For most of my adult life I was a pagan. I was in rebellion against God, and a lover of all things of this world. I hated Christianity. I had met some of those Christians and they were a judgmental bunch of hypocrites. And so perfect. How can anyone be so perfect and pure? It really made me sick. I was not alone. Society as a whole seems to have the same views on Christians. Judgmental. Perfect. Hypocrites. It is an age-old idea that has permeated our culture in America. I really thought that I would be perfect too, when I became a Christian. Boy was I in for a shock when I found out that perfection belonged only to Jesus. Perfection is not a status that a human being can ever attain. So why do so many people think Christians are perfect?
My transformation from a pagan into a lover of Christ was quite dramatic. A complete 180. I went from a witch who took Jesus name in vain; a drug addict, who watched everything violent and sexual, to a Christian who leads worship at church and doesn’t watch anything above a G rating. I am totally sold out for Jesus. So when I became a Christian I removed myself from a lot of the things I did in the past. It was only natural because I wanted to show my allegiance to God after being rebellious for so long. I wanted to purify myself from all the evil I had exposed myself to for so many years. I needed it so I could begin the process of changing the way I thought and acted. Somewhere in this process I got things mixed up though. In wanting to separate myself from the sins of my past, I was actually separating myself from sinners as well.
I actually started to look down on people who did all the same things I did in my former life as a pagan. Watching all the shows and movies with violence and drugs and cussing, listening to music that was sexual and provocative, drinking, smoking, taking God’s name in vain, etc. I was appalled and horrified by this behavior – especially when it was by my fellow Christians. What a bunch of sinners! I mean, sure I used to do that stuff – but now I was doing what was right! These people should know better! Haven’t they read the Bible? It was enough to get me really upset. I really wasn’t trying to make myself better than anyone else. I just didn’t know that separating myself from sin didn’t mean separating myself from sinners.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2
I read the verse that says to not judge people and soon started to think I was doing something wrong judging others. If Jesus says we shouldn’t judge others, then it must be wrong. What I didn’t understand was that I was taking that verse out of context. As a new Christian I still had so much to grasp. Learning about God and who He is and His character is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time and a lot of study. It is difficult to throw yourself into being a follower of Christ and get a grasp on what that really means right away. I just was fearful that I would offend a holy God. I didn’t want to make more mistakes in my life, because so far that had led me to misery. Besides, I was on my way to being perfect – and I couldn’t let anything get in the way of that.
I think the people of this world love to take Matthew 7 out of context. They grab onto the words “do not judge” and want to use it against Christians. After all, Christians are all judgmental hypocrites. So here they are judging everyone around them for their sin, when in fact Christians themselves are sinning too! Then Christians feel guilty because even Jesus says not to judge. And we feel like hypocrites for judging others when we are just as bad as everyone else. So we stop calling out what is wrong and start compromising so we can be accepting of other people. We stop speaking the truth in love to help redeem people from their sin, and start making excuses for why it is OK for them to sin. And if it is OK to make compromises for the world, then it is OK to start making compromises for ourselves as well.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24
The problem with that is that we are called to judge, but to judge rightly. It is impossible for a human to not judge and God encourages us to do so. We judge on a daily basis things like what is right and wrong, what is safe and unsafe, what is a good choice in decisions we are making. The Bible tells us to test prophecies so we know what is right and to test the spirits so we can be aware of false prophets. If we do not make judgments we are potentially putting ourselves in danger, because we are then going to accept everything that comes our way. There is a difference between being a judgmental person and making a sound and right judgement.
For starters we need to begin by judging ourselves. Romans 12:3 tells us to use sober judgement when thinking of ourselves. Otherwise we might think more highly of ourselves than of other people. And that is perfectly in line with Matthew 7. Jesus is not telling us to never judge another person. What Jesus is saying is that we ourselves need to get right with God, before we start to judge other people. We need to repent for our own sins, be open to the Holy Spirit working in us to help us change and grow closer to God. It is through that right relationship with God that we begin to have an understanding of how to judge others, and the world around us.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10
It is through God’s standards, not our own opinions that we are to judge one another. Our opinions are conflicted with emotion and sin. God is the only authority by which we can define what is right and wrong. We need to align ourselves with the Word of God so that we may learn to judge in a way that brings people back into a right relationship with God. It is sin that separates us from God, and we need to help others who are trapped in sin to come back to Him, in repentance. We do this in love and with humility, not condemnation. Satan is the accuser and the one who condemns us, not God. God is our loving Father who wants nothing more than to have a restored relationship with us. He does not look down on us or think badly of us when we are trapped in sin. Our sin hurts Him, because sin leads is a sign of a broken relationship with our wonderful Father.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20
If we were to separate ourselves from everyone in the world, we would never have a chance to do some amazing work for the Kingdom of God. Jesus wants us to partner with Him, to bring many into His presence. When we are looking down on others because of their sin, that is not judgement, that is hate. If we hate one another, then we do not know God. Our Father wants nothing more than for you to come into His loving presence. Sit at His feet and learn from Him. Learn to love others, and to have compassion and mercy on people in a fallen world. We were once dead in our own transgressions, so we know what it is like. No one, even those who have been saved as a child, can say that they don’t know what it is like to experience death – separation from God. Because at one time or another we have all sinned and fallen away from Him, whether we like it or not. Yet we must be careful to not let our love for one another turn into an acceptance of sin. We are to turn each other away from sin, not turn a blind eye to it. Whether or not someone has felt a conviction from God that what they are doing is right does not mean you should not help that person out. Leading a brother or sister away from sin and back to God is salvation, not judgement.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20