One of the  most widespread arguments against Christians is that they are “judgmental” or  “always imposing their views on others.” Often, this criticism comes in response  to Christians who speak out against behaviors and lifestyles that God judges as  “sin” and has declared to be an outrage to Him (see Proverbs  16:1). We live in a society where “everyone [does] what [is] right in his  own eyes” (Judges  21:25)—where people insist that there are no moral absolutes, that each man  should decide for himself what is right or wrong, and that we should “tolerate”  (meaning “celebrate”) sinful activities. Those who take seriously the biblical  warnings against sin and dare speak out against evil are written off as  religious fanatics, and all Christians are, ironically, judged as being  “judgmental.”

The Scripture that is used the most to support the idea  that Christians should not judge is Matthew 7:1,  where Jesus says to His disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It’s one  verse that many unbelievers can quote. Another popular saying, taken from John 8:7, is “He that is  without sin, let him cast the first stone.” But when we read these verses in  their immediate contexts, it becomes glaringly obvious that Jesus is not warning  against every kind of judging but against hypocritical, self-righteous judging (see Matthew  7:1-5; John  8:1-11). In other words, a man should refrain from pronouncing judgment on  those who commit the very sin in which he engages, for “with the judgment [we]  pronounce [we] will be judged” (Matthew  7:2). This exhortation is similar to the point made by the apostle Paul when  he asks, “Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who practice such things  and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3). These verses are a warning against hypocrisy  and, at the same time, an exhortation to right living.

However,  hypocritical judging is the only kind of judging the Bible says that Christians  should avoid. The Christian must “judge” or discern between good and evil  (Hebrews  5:14)! We must make spiritual evaluations of the words and behavior of  others, not to find fault, but to effectively guard our hearts against error and  sin (1  Corinthians 2:14-15; Proverbs  4:23). In fact, immediately after Jesus warned His disciples against  hypocritical judgment, He says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw  your pearls before pigs” (Matthew  7:6). How is the Christian supposed to know who the “dogs” and the “pigs”  are unless he or she exercises discernment? Furthermore, Jesus warns His  disciples just a few verses later, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in  sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by  their fruits” (Matthew  7:15-16). This admonition is given not only with regard to “false prophets”  but also concerning anyone who comes in the name of Christ but who, by his  actions, denies Christ (Titus 1:16;  cf. Matthew  3:8).

According to Jesus, this kind of judgment is considered “right  judgment” (John 7:24) and  is strongly encouraged. We are to be “as wise as serpents and innocent as doves”  (Matthew  10:16), and wisdom demands that we be discerning (Proverbs 10:13). And when  we have discerned rightly, we are to speak the truth, with love being the  motivating factor (Ephesians  4:15). Love requires that we gently confront those in error with the truth  about their sin with the hope of bringing them to repentance and faith (Galatians 6:1). “Whoever  brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death” (James 5:20). The true  Christian speaks the truth—not merely what he believes to be the truth,  but the truth as plainly revealed in God’s Word. The truth, especially the truth  about good and evil, exists independently from what we feel or think (Isaiah 5:20-21).

Those who reject or are offended by the truth simply prove the power of God’s  Word to convict the heart of man; for “the Word of God is living and active,  sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of  spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of  the heart” (Hebrews  4:12).

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