Why Should We Judge?

by Skip Heitzig
The church at Corinth was very tolerant of certain kinds of evil behavior in their midst. And instead of being ashamed over this tolerance of evil, they were actually proud of it. They were “puffed up,” as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:2.

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife. And you are puffed up”—that is, prideful—”and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (v. 1-2).

The city of Corinth was a very permissive city in moral terms, and evidently, their culture was influencing the church, rather than the church influencing the community. Does this sound like today’s world? After awhile, because the culture is so strong, you get used to it. Instead of being salt and light, instead of being a strong witness, it’s just easier to go with the flow and accommodate to the thinking and values of the world around you.

So the church ends up saying, “Well, you can’t judge people. We’re not supposed to do that. We can’t police everybody. Let them do what they want. Just love on them.” The Corinthian church patted themselves on the back for what is, I think, today considered to be the biggest, most important moral value in American culture—tolerance.

But Paul didn’t call it tolerance. He called it pride. Because when you tolerate immorality, essentially you’re saying that you’re smarter than God. Even though God forbade it in His Word, and even though pagans forbid it, you’re above it all. You’re puffed up. You’re proud.

In Revelation 2, Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for their works, their labor, and their patience, and for their resolve to not “bear those who are evil” (v. 2). He commended them not for their tolerance but for their intolerance, that they did not tolerate evil.

When you confront something that is wrong or against Scripture, a moral stance that is against a biblical value, how many times have you heard people say, “Well, Jesus said, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged'”? It’s the only verse so many people know from the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 7:1). All it means to them is “I want to do whatever I want. Don’t tell me I can’t.”

First of all, Jesus was not saying you can’t think, you can’t discern, you can’t discriminate, or you can’t judge at all. He was talking about a spirit of censoriousness, playing God and excluding people from fellowship with Him.

If “Judge not, lest you be judged” means to never speak up against evil or never use discernment, then Elijah the prophet was out of line when he confronted Ahab and Jezebel. Paul the apostle was out of line when he confronted the legalists in Jerusalem. And, for that matter, Jesus was out of line when he said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:27).

In fact, Jesus gave His disciples a command to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). But how is that done? Go back to Matthew 7. Jesus said that if you see a speck in your brother’s eye, but you have a plank in your own, first remove the plank from your own eye and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (vv. 3-5).

Righteous judgment is rooted in humility. That should always be your position when making a judgment. And the idea, the hope, is that it would provoke real repentance that leads to restoration.


In His strong love,

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