Understanding the Meaning of “Thou Shall Not Judge”

I am sure that almost everyday, we all come across people who use this quotation from Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged”.

Whenever people use the words “thou shall not Judge”, sincerely I do not know what they mean. It appears to me that people use that verse to silence others from saying the truth or to validate their wrongs.

So when someone is on the wrong and you dare talk to the person, you are sure to hear “do not judge me.” Invariably the person is saying: “You don’t have the right to tell me that I am wrong.”

And if you ever write about any wrong-doings like I usually do about we preachers, politicians, and the people, you must surely see comments like: “you are not the one that called them or created them. Who are you to judge? Leave God to judge them.”

Did Jesus truly mean that we should not judge in the sense of pointing out wrongs or even telling people to their faces their sins or wrongdoings?

If this is so, how then can we possibly reconcile the fact that John the Baptist actually walked up to Herod to tell him to his face his sin of adultery? Is that not judgment, calling Herod an adulterer? (Matthew 14:1-13).

How can we reconcile the fact that Paul had to rebuke Peter publicly and even wrote about it? Read Paul: “But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.” Gal 2:11. If you read further, you will see where Paul even referred to some of the Jews and even Barnabas as cowards.

How do we even reconcile St James’ admonitions in James 5:19-20 which states, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Or in common sense, how can we possibly call a spade a spade as Christians? Will it not be sinful if we call a spade a knife or we call fridge a shoe, or we call black, white?

Let us get this very clearly,

When the bible says we should not judge others, it does not in any way mean we cannot show discernment.

If you recall, immediately after Jesus said “do not judge”, he went on in Matthew 7:6 to say “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs”. And as the discussion continues, he says, “Watch out for false prophets. . . . By their fruits you will know them” (verses 15–16).

How are we to discern who are the “dogs” and “pigs” and “false prophets” unless we have the ability to make a judgment on persons, on doctrines, on people’s actions? Christ has given us permission to tell right from wrong. How can we do that without discernment? How can we discern without passing judgment?

We all know that sin is sin in whichever way we want to see it. Evil is evil. Truth is truth.

To call something a lie, is that not to pass judgment? Someone who lies, is the person, not a liar?

To call adultery or murder or stealing a sin, is that not to pass judgment? Someone who commits them, is the person not an adulterer, murderer, or a thief?

Or are we saying we cannot as Christians identify sin in the way God sees it as sin? Or when someone lies, we should smile at him? When another steals, we should not mention that he is a thief? Aren’t we lying by so doing?

Why did the bible dedicate a whole book in the old testament with the title “Judges?” If you go through it, the entire book is basically about judgment from judges, about defining issues?

Or can we say that in our society, lawyers and judges who judge and pronounce sentence will go to hell for passing judgment on lawbreakers? Can we ask all Christians not to study law and all Christian Universities to remove the law from their schools?

Even somewhere in John 7:24, the same Jesus himself said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” Let me repeat, he said JUDGE CORRECTLY.

Please, I am asking you all, I sincerely want to know. When you make statements like “thou shall not Judge”, putting into consideration all that I have observed and in line with the bible, can someone tell me what it truly means?

By Fr. Kelvin Ugwu

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