The question “Has anyone ever felt judged by another?” resonates with nearly all of us. Perhaps that’s why most people are fond of quoting Jesus’ words: Judge not, that you be not judged (Matt. 7:1). We don’t want others to judge us, but we still want to maintain our own thoughts about others.
Jesus is not giving a blanketed statement that communicates we must tolerate theological error. Nor is he saying that we ought never to get involved in the life of another who is choosing sin. Jesus’ statement about not judging has parameters. It is not all-inclusive. Consider, for instance, that we are told to judge the difference between truth and error (1 John 4:1), or that we are asked to judge a brother who is in rebellious, unrepentant sin in order that he may be restored to God (1 Cor. 6:5).
The verses that surround Jesus’ statement about judging help us understand what Jesus meant.
Judge not, that you be not judged . . . Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:1, 3-5).
Jesus wants us to understand this truth: We are forbidden to judge another without first evaluating our own sin.
In Luke 17 Jesus speaks about rebuking and restoring a brother, but he gives this advice with a strong warning: pay attention to yourself (Luke 17:3a)
Other translations capture it this way:
So watch yourselves! (New Living Translation).
Be on your guard! (New American Standard)
Take heed to yourselves (New King James Version)
Pay attention to yourselves! (English Standard Version)
Be concerned about yourselves! (Lexham English Bible)
No matter the translation, the message is clear. You better take a good look at your own heart before you begin to evaluate another person. Be on your guard. Make sure that repentance isn’t necessary on your part.
Perhaps such introspection would change how we address a conflict. What if, before you ever addressed another, you spent some time in personal reflection considering your part in the conflict? How might that change the outcome of the conversation?
What if we actually pulled the plank from our own eye, before we tried to help another with the speck of dirt they have in theirs?
Only when we’ve taken a good hard look at our own propensities to do wrong will we come to another with the humility necessary to move them along towards restoration. If we are unwilling to receive the Spirit’s correction, but we expect another to receive our correction, the Scripture calls us a hypocrite. A title that is well deserved (Matt. 7:5).