The oft quoted and ever misinterpreted Matthew 7:1, the infamous “judge not” passage is arguably the most recognizable passage in the Bible save John 3:16. And right behind that is ‘remove the log from your own eye before addressing the speck in someone else’s’. I can understand why non-Christians are ignorant of these passage’s meanings since I don’t expect them to read the Bible in a meaningful way. But the passages as a whole are really not difficult to understand when you continue reading. When someone employs these verses, they are used to “remind” someone who is passing a moral judgement on another, that they ought not be offering negative judgements on moral issues (approvals are A-OK). However, when read in context the passages are admonitions of hypocritical judgements of others, not a normative command to withhold making moral judgements all together. For example, if I am an adulterer, before I can rightfully rebuke you for your adultery, I should address my own — this is what’s meant by removing the log from your own eye. Must we be sinless in order to condemn sinful behaviors?
The professing Christians who (ab)use these passages should know better. They deploy these ‘don’t say people do bad things because it hurts their feelings’ verses on a fairly regular basis. Most often it’s given to defend homosexual sexual relationships. This is the last refuge of the Christian who tries to shelter themselves and others from their sins as they don’t want to offend and feel offended.
The first stage of deflection is to claim the Bible is silent on the particular behavior as being a sin. This is the “Jesus never said…” tactic — an argument from silence. There will be any number of ways the situation in question is different or doesn’t qualify as what the Bible condemns. Inevitably there will be passages which in clear terms describe their behavior as sin. The next step is to linguistically figure out a way to understand the passage which proclaims the behavior as sin, to mean the opposite of what it actually says. When all else fails the Custeresque last stand is Matthew 7:1 “Jesus said not to judge!” As noted above, that is not Jesus’ message. But is the concept of not judging found in the Bible? Do we see a pattern of the prophets and apostles admonishing others who make moral judgements on their fellow-believers?
Unfortunately the professing Christian has no refuge in not being judged. 1 Corinthians 5 is entirely dedicated to recognizing, exposing, and condemning professing believer’s sin. See also: 1 Corinthians 15:34. Additionally, the Old and New Testaments offer plenty of examples of believers judging each other’s sinfulness. Just a few examples:
- Samuel judges Saul: 1 Samuel 13:13 — Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you.
- Nathan judges David: 2 Samuel 12:9 — Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight?
- Elijah judges Ahab: 1 Kings 18:18 — He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. 1 Kings 21:20 — Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD
- Ezra judges the people: Ezra 10:10 — Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.
- One thief on the cross judges the other: Luke 23:41 — And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds
- We are to judge other believers: 1 Timothy 5:20 — Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.
Unfortunately for the professing Christian, you cannot make a biblical appeal for not being judged by others for a persistent sin. Not to mention you are to be setting a moral example to non-Christians. Attempting to manipulate the Bible to coddle your sin or the sins of others is not missed by the world, and is held up as reason to not respect Christianity. It is the responsibility of fellow Christians to confront the issues. Likewise, it is the responsibility of the elders and pastor of churches to do it: Titus 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:2. So I urge any professing Christian who has attempted to end a debate with another Christian by playing the “judge not” or the “log in your own eye” card to reconsider, and make a firm decision to whom your allegiance lies; God, or modern cultural acceptances.