“Don’t’ judge me!” We hear it with growing frequency. Behind the statement, there is a semblance of truth. Many use the passage in Luke 6:37 to imply that no one has the right to make a moral judgment on their personal behavior. If the meaning in Jesus’ statement of, “judge not unless you be judged,” infers that we cannot interject truth into toxic behavior, we are left with an ideology of void of moral boundaries. Should we judge others? Where is the distinction between evaluating right and wrong and infringing on someone’s personal beliefs?
When Jesus says, “Judge not,” He uses the word “krinete,” which means “to evaluate, to form a critical opinion of something by examination or scrutiny.” The word here implies a critical response to someone in the negative, not a reasonable assessment of behavior.
In short, we are not to judge others in the context of criticizing them, but we can and should make a distinction between right and wrong by using the standard of God’s moral law. Jesus goes on to state that we cannot evaluate others correctly until we are willing to deal with similar contradictions in our own hearts. (See verse 41) Conversely, this also means we can evaluate others correctly when our heart is in the correct posture of loving others.
Can we judge people with the hope of correcting their behavior in a loving way? Yes. I think there are plenty of scriptural references to this positive behavior. (Galatians 6:1, 1 Corinthians 2:15, James 5:19 ) In each of these passages, however, there is the implication of restoring relationships with those who fall short of God’s moral law.
Are we given the freedom to criticize others because of our knowledge of the truth? No. When someone declares “don’t judge me,” in hopes of shielding themselves from correction, you may want to ask yourself if you are working to restore them in relationship to God through your friendship or if you’re merely inserting your opinion. Our place, as Christ’s disciples, is to reconcile men and women to God, not to separate them from God through our criticism. (2 Corinthians 5:19)