children is never based on their obedience or disobedience (though we might not like them at the peak of disobedience). Love motivates Christian parents to judge behavior as sin! We remove our own sin and then we also remove it from our kids, most often through discipline and punishment, which always hurts, but is always worth the effort! Likewise, taking a plank or a speck out of the eye is painful! But oh, what sweet relief when it is out!
If love is a “right”, I guess our kids have the right to come back at us and say, “Hey, Dad and Mom – Don’t judge me! Be REAL Christian parents! Leave the judging to God! Stop spewing your narrow-minded beliefs (opinions) at me! I have rights you know! I have the right to love and to be loved. Back off!”
No, love cannot be contained in a “right”. Rights involve entitlement or thinking we are justified in making a claim on something. The moment we start thinking of “love” in terms of a “right” we fall into the trap of thinking we have done something to deserve love. That is a slippery slope into conditional love if there ever was one. God is love! God first loved us therefore we are able to love others. Love is not based on what we do or don’t do but on who we are! We have no right to be loved but we are blessed by the gift of love! We have a God who loves unconditionally so that we can love unconditionally!
So what should we do instead of cry out “Don’t judge” all the time? Read the instruction manual. Don’t judge! Oh, but please remove those planks and specks! Irritating specks, glaring planks – what’s the difference? Let’s do something about all of them! Jesus did!