It seems I've heard alot of talk lately about how Christians aren't to judge. We are all familiar with passages like Matthew 7:1-5:
"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.
But, is it possible there is a difference between judging someone and holding someone accountable? I believe that there is, even if that line may sometimes be quite fine. As this question was presented to me recently, I've begun looking for answers in the Scriptures.
It seemed appropriate to start where the statement is found; Matthew 7. I find it interesting that it doesn't stop at verse 4. In verse 5, it talks about removing the plank from your own eye (the sin from your own life) and THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Never really noticed that before. It doesn't leave off with you dealing with your own sin, but asks that you deal with your own sin first and then you are in the clear to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
I do not believe it's our place to judge each other. In fact, it wasn't even why Christ came to the world (John 3:17). But, the Scriptures seem to be pretty clear that we should hold one another accountable to the high calling set before us. We are called to be imitators of Christ. If you claim the name of Christ, you are part of His body (the church) and have joined yourself to a community in which truth and accountability is expected.
Of course, there are always good and bad ways to go about things. The Apostle Paul addresses the subject of accountability in Galatians 6:1
1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
I've had this experience. I believe it's important to establish accountability in my life before something happens where it's needed. So, I have a few, close friends who have unfettered access to my life and my heart. These are the people I call when I'm struggling, who know all of my secrets, and who have the unquestioned right to call me on the carpet when something's not right in my life. On more than one occasion, these people have saved me from continuing in a destructive path. I know they come to me in love and because they carry God's word in their hearts. I don't always respond positively right away, but the Spirit always works their words deep into my heart until they breed repentance.
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. - Proverbs 24:11
These are the sayings of the wise: to show partiality in judging is not good: Whoever says to the guilty, "You are innocent" - people will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them. An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. - Proverbs 24:23-26
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. - Proverbs 27:5-6
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17
"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips". "Wounds from a friend can be trusted".
Too often I am guilty of holding back from saying what is right because I fear how I may be perceived. I, too often, don't speak the truth because I am afraid of hurting someone's feelings. How much better would it be, though, to hurt their feelings if it meant saving them the consequences of a sinful road? There is a book by Amy Carmichael that talks about "Calvary Love"; the kind of love that is worthy of the cross of Christ. There are a few quotes from this book that have been chewing on my heart in the area of accountability and speaking the truth.
"If I am afraid to speak the truth, lets I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, 'You do not understand,' or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
"If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying 'Peace, peace,' where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word 'Let love be without dissimulation' and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
"If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
In truth, aren't many of Paul's letters dedicated to admonishing the Body of Christ and telling us how we should live? In fact, he insists that we live a certain way.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. - Ephesians 4:17-32
Ephesians is rich with how we are to live as Christians. When we claim that name, we also choose a lifestyle that is of a higher standard. When we choose Christ, we become part of His body, part of the church universal, and no longer are we independent. We are told not to forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25) and to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). We are to be interdependent upon one another.
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20
So, it seems to me that the answer is clear, if not easy. We are not to judge each other, that is for God alone. But, we are called to hold one another to the high standards to which we are called. We are to speak the truth to one another. We are to love each other enough to have the tough conversations that lead us back to life. We are to work towards restoration to the Lord and within the body so that none of us becomes like the one spoken of in I Corinthians 5 who was cut off from the assembly.
The most important ingredient is love. We are to do all of this because we love God and we love one another. We are to do it with a heart full of compassion and reconciliation. We are to be like Christ in how we approach one another.
Calvary love is tough stuff to be sure. But, what promise awaits us when this life is over and we shall behold Him face to face. We partake in His suffering that we may also partake in His joy.