I received the following email from Diana: “The Bible tells us not to judge one another and yet here you are judging those who live differently than you. You may not live the way they do but this does not mean that you have to hate them for it, nor does it mean that you should hate them for it. Before you spew your narrow minded, hateful opinions I would ask you to listen to the other side.”

How many times have you heard people fault Christians for “judging” others for taking a stand on moral issues? These “non-judgers” want to have it both ways. The “judge nots” want to deny Christians the right to judge behavior they believe is immoral and in some instances criminal. At the same time they want to maintain their right to judge the judging behavior of Christians. Christians are viewed as hypocrites for using the Bible to judge when the Bible commands them to “judge not.”

The Bible, like any book, can be made to say anything if verses are taken and interpreted with no regard to their original context. No doubt some parts of the Bible are “hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Cults proliferate because of a studied practice of “Scripture twisting.” Verses are ripped from their context and strung together to create “doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). The fault of this method, however, does not lie with the Bible but with its interpreters.

Paul Copan writes in “True For You, But Not True For Me” that “It’s been said that the most frequently quoted Bible verse is no longer John 3:16 but Matthew 7:1: ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’” I would add that it’s the most frequently _mis_quoted verse by those who quote the Bible only when they believe it helps their cause.

We cannot glibly quote this, though, without understanding what Jesus meant. When Jesus condemned judging, he wasn’t at all implying we should never make judgments about anyone. After all, a few verses later, Jesus himself calls certain people “pigs” and “dogs” (Matt. 7:6) and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (7:15)! Any act of church discipline (1 Cor. 5:5) and rebuking false prophets (1 John 4:1) requires judgment.[1]

Jesus said “Do not judge lest you be judged” (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37). But He also said, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24; see Deut. 16:18). These are not contradictory statements since the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 tells us what He means by “not judging” and what it means to judge with “righteous judgment.” Jesus was condemning those who judge using two standards of morality, one standard for the judge and another for the accused. The Bible maintains—in both the Old and New Testaments—that the standard of judgment must be equal for both parties (Num. 15:16). “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).

In essence, no one is above the law, not even those who make and enforce it. The Pharisees demonstrated a system based on two standards of justice: “They tie up heavy loads and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Matt. 23:4).

If the “judge not” concept were taken to its logical conclusion, every court room in the country would have to be shut down, every judge laid off, and all attorneys sent packing. This says nothing of the Supreme Court and Congress, two institutions that deal with judgment on a national scale.

One last point should be noted. The “judge-nots” of this world are selective in their use of the Bible. One “judge-not” writes that “Jesus never condemned homosexuality, nor did He even mention it.” Jesus did not specifically condemn rape, either. Jesus upheld the validity of the Old Testament and its condemnation of rape, incest, and homosexuality. Do the “judge-nots” want to decriminalize rape and incest because Jesus did not specifically condemn these behaviors? Jesus and the New Testament writers worked against the backdrop of the Old Testament law. There was no need to repeat what was accepted to be authoritative.


[1] 1 Paul Copan, “True For You, But Not For Me”: Deflating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 1998), 32.