We live in a world that embraces tolerance. "Live and let live" seems to be the ruling spirit of our day. Our society tells us we can have and hold our own views, provided they don't condemn the views of other people. When Christians point out and object to sin and immorality in the lives of other people, we are quickly reminded that we can't do that because our Bible says, "Judge not."
Indeed, Jesus did speak these words of warning to His disciples. Here is the entire quotation: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matt. 7:1-2). A careful look at this passage shows that Jesus did not forbid His followers from making judgments about others. He warned them against making harsh or hypocritical judgments. He stated a general truth - we will be judged according to the same standard we use when judging others.
Can Christians make judgments about other people? Yes, we can. Later in the same chapter, Jesus warned of "false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits..." (vs. 15-16). False prophets are compared to wolves in sheep's clothing because of their deceptive nature. How are we going to know if a man is a false prophet? Jesus says we must observe his life and teaching, then make a judgment to determine what kind of person he is ("You will know them by their fruits"). The Bible allows this kind of judgment. Christians are not violating the commandment of verse one when they observe verse sixteen.
Those who are quick to quote "judge not" need to realize Jesus also said to "judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). In this passage, Jesus was speaking of those who were making judgments about Him. He did not tell them it was wrong for them to make judgments, but told them their judgments about Him needed to be right and fair. The same applies to judgments we make about others today.
The apostle Paul said to, "Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thess. 5:21-22). To test means to make a judgment according to a standard. The standard is the Word of God. From these tests, we are to determine what things around us are good and what things are evil. Otherwise, how will we know what to abstain from and what to hold fast?
There are times when these judgments about things and people need to be made public. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph. 5:11). Christians have the right to determine from Scripture if something is an unfruitful work of darkness and to expose it as such. Standing for what is right involves pointing out the things that are wrong. This is true of the immorality in the sinful world and the error in the religious world, as well as immorality and error that finds its way into the Lord's church.
When Jesus said, "judge not," He was not prohibiting judgments. The Bible teaches us to observe the fruits produced in the lives of others and determine what kind of people they are. We can conclude that a work is darkness and expose it as such. We can judge a religious practice or doctrine to be unscriptural and point it out to others. We can determine if a man is a false teacher and identify him as such. "Judge not" is not a prohibition, but a warning. We must be honest and fair when making such judgments, knowing we will receive the same kind of treatment from others, and that we will receive the same kind of judgment from God.