What does Jesus mean when he says ‘do not judge’? Jesus forbids making a negative assessment of someone that is inconsistent with love or blinded by our own prejudices. But he does not rule out challenging someone who is clearly wrong or church discipline, because these can be motivated by love for both God’s honour and the person’s ultimate good.
So how do we approach someone whose behaviour is clearly wrong? By asking a number of questions of ourselves!
Is the issue at hand a disputable issue? I don’t mean ‘can the person justify what they are doing?’ People will try to justify all sorts of things that Scripture clearly prohibits. But take an issue like alcohol. Christians differ on this, but there is no command in Scripture against drinking in moderation. So if you think that someone is less of a Christian than you because they like a beer you are just being judgmental.
Is the person professing to be a Christian? If they are claiming that they follow Jesus then it is really important that someone addresses them about the issue. Their behaviour is dishonouring God and damaging their walk with God. Challenging them would be consistent with love.
Am I motivated by love? If you don’t love them then the chances are that you are just going to try and get at them. You will be judgemental towards them as you try to put them down. You might be better to simply leave the task of challenging them to someone who is interested in their good.
Am I being a hypocrite? If we are not willing to let God challenge us about sin in our lives then we won’t be in a place to see clearly how God wants us to bring a challenge to someone else.
Can I act with integrity? When you heard about what they are doing did you pick up the phone to tell others? It might be that you were seeking the advice of someone wise to know what should be done. But were your motives really that pure? If their sin annoys you have you being griping to people about it. Then you are simply sowing division. If you are prone to gossip or being harsh then you are not in a place to challenge people about their sin.
Can I act with humility? Do we realise that one forgiven person, who knows what it is like to blow it before God, pointing another person to his love and forgiveness? If you address people with an attitude of moral pride then you don’t understand the gospel and you are going to be judgemental.
May God help us act with integrity; may he grant us enough self-awareness to know our false-motives; may he give us the love for others to seek their best; may he give us a passion for his glory that we will not rest in our own sin and that we will want to help others be more godly; and may he give us the courage and grace to do what is right! Amen.