“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Goodness, is there any more frequently quoted scripture in our society these days? And probably few that are more misconstrued and misused.
Here is the Joe American’s Contemporary Translation of Matthew 7:1: “Don’t you dare to tell me that something I’m doing is a sin – or is even wrong or incorrect. You can’t judge me! You aren’t the ultimate authority on right and wrong! You just need to keep your opinions to yourself and let me live my life the way I choose to. Hypocrite!”
If we continue reading in Matthew 7, we hear Jesus say, “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.”
Yep, he uses that H-word, too: hypocrite. Someone who slams on his brother’s sin without dealing with the glaring sins in his own life is a hypocrite. Jesus tells the hypocrite to clean up his act . . . but then what? Leave your brother alone? Hold hands and dance under the rainbows singing Kum-Ba-Yah? No – he says then help your brother get the speck out of his eye.
As much as Joe Contemporary American may hate to hear it, the Bible has plenty of passages encouraging believers to confront their fellow believers about sin in their life – gently, lovingly, and humbly, but confront nonetheless.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. (Galatians 6:1-3)
Help your brother get the speck out of his eye. So, this idea that the Bible forbids us to ever have the gall to point out someone else’s sin is inaccurate. We are clearly instructed, in some situations, to point out our brother’s sin. In fact, I believe every writer of the New Testament was guilty of the “crime” of confronting a fellow believer with their sin. We shouldn’t obsess about it . . . or harangue them . . . or humiliate them . . . or confront strangers . . . we confront our brothers lovingly, humbly, gently, with compassion and patience and always making it a priority to keep our own sins in line . . . but we are to confront. I don’t like it either, but part of faith is accepting what is true whether we like it or not -- and courage is acting on the truth even when it's hard.
There was a commercial on TV when I was a kid about talking to your friends about drugs. A girl stood on a railroad track in the path of an oncoming train; she spoke to the camera explaining that her life was her life and she could live it the way she wanted to, right? And the train came nearer and nearer with its horn blaring. The point was obvious: friends do what they can to push a friend off the railroad tracks when they know a train is coming. That’s not hypocrisy. It’s LOVE.