Over the past week---and largely in reference to the Supreme Court's recent "decision," I have been perplexed and disheartened by what seems to be an increasingly and common notion that "Christians," in the name of "love"---and by the mandate of Scripture, should never be about the business of "judging" anyone.
Of course, this sentiment is just one more symptom of a much bigger problem; that of Christians and even Pastors, who habitually and incessantly insist on interpreting Scripture out of context---and not only out of context, but also interpreting while ignoring the plain and antithetical opinions of Early Church Fathers---both pre and post-Nicene, on the exact same subjects. Scripture is played with loose and fast---and the orthodox tenants of the Christian faith are completely ignored---both traded for a new manner and means of arriving at Biblical interpretation---namely, their opinion---founded, formed, and flaunted as Gospel, when in reality, it is grossly untrue and dangerously misleading.
Lest some of you arrive at the opinion that I am exaggerating the issue by using adjectives such as “grossly” and “dangerously,” let me assure you that I have seen friendships destroyed and ministries thrown into a state of upheaval, all over misinterpretations concerning the subject of judging.
I have heard, both from the layman tongue and authoritative pulpit, that Jesus said, “judge not, lest ye be judged...(Matthew 7:1-5).” These verses are displayed as a badge of honor for those who champion tolerance in every situation and circumstance, but especially in the areas of everything that is an enemy of the Cross---whether it be someone of another faith tradition speaking ill of Christ and His Christians’ or it be someone inauspiciously indicating ill-will toward Americans and their “imperialistic” vice, we are instructed to dismiss all discernment and judgement and welcomingly accept their unfounded and ungrounded sentiments with joy and without comeback, all because Jesus said, “judge not!”
But what did Jesus really mean and what do the Scriptures actually say about the subject and practice of judging? Well, let’s look at what Jesus did not mean first. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus did not mean that one should not or could not recognize the faults of others. If he did mean that, then his meaning would not have been compatible with Matthew 7:5-6 where Jesus indeed speaks of removing the splinter from your brother's eye. If one were to read the entirety of these verses in Matthew 7 and consequently interpret them in CONTEXT, they would plainly see what Jesus meant; namely, that the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of others and ignores his own faults, is committing a serious offense. These verses are NOT a prohibition against judging rightly or justly.
In fact, the Bible indeed teaches, that we are to judge rightly and justly. In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” In this text, Jesus is talking about making righteous judgments in regard to God’s laws. It is imperative and incumbent upon us to make right judgments in matters of Christian doctrine vis-a-vis the Word of the Living God. The Church Fathers, along with Bible Scholars today, understand that to not do so, will result in nothing but conflicting opinions about what the Bible means or says---and the result will be disastrous because everyone will be interpreting Scripture to suit their own needs---and indeed they are and do. The Scriptures warn us implicitly about this. We are admonished to look out for false teachers who will malign the way of truth and in their own greed seek to exploit believers with false words and deceiving doctrines (read 1 Timothy 6, & 2 Peter 2).”
We are admonished by the Apostle Paul to judge those inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and admonished by our Lord himself to judge those outside the church (Matthew 10:14).
Matthew 18 is clear, that Christians occupying God-ordained, authoritative offices within a local church (namely, Elders), are to judge those in the church who are living in or exhibiting habitual sin(s). They are not only to judge, but they are also commanded to remove an unrepentant sinner from the congregation if they see fit to do so. Jesus taught them that whatever decision they made on earth in this regard, would be ratified in heaven.
Paul commanded Timothy to rebuke in the presence of all, those leaders who continue in sin after being warned (I Timothy 5:17-20). How can such a thing be done without first passing judgment?
Furthermore, Paul publicly rebuked and corrected his fellow Apostle, Peter, for catering to the Judiazers (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul also publicly spoke against other men who were in error and did so by naming them (2 Timothy 2:16-17; 4:14-15; 1 Timothy 1:19-20). The Apostle John, also warned the church by openly naming Diotrephes---and his sinful ways (3 John 9-10). Paul even told Timothy that he is a “good minister” of Christ Jesus” if he does these things. The opposite must be true then; a bad minister of Christ does not point out sin, error, and false teaching, if a good minister does.
These are just a few examples of many that time and space does not allow me to expand upon here. It is entirely sufficient to say that the Scriptures are clear that we are to judge and openly expose error and habitual, unheeded sin, along with publicly disciplining those who resist and refuse repentance. The propagation of the Gospel, the salvation of souls, and the purity and growth of the church depends on it!
What about judging those outside the church? As I alluded to above (shake the dust from your feet), there is Biblical precedent to judge those outside the church (don’t make the common mistake that some make regarding Paul saying we shouldn’t judge those outside the church in 1 Co. 6, because right before that he says that Christians WILL judge the world---remember; context!). But what about relationships and friendships with unbelievers? Shouldn’t Christians befriend those who are not Christians for the purpose of Evangelism? What does the Scripture teach? Again, let’s answer this question by first answering who we are not supposed to befriend.
Many Christians think that “unequally yoked” pertains---or only pertains to marriage. It doesn’t. As a matter of fact, Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in the context of righteousness verse lawlessness (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). He says, “what fellowship does light have with darkness---what portion does the believer have with the unbeliever?” Then Paul straight-up says, “go out from their midst, and be separate from them says the Lord...”
It is a misnomer to label Evangelism as “befriending unbelievers.” One might object and say, “didn’t Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Yes, he did, but Jesus also said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan and a tax collector.” It turns out that Jesus wasn't speaking very fondly of his pagan "friends," was he?
Jesus was not FRIENDS with tax collectors and sinners to the degree and in the way that some believe and interpret him to have been. He was “friends” with them in that he was offering SALVATION to them (CONTEXT!). He was not a drunkard with them and he did not participate in their sin or allow himself to be corrupted by them (if that were even possible). He was acquainted with them---he met them where they were in their sin-sickness and he offered them healing (to be free from their sins). Nowhere in Scripture is it inferred that Jesus was in the HABIT of hanging out with them to the degree that some think Christians should hang out with sinners today. If you study the teachings of Paul (who God saw fit to write two-thirds of the New Testament), he nowhere teaches that Christians should have intimate or involved friendships with unbelievers. He actually says the exact opposite throughout his epistles (“Don’t be MISLED; bad company corrupts good morals--1 Co. 15:33”).
So, for the sake of this post, let it be said that we are to judge those outside the church. We are not only to judge their lives, but we are admonished by Jesus and Paul to be careful not to get so wrapped up with them that our friendship with them begins to corrupt us---or at the very least, cloud our judgment.
Jesus, and all of Scripture (Genesis to Revelation) teaches us to judge both those inside and outside the church. We are to do so for all of the reasons mentioned above, as they culminate into one thematic motif; keep yourself from being polluted by the world (James 1:26-27). Please don’t allow yourself to be polluted by the world, by buying into the ill-conceived and popular notion that Christians’ should tolerate everything and judge nothing. Nothing is more anti-Christ and nothing is more damaging to your soul.