Judging Righteously

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“‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…” (Luke 6:37)

Several of Jesus’ teachings deal with judging others. Often, he became angry with the Pharisees for their judgmental attitudes, berating them for focusing on minute details and overlooking the actual issue. Jesus taught a way completely different from this, one of love and not condemnation. A few times while speaking on this topic, He delivered a frequently-quoted line: “Judge not, and you will not be judged.”

Now, it is extremely important that we understand exactly what Jesus meant when He said “judge not.” So many times, we want to use this verse to keep others from ever saying anything against our actions. “So what if you don’t like what I’m doing?” we demand. “Who are you to judge what’s right or wrong? After all, Jesus specifically told us not to judge.”

Well, that is true, but that’s not the end of the story. After this Jesus said this, He went on to tell about two men, one with a speck in his eye and the other with a log. The man with the log in his eye offered to remove the speck in the other’s eye, but Jesus pointed out the absolute foolishness behind this. First, how can someone who is half blind expect to see clearly enough to remove a speck? And second, why does the first man take no notice of the fact that he is blind?

When Jesus told us not to judge. He never said that we should ignore sin in others’ lives; instead, He instructed us to first take note of the sin in our own lives before we try to correct others. Now, of course, none of us is perfect. We’re always going to have some sort of sin that we struggle with. But ignoring our own sin while trying to correct that of others is never wise. Often, we try to call out wrongdoing in others’ lives because it makes our own sins a little less blatant. This is the attitude Jesus was warning against. Nowhere does He say that we should just let others live their lives without ever showing them the error of their ways. In fact, Luke 6:42 says, “[First] take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Clearly, it’s not wrong to notice the speck. The error occurs when we focus on the speck at the expense of noticing the log in our own eye. So when you see someone sinning, first examine your own life. See where you’re struggling and confess it, asking God for His forgiveness and help. Then confront your friend. It’s not wrong at all; in fact, it’s what God tells us to do. We are called to judge righteously, holding each other accountable to God’s law. We’re all going to mess up, but when we work together to do right, never being afraid to call out sin, the result will be that we all grow in God.

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