Question: When I told a friend that he was involved in something that God says is wrong, he told me that the Bible says never to judge others. This didn’t sound quite right. Aren’t we supposed to encourage people to do the right thing?
Answer: Your friend was referring to a familiar Bible verse that’s often misinterpreted. In these words from Jesus Himself, what He denounces is our hypocrisy, not our judgment of what’s right and wrong. Here is the passage:
Do not judge, so that you will not be judged, since God will judge you by the same measurement or standard that you judge others. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not recognize the plank in your own eye? Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your eye, and then you’ll be able to see better to remove the specks out of someone else’s eye. Matthew 7: 1-5
Every decision that we make is based on whether we “judge” or discern it to be right or wrong. A person remembers part of this verse and tries to defend himself with it because he doesn’t want to hear that his actions are wrong. He actually wants his friends to judge what he’s doing as right, or acceptable! Christians hear this misapplication of the scripture and think that telling anyone that certain actions are wrong must be “judging” others. The Bible does lead us to judge actions but not motives, which originate from the heart.
Jesus taught that we should make moral judgments, but that we should never have a bitter and unkind attitude which delights in finding fault with others. Because we cannot know someone’s heart – the motivation and thoughts of another person – we can’t assume to draw conclusions as to why others do what they do or how God intends to punish them. Jesus said that we must get our own hearts right with God before we set out to correct others. When we set our own attitudes and behavior right we will see more clearly to help another person align his with God’s will. It’s important to remember to “speak the truth in love” so that our end result is building up others and encouraging them, not tearing them down. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Jesus desires for his followers to live spiritually upstanding lives, applying discernment, forgiveness, and mercy, as we want Him to do for us. When we study Jesus’s teachings, we can understand exactly what He considers to be right and wrong. We cannot know the state of another person’s soul, his motives, or what his eternal destination will be. Our goal in leading others to Christ should be to approach all discussions with others with love, respect, humility, and understanding, in the hope that others will see that we truly desire for them to lead lives which are pleasing to God.