Question: I have friends who say that if you pass judgment on sin, you will be judged according to the verse: “judge not lest you be judged.” But Paul judged the immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5. How does one correctly interpret Matthew:7:1? I was told about a man who “judged” a brother for leaving his wife. A few years later, he ended up leaving his wife and felt terrible for having spoken out about this man. My friend was implying that he was being “judged” for “judging” by reaping the same scenario in his own life.
Response: The Scriptures exhort to judge all things. Paul very specifically instructed the Corinthian church on the areas where believers are required to judge the behavior of others for the health of the congregation. First Corinthians 5 speaks of the man living in an immoral relationship with his stepmother and yet continues to meet with the church. Paul points out the sin in this situation and then exhorts, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?” (1 Cor:5:12). If we fail to judge, we are not doing anyone a service. We are not showing biblical love. The Corinthians hearkened to Paul and judged the man, with the result that he repented. In 2 Corinthians:2:7, following the man’s repentance, Paul, with compassion, told them, “Ye ought [now] rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”
Because of false teaching regarding “not judging,” the correction and restoration that would come through biblical accountability is missing, and the church is corrupted. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prv 27:6).
Matthew:7:1 must be taken in context, not dragged from it. The Lord Jesus very clearly explains that we cannot judge rightly if we have sin in our own lives. Jesus admonishes, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”(Mt 7:3-5).
If Jesus were telling us that no one should ever confront others about their sin because allmen are sinners, He would not have sent prophets (also sinful men) to tell others to repent. Neither would He have said in John:7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” He clearly wants us to make judgments. First Corinthians 6:3 tells us: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?”
Regarding the example of the man you reference, we don’t base our responses on someone’s experience but ask, “What does the Scripture say?” There is no scriptural precedent for “fate” or “karma” that would cause an individual to commit the same sin and experience the same consequences. We can’t know the thoughts and intents of the heart of the sinner or what choices and decisions brought him to that point, “but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (Jas 1:14).