To Judge or Not to Judge
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ warns against hypocrisy in judgment (Matthew 7:1-6). His exhortation to first remove the plank from one's own eye before addressing the speck in a brother's eye serves as a profound reminder to approach judgment with humility and self-awareness and the recognition of one's own sins and weaknesses when addressing the shortcomings of others. This teaching serves as a powerful antidote to self-righteousness and the temptation to look down upon others from a position of perceived moral superiority. This teaching does not, however, preclude us from exercising judgment altogether. Rather, it exhorts us to judge rightly and cautiously.
Inherent in this metaphor is the recognition that we, as fallen human beings, are prone to sin and error. The plank in our eye symbolizes our own failings, which may be even more significant than those we perceive in others. By first addressing our own shortcomings and seeking God's grace in our sanctification, we demonstrate humility and self-awareness, recognizing that we too are in need of forgiveness and transformation.
Moreover, when we address the sins or weaknesses of our brothers and sisters in Christ, the removal of the plank from our own eye allows us to approach them with a spirit of love, compassion, and empathy. Understanding our own need for grace, we are better equipped to offer guidance and correction without self-righteousness or judgmentalism. Instead, we can humbly and gently restore our fellow believers (Galatians 6:1), acknowledging our shared dependence on Christ's redeeming work.
In essence, Christ's teaching in Matthew 7:3-5 calls for a radical self-awareness and humility in our interactions with others. It serves as a constant reminder that we are all in need of God's grace and forgiveness, and that our approach to addressing the sins and weaknesses of others should be marked by love, empathy, and a genuine desire for their spiritual growth and well-being. By following this teaching, we can avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness and judgmentalism, and instead become instruments of God's grace and healing in a broken world.
The Gospel of John further clarifies the nature of judgment: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Righteous judgment requires discernment and wisdom, rooted in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. We must not rely solely on external appearances, but rather seek to understand the heart and motives of our fellow man, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Within the Church, the Apostle Paul instructs us to judge sin (1 Corinthians 2:15-16). As believers, we possess the mind of Christ, and are therefore called to discern and address sin in our midst. This includes judging matters between brethren (1 Corinthians 6:5) and assessing the validity of preaching (1 Corinthians 14:29). By holding one another accountable, we work to maintain the purity and integrity of the Church.
We are also called to judge false spirits, counterfeit gospels, and false doctrines (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). The Apostle John exhorts us to test the spirits, discerning between the true prophets of God and the false prophets of the world (1 John 4:1). As we find in 2 Peter 2, false teachers and false apostles will arise, seeking to deceive and lead astray. It is our sacred duty to expose and rebuke such works and workers of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
Furthermore, we must judge false Christians among us (1 John 2:18-20). Antichrists will come, masquerading as followers of Christ while denying His true nature and work. It is vital that we are discerning and vigilant in our assessment of those who claim to be part of the body of Christ.
In the culmination of God's redemptive plan, the saints will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2). This ultimate judgment will reveal the sovereignty and justice of God, as He separates the wheat from the chaff, and ushers in the eternal reign of His kingdom.
In conclusion, the question "To judge or not to judge?" is not a matter of choosing between absolute judgment and absolute non-judgment. Instead, it is a call to exercise righteous judgment, guided by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. As we engage with skeptics, unbelievers, and young Christians, let us be mindful of the balance between mercy and truth, remembering that we too are in need of grace and forgiveness. By doing so, we can strive to be faithful stewards of the Gospel and effective witnesses to the transformative power of Christ in a world that desperately needs His love and redemption.