In Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Judging, within this context, refers to the type of judgment that a judge would render in a court of law, such as in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge another’s servant?” A judge hears the evidence and pronounces a judgment. We are in no position to do this; we don’t have all the facts. God tells us to leave justice to Him; He is the judge.
In John 7:24 however, Christians are to judge, or “call into question” those things that clearly contradict God’s principles. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:15, said that those who are spiritual should judge, or discern, all things. Here are a few examples:
1. Matthew 18:15 says that we are to judge those who sin against us: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” In some cases, God clearly instructs us to confront. In other cases, He encourages us to turn the other cheek; however, our motives must stem from a right heart. Confrontation must come from a true desire to help, not from self-glorification, or self-righteousness. If someone has sinned against us via slander, gossip, theft, lying, etc., we have grounds to confront with the goal being restoration. Although forgiveness is a decision, building trust is a process. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that we instantly trust them again or continue the relationship. In some cases, it’s wise to keep our distance, especially in cases of abuse where danger or serious harm is involved.
2. II Thessalonians 3:6 is a challenging scripture for many: “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” The word “disorderly” denotes a soldier marching out of order—not in the same direction, or with the same purpose.
In the same way, people either lift you up, or pull you down. If you are standing on a wall, it’s easier to be pulled down than to pull someone up. Likewise, the downward pull of a destructive and disorderly relationship is strong. Proverbs 18:24 says that there are friends who destroy each other, and II Corinthians 6:14 states, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” Although this command is crystal clear, it’s often read with clouded vision, especially as it relates to marriage.
Countless times in the Old Testament, God warned His people not to have friends who would draw them away from Him, and countless times their disregard led to their downfall. If you’re not sure if a person is a positive influence in your life, judge where they are leading you; is it in the direction that you want to go? If not, seriously reconsider the relationship. It’s easy to believe that you’ll influence the other person by lifting them up, but often, they have the stronger leverage to pull you down. Destructive relationships do exactly that—pull you down.
I am not suggesting that Christians only interact with other Christians; we are called to minister to others in all areas of life. We cannot totally separate from the culture. What good is salt if it’s left in the shaker? But if the friendship is pulling you in the wrong direction, it’s time to judge the relationship in light of II Thessalonians 3:6.
3. From time to time, we may need to confront a destructive lifestyle. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Martin Luther, when commenting on this text, said, “This consideration is very much needed to put a stop to the severity of some [leaders] who show the fallen no mercy. St. Augustine says: ‘There is no sin which one person has committed, that another person may not commit it also….We stand in slippery places; always remember: This man fell into sin; I may fall into worse sin. If those who are always so eager to condemn others would investigate themselves they would find that the sins of others are motes in comparison to their own.” This is a strong warning against legalism and the desire to always confront. We must avoid being a “divisive man” who is proud, un-teachable, and eager to dispute; yet, if a person is overtaken in any sin, we should confront and restore them in a spirit of gentleness.