Matthew 7:1 1"Do not judge so that you will not be judged."
John 7:24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment"
Review from yesterday
Yesterday we concluded that the only time we are not to judge is when we judge wrongly. Wrong types of judgment include judgment that is ill-informed, done with the intent to harm, ignorant of scripture and ill-timed. These are the type of judging prohibited by scripture. As we noted also, we hear constantly the cry of of people, inside and outside the church, to not be too judgmental. What was it that Jesus was exactly teaching in Matthew 7? Was He telling his listeners and us to not excercise any judgment whatsoever? Like yesterday's blog, I included John 7:24 which sheds light on the intent behind Jesus' words.
Aim of today: Judging rightly
I would like us to take some moments to reflect on Jesus's words and other scripture to understand that it is not only the Christian's right, but duty to judge correctly. As you go down through Matthew 7 and other passages, you discover the right kinds of judgment:
1. Christian's have the right and duty to judge when they aim to help their brother
We as Christians are to look for ways to stimulate one another onto love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24-25) This is important, since as Christians we have a duty to warn one another of destructive tendencies we may see in one another. (Galatians 6:1; Jude 22-23) Matthew 18 is the most detailed passage in God's Word that spells out how the church is to function with this right kind of judgment. Whenever I refuse to rightly judge a fellow brother or sister who is wallowing in known sin, I'm not interested in loving them nor building them up.
2. Christian's have the right and duty to judge when they are informed
What is interesting about Matthew 7 is how much Jesus actually urges us to excercise the right kind of judgment. In Matthew 7:1-4 he warns against judging others whenever our only aim is to destroy that other person. However in Matthew 7:5 we see Jesus instructing us to proceed ahead in dealing with our fellow brother once we have removed the "log" out of our own eye. Getting rid of our own blind spot will greatly aid in us being able to have a clearer perspective on a given situation.1
3. Christian's have the right and duty to judge whenever they consult God's word in its context
By what basis was Jesus teaching his listeners about the difference between right and worng judgment? Notice Matthew 7:28-29 "And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." This spells out why many in his audience were exercising wrong judgment - they never consulted the scriptures in their context. Its not enough to take a verse and apply haphazardly, since such a practice is just as bad as not consulting the scripture at all. Appropriate use of scripture in discernment and judgment requires using it in the right context.
4. Christian's have the right and duty to judge whenever they do so with patience
This final principle in judging rightly is gained from looking once again at Matthew 7:15-20. Jesus tells us we have the right to judge a person's profession of faith based upon the fruit of their actions. The question is: does fruit take time to develop or does it develop the next day? Discernment is necessary when knowing when to address a professing Christian that has went a period of time without bearing fruit. Jesus' urges us as Christians to be mindful of spiritual fruit - however we must remember that sometimes it takes a while for good fruit to develop.2 Whenever we exercise patience, the Lord promises He will guide us so that perchance that person may be granted repentance to escape from the snare of the evil one. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Conclusion and benefits of judging rightly
As we conclude this short study on judging, we can note the following. First, a Christian should not judge when they have ill-motives, lack of all the information, are ignoring the scripture or impatient. Secondly, we discovered today that Jesus and the rest of scripture tells Christians that they have the right to judge when they aim to build up, have all the information, are using scripture in context and have patience. When we judge in the manner prescribed by Jesus and the other biblical authors, we will function in spiritual maturity (Hebrews 5:14) and be equipped to issue the call to faith and repentance mandated by the Gospel. (Acts 3:19) My prayer is that these blogs have aided you in thinking through this important subject of practicing proper judgment.
1 Furthermore, Christians are told by Jesus that they have the ability to judge and call people to repentance: "Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:20) That is a judgment call that entails having the information gained from watching a persons lifestyle and behavior - which Jesus does advocate.
2 So then, what happens when we don't see the good fruit develop? Furthermore, how long should we go until we tell that person we don't see fruit developing? Whenever you gain all the information, have the motive to be constructive and have consulted scripture in context, you will have the basis upon which to approach that person. Timing is everything. Certainly to not do anything is unacceptable.