A child learns in Sunday school not to judge others.
From day one we are told not to be critical of the actions of others, but to look at their own lives to ensure we are right before God.
For the most part this is a good idea. A Christian person must examine his life and ask the Lord for help in removing the things He would not be pleased with.
However, the verses in Matthew on judging are discussing fellow Christians, not those who are not.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:21 says, “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged.” He goes on to say that a person should not utter to his brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye.”
The important word in this verse is brother. Jesus is talking about judging other believers.
Moving just a few verses down in Matthew seven, Jesus begins the parable on the “Tree and its Fruit.” In this parable, the Lord tells His disciples they will know prophets and false prophets by their fruit.
He discusses the idea of healthy and non-healthy trees and that only healthy trees can produce good fruit. Conversely, unhealthy trees cannot produce healthy fruit.
Jesus is very clear that unhealthy trees are to be removed. He says in verse 19, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Verse 20 finally says, “So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
The word here for know them means that the observer will know them without a shadow of a doubt.
The logical conclusion here is that Christians are to look at others – Christians and non-Christians – to determine who is producing fruit.
Those who are producing fruit are God’s, and those who are not producing fruit must be removed from fellowship – or cut down and thrown into the fire – as the Lord so strongly said.
It is difficult to believe that Jesus would have told His disciples to look for fruit in other people if He didn’t want them to really look. It is impossible to determine if a tree is producing fruit without examining it.
So what is the Christian to do? Do they judge or not? Do they examine or not? The better question might be, “Should they protect themselves?”
Jesus knew, when he was teaching His disciples through His sermon, that he didn’t have much time left on earth. He needed His men, who would be starting the church, to not be drawn off track by those who claimed to be from God but weren’t.
Jesus was teaching His disciples to look at those claiming to be His and determine if their lives produce the fruit that can be seen in Galatians 5:22-23, and if their lives are blessings to others.
The Lord needed His people to be unshakable in the times ahead, because there would be many trying to divert the work of the church. The same applies today. Christ wants His people to surround themselves with those who are of one mind.
Allowing those within the church – who may have never accepted the Lord – to influence His direction for the church and people’s lives is dangerous and unacceptable.
So, Christ’s followers are not to judge, but are to look at those people around them to ensure they are producing fruit. If these people are showing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, then embrace them. If they are not, it might be an opportunity for evangelism.