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We shouldn't judge people, right?
There is a large number of people in the world, even Christians, today who say that we shouldn't judge people. Thus, they would go to say that we shouldn't criticize others; saying that they are wrong or what they believe is wrong. This is mainly due to the influence of postmodernism, with its idea of relativism and philosophical pluralism.
In this article, I would first, for the benefit of all, show that such an idea is preposterous and is never practiced anywhere, by deconstructing this notion. I would then go on to show according to Scripture what it teaches about judging people.
When someone says that we shouldn't judge people, what they often mean is that we don't have the right to say someone is right or wrong. I would answer this with three lines of reasoning:
You are judging us when you say that
Judging people means that you pass a value judgment on what others think or do or say, of which judgment implies making a decision whether something is right or wrong. Thus, when someone say that we should not judge others, they are in fact passing a value judgment (that judging people is wrong) and thus anyone who does so (judging other) is doing something that is wrong. Thus, those people who say that we shouldn't judge other are in fact doing exactly what they say they shouldn't do; judging that people who they perceive as judging others are wrong. Thus, this sentence is self-defeating. In fact, because this is so, those people who say that we shouldn't judge others are in fact hypocrites, because they practice the thing they condemned in others.
Truth by nature is exclusive
As I have shown in this article on relativism, truth by nature is exclusive. Most people, when they say that we shouldn't judge people, it is almost inadvertently related to truth claims like those found in Christianity (i.e. the claim that Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life — Jn. 14:6) The fact of the matter is that something which is true is non-negotiable. In that article and the main article on relativism, I have demolished the claims of relativism, thus establishing the fact that there are absolute truths. Therefore, if what I say is true, you can't say that I am judging people.
I'm not judging you, God is
The Christian, whether he is presenting the exclusivity of Christ in the Gospel or talking about other truth claims in it, should be basing his arguments on Scripture. Thus, for example, when I say that Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life and that apart from knowing Jesus as God, you will not go to heaven, I am not passing judgment on those who refuse to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, but God's Word in the Bible is. This is because I am not saying something new, but just reiterating what God says through the Bible. Thus, all non-believers' arguments are with God, not me.
Now, we will look at Scripture to see what the Bible says about judging.
For many Christians, they would always throw out these few Bible passages and say that from there Jesus, and Paul condemns judging people. However, is that really the case? We shall see.
The passages that are quoted for saying that we shouldn't judge people are as follows:
Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Rom. 2: 1-3 (NIV)
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?
Before we examine these passages in detail, let us look at some passages in the Bible that show Paul, Stephan and even Jesus judging people, even scolding and shaming them in public.
In what is probably Jesus' most acidic judgment on the Pharisees in Luke 11:37-52, Jesus, the person who tells us to love each other, pronounces six woes on the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The word woe used here is the Greek word transliterated Ouai and denotes a primary exclamation of grief. Used in this context, Jesus was saying that they are in a very bad and grievous state. Jesus here liken these self-righteous religious leaders to bowls which are clean on the outside and dirty on the inside, unwashed tombstones and the people who kill the prophets and then decorate their tombstones later. In other words, Jesus is pronouncing that he has judged them and found them wanting, they being hypocrites who do one thing and exalting themselves in public on their perceived righteousness while sinning in private.
Some people may say that Jesus can do that because he is God. However, let us not forget that Jesus is modeling for us the life we are to live as Christians, thus we can't say that Jesus can judge because he is God, especially since judging someone is an attitude and action, not something special that God alone can do. To prove this, we can look at the case of Stephan and Paul.
Stephan was one of the early Christian and the first Christian martyr, being stoned to death by a Jewish lynch mob made up by his accusers and the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:57- 8:1a). The reason behind his death is found in the passage immediately preceding this. In Acts 7:1-56, Stephan was caught and tried by the Sanhedrin on false charges by people who oppose the Gospel. When asked to present his defense, Stephan gave the Sanhedrin a history lesson, finally closing with a judgment and indictment of the Jews present, especially of the Sanhedrin. Stephan accuses the Sanhedrin and his accusers as follows:
"You stiffnecked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53 NIV)
If that is not judging and criticizing people, then I don't know what it.
Paul, similarly, judge and criticize people. In Gal. 2:11-14, the apostle Peter compromise and was rebuked publicly by Paul.
In light of these examples, we must really look very closely to the passages which seem to support the idea that we are not to judge people.
Let us look at the two passages, Mt. 7:1-5 and Rom. 2:1-3. In these two passages, the Bible is not asking us not to judge; it is against hypocritical judgments. In the passage in the Sermon of the Mount (Mt. 7:1-5), Jesus didn't say that we shouldn't remove the speck from another's eye. In fact, we are asked to do that. However, we are to remove the plank from our eye first, then remove the speck from his eye. In Rom. 2:3, it is saying that is is wrong to judge someone when you are doing the same thing. In fact, in Rom. 2:20-23, we are told that if you want to judge or teach others, you must apply the same standard to yourself. In fact, God himself said that in Mt. 7:1 and the whole of Rom. 2:1-3 that God will judge us according to the standard that we judge others.
So, therefore, what does the Bible teaches about judging others? The Bible says it is OK to judge others, as long as we apply the same standards to ourselves and knowing full well that God will use the same standard on us. In fact, in light of the actions of Jesus, Stephan and Paul, it would be strange if judging people is wrong, for then they would have done something wrong.
I would like to conclude this with a verse which talks about how we are to judge:
"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (Jn. 7:24)