To Judge or Not To Judge that is the Question!

by Tess Hamre  [Source : “Circling Through this Life” blog]

do-not-judgeMy heart has been heavy over judgments that Christians (yes even myself) make.  Lately my thoughts have been consumed  with “judge or judge not.”

When Christians say “don’t judge” are they being tolerant of sin?  What does it mean when people like me say “do not judge.”   I can’t speak for any other person but I do know that the meaning of the word judge depends on context.

Let’s first look at Luke Chapter 6 verses 35-38:

“But love your enemies, do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Here’s a similar passage from Matthew (Mt 7: 1-5):

“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. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

I am using the Orthodox Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson and in the notes for Matthew Chapter 7 verse 2 it says:

“We will be judged with our own level of judgment because we are guilty of the very things we judge in others (Rom 2:1). We ourselves have failed in repentance and in fleeing from sin.  To pass judgment is to assume God’s authority.”

We are commanded to love our enemies.  We are commanded to love our neighbors. We are admonished to give mercy and to be careful about judging. Context is everything. And the fallen world doesn’t operate in black and white.

When I say I will not judge someone (ok, that should really be read as when I say I will STRIVE to not judge someone) it means that I will not heap condemnation upon them because I do not want condemnation.  It means that I will not hold the past against them because I do not want my past held against me.  It means I strive for not questioning or assigning motives.  I do not know the hearts of others.  In fact, I don’t even know my own heart.

If I start to think “what kind of person does….” or “why didn’t they …..” then I know that I have slipped into the dangerous waters of judging and the measure or standard that I am using, God will use on me.

In NO WAY does it mean that any sin committed is ok.  Sin is missing the mark.  Sin is falling short of the standard set by God.   To say “I will not judge” does not mean that sin is condoned.  It means “wow,  I am a sinner and I want mercy and forgiveness from God.”  It is an acknowledgment that God, that is Jesus when he comes again, has the authority to JUDGE the PERSON not me.

I am well aware of the sins of others, what I need is to be MORE aware of my own sins.  I need to focus on getting that plank out of my own eye.  My journey towards becoming more and more like Christ is hampered when I stop to inspect the specks in other people’s eyes.

There is a time and a place to lovingly come alongside someone and warn them of the danger they may face with a particular sin he may struggle with but that admonishment, that warning should never come heaped with condemnation, nor should it ever be soaked in presumption that you have all the facts of the situation.

Let me focus on the commandments given by Christ to love God, to love my neighbor as myself, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick but do not let me judge what is not my place to judge.

Lord have mercy!


  1. This is a comment I also left on Tess’s blog. The reason I put her article on my site is because she is indirectly referring to the article preceding hers here on my site. It was posted on a FB page and it seems that Tess after reading it felt that she was being included in a charge of “tolerating sin.” The article was NOT referring to her, but certain others who tolerate sin and even support it (abortion and Planned Parenthood was the context). Here is my reply :

    What an excellent post on the topic of “judging.” However, for me the issue is not “judging” at all; but something that goes beyond that.

    Some Christians who yell “don’t judge” do not believe certain sins have to be repented of because they do not see or acknowledge certain things to even be sin !! I refer to things that God clearly calls Sin and that the Church for 2000 years has unanimously continued to declare as Sin. It is at that point that these “don’t judge” folks go even beyond just ‘tolerating’ sin, but actively supporting it, which is as bad as practicing it as St Paul states. (Romans 1:32). One example of this would be a Christian supporting so called same-sex marriage. They do not believe that homosexuality is sin, so in actuality they instead validate it as virtuous and good by openly supporting the very redefinition of marriage between a man and a woman to include homosexuals ! The Holy sacrament of marriage is defiled and redefined to include homosexuals !! This is one example out of many I could give.

    Second, Christians are actually called to judge themselves and each other IN the Church, but not those OUTSIDE of the Church. The Apostle Paul clearly tells us this in 1 Corinthians Chapter 5.

    1Co 5:1-13 NET It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife.(2) And you are proud! Shouldn’t you have been deeply sorrowful instead and removed the one who did this from among you? (3) For even though I am absent physically, I am present in spirit. And I have already judged the one who did this, just as though I were present. (4) When you gather together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of our Lord Jesus, (5) turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (6) Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? (7) Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough — you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (8) So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (9) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. (10) In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. (11) But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. (12) For what do I have to do with judging those outside? ** Are you not to judge those inside? ** (13) But God will judge those outside. Remove the evil person from among you.

    Why does Paul exhort us “to judge those inside”? Christians are to do this not to condemn their brother or sister, but to help each other see their sin, repent and flee sin, so we can all grow in holiness. Thankfully we can know what sin really is, we know what God forbids, and we can help each other flee from sin. Some do not desire to practice this in the Church and instead end up tolerating things in the Church. As Paul states in 1 Cor 5:6 “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough?” in a negative way.

    Finally, thankfully “judging” in the true sense is not possible anyway because we can not execute the punishment (which is the essence of judging) – only Christ can/will do that. But that does not negate the fact we are called to hold each other accountable in love.

    Unfortunately some of the “don’t judge” crowd would find everything I just said “offensive” and write off what I just said and even judge me !! Hypocrites.

    I don’t know if Tess will allow my comment on her page, but that is okay. Her article is excellent.

    [You can also find good articles by her husband here on this site also]

  2. Good reply. Thanks.

  3. Richard,

    I started my post the day Father John gave his homily. It has NOTHING to do with you or your article which by the way I have not even read.

  4. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” Jesus Christ (John 7:24)

    1. Tess, Fr John’s sermon said nothing about “tolerating sin.” That idea came from subsequent circumstances and it is disingenuous for you to deny that. Why in your article would you ask if not judging means tolerating sin? One would not get that thought from the 8 minute homily.

    2. “Do not Judge” is a warning not a command. As I said in my response, read 1 Corinthians 5 (and other passages in scripture that tell us we MUST judge, discern, and examine all things to know what is true and false). Do you not ever judge your Children’s actions and discipline accordingly? “Never Judge” is a popular liberal argument to tolerate popular sins today such as homosexuality and abortion. It is nonsense.

    3. No one ever stated that one should judge in the sense of condemning someone to hell or something like that. We agree THAT alone is the prerogative of Christ Himself, not us. That is what the Pharisees were doing by putting “human traditions” over God’s commands. Read the entire context of Jesus’ words.

    4. How can we help our brother or sister toward repentance and holiness if we NEVER judge? Would we not expect them to do that for US in love? I certainly would.

    John the Baptist judged : The one who prepared the way of the Lord, John the Baptist, publicly rebuked King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife contrary to the law of God (Matt. 14:3-4) He was beheaded for it. Jesus said of him, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11)

    5. The only ones I hear crying out “Don’t Judge” are liberals in our society and in the Church. When I read your last paragraph of your article it seemed to me that a certain Riggle has influenced your thinking more than an honest search for truth on this topic. (That person says THAT all the time). Next we will be picking one Saint out over all other Saints – say like St. Dorotheus of Gaza – to defend our view, like some do who tolerate sin that you and I know. I hope and pray I am wrong on THAT. But you can be the “judge” of that !!!

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