Has anyone noticed that anytime a Christian makes a statement on social media regarding the sin or questionable teaching of a popular public figure with a Christian platform, that almost without fail, it will be followed by some form of this response:
*IT ISN’T OUR PLACE TO JUDGE!
This accepted viewpoint is based on the person’s misinterpretation of Matthew 7:1,
“Judge not, lest you be judged.”
This is one of the most commonly taken-out-of-context verses preferred by those who can get downright indignant when they see someone being criticized, even if it’s a deserved criticism. (But aren’t THEY judging when they do this?) The statement almost invariably comes from those who are unknowingly practicing what Dr. Voddie Baucham describes as the “11th Commandment” of Christianity:
“Thou Shalt Be Nice”.
So, if Matthew 7:1 means we are never to call out sin, why is there a process for church discipline in Matthew 18? Because there IS a procedure for confrontation laid out for us, Matthew 7:1 can NOT mean that we are never to publicly acknowledge another’s sin. ( although church discipline is another matter than our topic at hand )
As Christians we should always strive to be kind and gracious, but without compromising the truth. Would those who tell others not to judge never criticize a murderer? A thief? A drunk driver? Let’s even bring the example even closer to home. Would they have no negative reaction to the pastor who has an affair? The church member who cheats on his taxes? For those who don’t approve of addressing sin or false teaching, it seems the defense is most always made in favor someone who either has a sin we want to overlook, or if it’s a person we know or like. And even more so if it’s a public figure we admire.
So why are some so hesitant to call out blatant sinful behavior, especially within the Church? I believe there are a few reasons.
*They have a low view of sin.
When someone has a low view of sin they see the trespasses of others as no big deal. This person is likely not striving to live a holy life, therefore has no expectations of other Christians to live holy. For them, hearing a church member let out a string of profanity, or telling a dirty joke has little or no effect. Taking part in a gossip session brings no conviction. It actually may give the partaker some pleasure to talk about other people. If this describes you, know that it is sin and you need to repent. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says: For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
If you are someone who attends church on Sunday, but neither the sermons nor the scriptures are making any impact on your sin life, then please examine yourself. 1 John 3:6 tells us: No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.
*They are themselves partaking in sinful behavior.
Someone who is living in sin is often quick to defend the transgressions of others. Their mindset may be one of, “If what THEY are doing is wrong, it would mean that what I’M doing is wrong.” Therefore they can tend to overlook sin committed by others in order to alleviate their own guilt. A harried mother of several small children may not feel as convicted about her needed glass of wine after work every day if she shares her friend’s humorous Facebook post about needing her daily “mommy juice”. Our lives will be judged by God based on our own behavior, not in comparison to the lives of others.
*They place fear of man over fear of God.
This is the person who wants to appear virtuous to others. She will often promote the books, podcasts, and social media posts of popular public figures who refuse to speak about sin, who won’t say there is only one way to heaven, or who constantly tell women how beautiful and wonderful they are. That they are “enough”. She wouldn’t dream of condemning the actions of a popular worship leader or Christian speaker who decides to leave the faith. She would more likely say something like, “Each person has to find their own path.” Basically: We cannot judge. And she would never quote 1 John 2:19, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. Because that would look “mean”.
She gets extremely offended when it may be suggested that her favorite bible teacher may not actually be in the faith. The professed Christian women who defend popular author and blogger Jen Hatmaker is extremely troublesome, because everything Jen stands for is contrary to scripture.
It is more important to the one who fears man that she be perceived as “sweet and nice” rather than to be bold in her faith.
So just what DOES Matthew 7:1 mean? John MacArthur’s commentary says: “As the context reveals, this does not prohibit all types of judging ( v. 16 ). There is a righteous kind of judgment we are supposed to exercise with careful discernment.” ( Here he gives the reference of John 7:24 )
So there IS a right way to judge! We are told in this verse to judge righteously.
The Forerunner Commentary in “Bible Tools” says this about Matthew 7:1.
“Here, the Greek word for “judge” is krino, meaning to condemn, avenge, sentence, or levy a punishment. Christ plainly says that if we condemn others, we will be condemned ourselves.“
So, to “judge” WRONGLY means that we are taking it upon ourselves to pronounce someone’s eternal sentence. However, it is not doing so to declare an action or a lifestyle as sinful. Only God can pronounce sentence. But until one comes to acknowledgement of their sin, how can they receive mercy and forgiveness from the only righteous judge who has the power either to send us to eternal punishment OR to set us free from our condemnation? Is it loving or kind to let a person continue down a destructive path because we don’t want to hurt their feelings? Reconciliation to God is not possible if one thinks they’ve done nothing that needs forgiving. I’m afraid we are becoming a community of such non-offensive, weak-minded people who want so much to be liked, we no longer contend for the faith. Does this describe Paul? Or Peter?
While exercising biblical judgment is right and acceptable, having a “judgmental” attitude is not. It should give us no pleasure to point out another’s iniquity. If we are coming from a place of a critical spirit and get some sense of inner satisfaction when pointing out the sin of a brother, then we have to check our own heart. We must make certain that our goal in revealing another’s sin is to either help the person come to repentance and into right standing with God, or in the case of the Christian speaker who is teaching error, that we are lovingly, but confidently, attempting to steer others clear of unbiblical teaching or beliefs. ( Let me say here that someone putting themselves out there in public ministry is making them open to public criticism. There is usually no way to go to a “celebrity” figure personally or privately. ) Whatever the situation, our “judging” should come from a place of love, either for the person who has stumbled, or for ones who may be following a popular false teacher. Ultimately the prayer and goal for any needed correction should be the restoration of a fallen brother or sister. As we are told in Galatians 6:1, Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
In the likeness of Paul, may God get the glory in our bold but humble efforts to point others toward Him! Even if to the world, it doesn’t seem nice.
Soli Deo Gloria!