The Bible reminds us that we are all victims of sin. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 1 John 1:8 points out that we are not being truthful if we deny that we are victims of sin. The verse says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” When a person makes bad, destructive choices, it not only has an impact on their own lives, but the lives of those around them. Our sins have an impact on others. Others sins have an impact on you. So the question is raised: are we called as Christians to point out the sin of others?
Some Christians insist that God has called them to confront people and their sins. Many will quote Ezekiel 3:17-18 which says “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.” These words from Ezekiel would appear to be a call to action for Christians to point out the sin of others. Well, not so fast. When we expand to verse 19, the continuation of this passage it says “But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved your life.” When we look at the verses together in full, we see that this is a specific warning from God to Ezekiel, and the warning that God gives can’t be applied to the general public.
On the flip side, there are passages throughout the New Testament where addressing sin is expected. Luke 17:3-4 says “So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” We are called by God to forgive one another’s sins. The ultimate call is not condemnation. Another passage that addresses sin in others can be found in James 5:19-20 which says “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.” In this passage, we are told that sin should be acknowledged, confronted and dealt with; however, the focus of these verses is love, not condemnation.
We as Christians are not called to judge. When we do, we are committing an even bigger sin against God. There are several passages in the New Testament that speak on judgment. The book of Matthew and Luke both address judging others, and both passages illustrate God’s view of judgment and why we shouldn’t commit this offense. Similar to the “judging others passage” in the book of Matthew, Luke 6:37-38 says “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” There is a direct correlation between how we treat others, and the spiritual gifts we receive from God. Later in the Luke passage, Jesus speaks to that previously addressed parable, beginning at verse 39, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like the teacher. 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 brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” In this passage, Jesus is telling us to first look at ourselves and focus on the changes we should make –not on other’s faults. If we find ourselves constantly looking at the sin in others, we are turning a blind eye to our own sin. We can’t take the speck out of someone else’s eye until we take the plank out of our own.
So the answer to the title’s question may seem a bit confusing, especially when we hear that Christians are to “judge not” but also to distinguish and judge what is truth. Jesus doesn’t call us to turn a blind eye to sin. If a person you know is falling deep into a pit as a result of their sin, you shouldn’t sit back in silence while watching them fall deeper into the hole of sabotage. But that doesn’t mean we condemn others for their sins by judging them. When we do, we are committing an even bigger sin. Ultimately, Jesus tells us to look at our own sin before we judge the sin of others. The Bible tells us to confront the sin of others with truth, respect and love. If we are doing anything else, we are missing God’s call to love others.