Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Roger will respond in as timely a manner as possible. Due to the large volume of questions, patience is requested. When questions involve mental health issues, no part of any response to an “Ask Roger” question should be interpreted as a substitute for seeking professional counseling from a licensed mental health professional. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
It seems like many people use the phrase, “Don’t judge me,” to justify any sort of behavior. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says, “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” What does this mean?
I believe that today’s eroding culture with no absolutes is developing into a society where people feel free to do anything they want with no consequences.
Hence, we often hear “You have no right to judge me because I have the freedom to do anything that I want.”
We need to remember that the framers of the American Constitution were clear in saying, “We have the freedom to do what is right.” The idea that we can do anything we want is foreign to the United States Constitution.
We would expect a “don’t judge me” attitude from a humanistic, self–driven, uninhibited, and spiritually lost world of people who do not know Christ.
Unfortunately, we often find the same sort of attitude from Christians. When that occurs, we have to make ‘judgment calls.’
For example, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1).
We find here two judgment calls we must make. First, we have to choose which Christians are spiritually qualified to confront those in sin. Second, we must choose whether or not this person’s behavior is a sin.
If you ever go to the Chicago airport you want to be certain to stop by Mrs. Paul’s Cookies. They are big, juicy, and filled with nuts, chocolate, fruit, and cinnamon. I try to stop there every time we fly through Chicago.
I love this story:
A woman passing through O’Hare airport bought a small package of Mrs. Paul’s cookies. A young man sat alone at a table for four. She asked if she could sit down; he graciously consented. She pulled out her newspaper and proceeded to read. Presently she heard the crinkle of paper. She peered over her newspaper to see the young man take a cookie out of the bag. She was incensed. So, she took a cookie and pulled the bag to her side of the table. Moments later the bag crinkled. The young man was at it again. She glared at him, pulled the bag back over to her side and took out another cookie for herself. She watched incredulously as he reached in the bag and withdrew the last cookie. She glared as he broke the last cookie, slid one half across the table; put the other half in his mouth. Angry, incensed and fuming, she proceeded to her gate and waited for her plane to board. Finally, it was time to get on. She opened her purse to retrieve her boarding pass, and there right on top was her bag of Mrs. Paul’s cookies.
Lee, making accurate judgment calls is difficult. So many things get in the way. If we choose to enter into the judging arena, here are eight truths about how Christians can do it right:
1. Jesus warns us not to live with a judgmental heart. However, when we must make a ‘judgment call,’ our work is not finished until we help with restoration.
Understanding Jesus’ teaching of, “Don’t Judge,” needs all the verses from Matthew 7:1-12.
Let me summarize Jesus’ teaching. Then we can more clearly understand and apply his teachings on judging.
- Don’t judge.
- Take beam out of your own eye—then you will be able to take twig out of your brother’s eye.
- Discriminate carefully who you can or can’t approach.
- Don’t cast pearls before pigs.
- Insight and compassion are essential.
- Ask, seek, and knock and the Father will give you what you need to help those stuck in the mud get cleaned up and on their way again.
- Follow the ‘Golden Rule’ to treat people as you would have them treat you.
2. Christians are primarily in the loving and need-meeting business—not the judging.
Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. – Matthew 7:1-2
This critical spirit reminds me of the conscientious wife who could never please her ultra-critical husband. At breakfast, if the eggs were scrambled, he wanted them poached. If they were poached, he wanted them scrambled. One morning, the wife had a stroke of genius. She poached one egg and scrambled the other. He peered at the plated and snorted, “You scrambled the wrong one.”
A number of church surveys, including those by Barna.com, asked non-Christians why they didn’t go to church. The comments were alarming:
For example, they said things like: “Christians are those who are against this and that. They’re always protesting something.”
78% of those surveyed said that evangelical Christians are “the most judgmental people in America.”
Many lost people today are staying away from church in droves. Why? They feel more condemnation than compassion.
The early Christians were known as the people who loved God and loved each other. Somewhere through the years we lost that reputation.
Jesus is warning us of the sin of seeking out the worst instead of the best in others. I know some people who are always looking to find the worst in others.
3. The job of the Holy Spirit is to judge and convict. The job of a Christian is to love and meet needs.
The Holy Spirit’s job is to judge and convict.
Jesus told his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-8).
The Christian’s job is to love and meet needs.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
We often get these two mixed up.
The time has come to stop playing someone else’s Holy Spirit.
4. If we choose to enter the judging arena, we must first clean up our own lives.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5
Christ is saying that in our condition we are quite incapable of condemning or judging anyone.
We each need to fix our own eye before working on our brother’s eye.
I remember the story of a woman who spent most of her life judging people as worthy for heaven or hell. When she died and went to heaven she was shocked to discover that no one expected her!
Judging work is for the spiritually mature.
5. We approach people as “brothers and sisters” who need to be restored—not as targets who need to be condemned.
This involves time and sacrifice on our part.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2
Who is our brother/sister? Someone with whom there is a relationship, and to whom there is a measure of accountability. The purpose is always remedial, to correct and restore.
All of this flows out of a context of relationships.
Can you imagine that shouting at people you have no relationship with might not do much good?
Once upon a time I marched in a pro-life demonstration. We circled the abortion clinic calling the women who entered things like, “murderer” and “baby killer.” Some women turned away. Others hung their head in shame and still entered the office.
Then, I bowed my head in shame. Paul said, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently (Galatians 6:1-2).”
I stepped out of line and decided that my energy needed to be more with the Crisis Pregnancy Center whose goals are to support, love, and care. Love stands by and gives solutions. Yes, the babies must be saved, but the mothers need redemption and salvation too.
Am I willing to walk with them through the process of redemption?
The ultimate goal of any discipline or criticism is to leave the person with the feeling that he has been helped, not condemned.
6. We discern receptivity. Not everyone is approachable.
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces (Matthew 7:6)."
This verse is easy to understand if you know that Jesus used a literary form called a chiasm
The first phrase rhymes with the fourth phrase and the second phrase rhymes with the third phrase.
I’ll write it out for you: “Do not give dogs what is sacred. If you do, they may turn and tear you to pieces. Do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet.”
Will the person you’re approaching be receptive or not? Will they perhaps mock and make fun?
Jesus may have been thinking of Proverbs 9:7-8 when he said “Don’t judge.” Rebuke a wise man and he will love you. However the opposite is also true.
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. – Proverbs 9:7-8
7. Eventually we will seek God’s wisdom on how best to minister to brothers and sisters who have slipped off the track.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7-11
We usually look at these verses in such a selfish, personal perspective. Look again. They are in the context of getting good gifts so we can help meet the needs of others.
God is showing us the heart of a Father for His kids.
This is the heart we are to have in helping people who have messed up their lives. If all you are going to do is criticize then keep your mouth shut. If you are going to intercede and bear their burdens then figure out how to meet their needs and go help restore them.
The right heart motivates us to intercede for these people.
Could you imagine that taking the time to minister to real, deep-seated needs—instead of instantly wanting to judge people’s faults—might be what God calls compassion?
8. We treat people as we would like to be treated.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12
Who likes to be yelled at? When you have messed up your life, who do you want to help you? Someone who criticizes you and tells you all the things you did wrong and leaves you feeling condemned and destroyed?
Or, do you want someone who comes along side of you and puts their arm around you and helps you out of the mud?
I think we know the answer to that.
Well, Lee, if you’re already spiritually mature, judge well. If not, continue spiritual growth until you’re ready and able.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
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