Isn’t that how the verse goes? My heart’s desire is to see myself and others follow Jesus – I mean really follow Him with reckless abandon. I want to be what Keith Green described as “bananas for Jesus.” Trouble is, I’m a screw-up. I mess up, I hurt others, I turn away from God, I am not good enough to do it on my own. The truth is none of us really are (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:11).
Being in a leadership role at a church, I am often called upon to confront sin in the lives of leadership. This, you can probably imagine, is not a fun or popular role when some of the leadership are close friends. Often the response I get when confronting sin in someone’s life is for some (1) “you’re not perfect either” or (2) “stop judging.” To the first I will wholeheartedly agree; I believe the above-mentioned verses apply to me as as much if not more than to anyone. This second statement, however, I disagree with. I believe it stems from a lack of understanding on the Bible’s teaching on judging one another’s actions.
I believe scripture affirms that Christians are to exercise with discernment: loving judgment upon each other (John 7:24, 2 Timothy 4:2). In truth, I believe it is one of the most loving things that we can do for one another. Some may reply, “But what about Matthew 7:1,” in which Jesus states:
1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
I agree with that too. The same word may be used, but the concept is entirely different. The first speaks of a judgment that is based in truth, love, and humility. The latter speaks of a judgment that is based in hypocrisy, pride, and a false sense of righteousness. Both hurt initially, but in the end one restores and one condemns.
I mentioned before that the judgment in John 7 & Matthew 18 is one of the most loving things we can do for each other. How can that be? Here is how it works for me. I have been and still am an idiot. I have done things or thought things that were harmful to me, my faith, my goals, and my relationships. Sometimes I do these things so subconsciously that I don’t even notice them or at times I simply ignore them. Now, for my friends who love me and know my love for Christ and desire to follow Him, which is more loving?
(1) Seeing what I’m doing, saying, “I’m no better, so I can’t confront him about that” and leaving me with my junk to the detriment of everything in my life
(2) Recognizing their shortcomings, still coming alongside me, saying, “I’m not perfect, but I have seen this in your life. I know this isn’t what you want to be doing, and you know God has better things in mind for you. Can we work through this together?” Among Christians this is often referred to as accountability, but at its root it is a loving judgment between two or more people with their good in mind.
So is it ever right to judge another Christian’s actions? Yes! But when you do, it must be done in humility, recognizing your shortcomings, with love for the confronted and restoration in mind. Too many people have been hurt by unloving judgments.
Matthew 7:4: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Judgment is not always wrong, but if you find yourself in a situation where it is necessary, make sure you remove your plank before proceeding.