The world loves to remind Christians of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7.1: "Judge not, that you be not judged” (v. 1). This quote is commonly used in an attempt to put Christians in their place when they speak of morality. The world wants Christians to tolerate sin, even welcome sin, under the guise of freedom of choice and compassion for others. Yet, Christians should not give in so easily because a Scripture is quoted. It is important that Scripture be used correctly. Remember, even the devil quoted Scripture at Jesus, yet Jesus corrected him (Matt 4.6-7).
“Abstaining from judgment” is a gross misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings and the message of Scripture. The Bible is clear that Christians are to judge and cast needed condemnation at other Christians. Paul says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one” (1 Cor 5.9-11). We are to see the sin in other Christians and cast a judgment so they might be brought back to the Lord (1 Cor 5.5).
We also find that Christians are to make judgments regarding the world’s salvation. Paul, for the sake of winning others to the Lord makes judgment calls on how to best reach them. “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Cor 9.19-23). In order to reach the lost, Paul had to make some judgment regarding their strength or weakness. This judgment might not be condemnation, but only because Paul is using it to help them instead of shun them. Such is the key difference. If my goal in my judgment is merely condemnation, I should refrain. If my goal in my judgment is salvation, then I should act confidently.
The difference is easily seen by examining the difference between a judge and a doctor. A judge’s function is to decide guilt, and often pronounce punishment. This is not our job since God is the judge. Even Paul clearly states “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside." Purge the evil person from among you." (1 Cor 5.12-13). The non-Christian is not judged at all, while the Christian is judged for the purpose of their salvation. We are not to stand as God. We are not pronouncing punishment or condemnation, but are making decisions regarding others with the ultimate goal of their salvation.
Therefore, we can function as a doctor. A doctor will make judgments and diagnose diseases based on symptoms. No one feels condemned by a doctor because they know a doctor is there to help. Whenever we must cast a judgment about another person, be they a Christian or not, it should be obviously for the purpose of helping that person.
Nothing good is ever achieved through judgmental condemnation. No good comes from gossip, slander, or castigating another person. Yet if we can help someone by pointing out the symptoms of sin, helping them realize their danger, and even guiding them back to a straight and narrow way of living, we will have done well. Judgment that helps is always God’s plan.
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jam 5.19-20).