Yesterday, I closed out my sermon series on “7 Life-Changing Questions of Jesus” with this one from Matthew 7:3: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
In my sermon I pointed out that, in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus distinguishes between two types of judgment: condemnation and moral discernment. One type is not consistent with the way of Christ while the other type is necessary in order to walk in the way of Christ. Regarding this point, the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary makes the following observation:
“Matthew 7:1-5 does not call for the obliteration of moral distinctions. The Matthean Jesus does not make each person a law to himself or herself, nor does he encourage the attitude that no one should be concerned to identify the moral failures of other members of the community and help them to overcome them. Even the act of forgiveness presupposes that one recognizes that another has done wrong; forgiveness entails a kind of judgment. Community discipline, involving judgment and forgiveness, may be an expression of the deepest love, while not judging the other by simply leaving her or him alone may be an easy way out that betrays authentic Christian love. Yet judging as condemnation is forbidden throughout.”
This distinction is an important one to grasp. When I hear a person say that Christians should not judge others, I know that he or she is interpreting the Bible through the lens of our current cultural attitudes instead of letting the Bible speak for itself. Condemning people by robbing them of their intrinsic worth or value and by callously casting them aside is not a Christ-like posture to take toward others, which is why Jesus speaks out against it. But making moral discernments by judging behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles against the standard of God’s moral will is absolutely necessary if Christians are to exalt the way of Christ, share the gospel of Christ, and help others see their need for Christ – which is why Jesus speaks up for this kind of judging.
If we fail to observe this distinction by claiming that Christians should not make any kind of moral judgments, we will be claiming that Jesus and the Bible contradict themselves. And that would be wrong.