Lukewarm or ‘cultural’ Christians often like to propagate the notion that judging is always wrong. Alongside non-Christians, they feel like Christians have no right to tell others that certain behaviours or ideologies are evil. To support this false notion, they’ll pull verses out of context.
The go-to verse for such people is Matthew 7:1. I mean it is clear that we should not judge based on this verse. But wait, maybe it is taken out of context.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. (Matthew 7:1, NASB)
Looking at the next few verses, it is clear that Jesus was condemning hypocritical judgement. He was telling them that they were hypocrites because they did not take the log out of their own eye yet were pointing out the speck in someone else’s eye. Jesus then tells them to first deal with their own sins, and then they can confront the sin of others.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:2-5, NASB)
Interestingly, in the very next verse, Jesus goes on to tell us not to give what is holy to dogs and not to cast pearls before swine. How can we discern whether or not we are talking to those who are like dogs or pigs if we do not judge and distinguish between people?
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to piece. (Matthew 7:6, NASB)
Even in verses 15 and 16, Jesus tells us that we have to watch out for false prophets. How can discern who these are without judgement? Should we not judge them by their fruits as the verse indicates?
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? (Matthew 7:15-16, NASB)
We need to let Scripture interpret Scripture. As indicated, the command of Matthew 7:1 to refrain from judging is against hypocritical judgement. Furthermore, the context of the passage indicates that Christians are called to show discernment of people’s behaviours and ideologies by judging them by their fruit.
In John 7:24, we see Jesus commanding those at the Feast of Tabernacles to judge righteously by the Word of God and not by mere appearances. As Christians, we are commanded to judge righteously by the Word of God. Our opinions are useless, but the Word of God is inspired, infallible, and inerrant. Those who reject the command to judge righteously by the Word of God are promoting false tolerance and the expense of truth.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24, NASB)