To Fully and Rightly Function as a Believer
By: Deborah Kirby
(Copyright 2011, All rights reserved. Reprint 2020)
"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37
Few verses get pitched faster than this verse these days, specifically the first part of this verse. So I would like to take a moment and expound on this verse properly placed in context and in the scope of God's Word.
There is a pivotal element we, as believers, now possess that was not available to the Jewish people when Jesus addressed His listeners in Luke 6:37 as part of the Sermon on the Mount (pre-ascension), but was present in Paul's writings (post-ascension). That element is the gift of "God in us," His Holy Spirit, who "reveals all truth" to believers. Prior to this in-dwelling of God, judging and condemning were admonished. However, Paul actually insisted upon judging by believers upon believers where warranted.
One has to keep in mind that until Jesus released His disciples to preach the Good News to the Gentile -- being done only after the Jewish people denounced Him as their King -- the Gentile was not on the Kingdom radar. In other words, Jesus' words in Luke were addressed to the Jewish people.
In Romans, we find Paul's remarks about judging are cautionary towards attempting to judge some one's salvation, which we are not to do.
But for those who claim salvation and an association with the Body of Christ, Paul writes, "As for my attitude, though I am absent from you in body, I am present in spirit, and I have already decided and passed judgment, as if actually present... Do you not know that just a little leaven will ferment the whole lump of dough? ....Purge (clean out) the old leaven that you may be fresh (new) dough, still uncontaminated, for Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed....But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister, but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you."
He did not leave it there. In another passage, Paul says pointedly, "Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!"
This Scripture in context is admonishing believers from going the route of taking "in house" issues to the world's system of governance (ie: secular court). Paul is saying through Christ we should be able to rightly judge issues that arise between our brothers and sisters in Christ without having to resort to taking our siblings to secular court.
In a day and age where many people in The Church are unstudied and often repeat what sounds right, one can easily be duped into abdicating righteous functions of the believer.
The key is if a person lays claim to Christ as Savior and Lord.
If they do, then fellow believers are within the correct boundaries to judge when judging is warranted, as in known unrepentant sin. The second scope of judging that is acceptable is when deciding associations. We are warned against ongoing fellowship -- long term, intimate "rubbing of the shoulders" -- with those who have no intention of sincerely and with great intention following Christ and His principles.
Where we as Christians step out of line is when we attempt to enforce Christian principles on to the lost in the hopes of altering their behavior. They do not possess the ability to alter their behavior apart from God, so to attempt to mix "oil and water" is a foul ball and misrepresents God and His holy coupling of mercy and justice to the lost. God is not unjust, meaning He does not have expectations of the lost acting any other way than lost.... and neither should we!
So, in part, when someone of the world uses The Word, "Judge not" against a believer, they are correct if the believer is attempting to guilt or alter the lost person's behavior. However, the lost is incorrect if the believer uses the lost's behavior to determined future association with them.
To universally state Christians are not to judge is pointedly incorrect, but so too are Christians who assert their perceived right to universally judge.
Read that again.
Now to balance what I have shared, allow me to share a quote from James with my fellow believers, applicable when dealing with other believers, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
We should walk with high regard for others, however when judgment is called for, we should NOT shrink back nor abdicate.
Taking on the whole counsel of the Word to rightly and passionately walk brings liberty to fully and rightly function as a believer, without stomping upon the lost. If we do not do so, it is like trying to walk only with one leg -- utterly futile -- and damaging.