“Judgment” is not a popular word. It’s one of the things people hate about religion. “Those people are too judgmental.” People want love, not judgment.
But love and God’s judgment are connected. In the words of Jonathan Leeman, judgment protects what is loved and cherished. It’s against the law to murder because life is precious. It’s against the law to steal because property is precious. It’s against God’s moral law to lie because truth is precious.
When the law is broken the proper result is an act of judgment. This act of judgment declares the worthiness of the thing being protected. And if no penalty or judgment results, the implication is that whatever the law was protecting was worthless.
This is why the Bible says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (Jn. 7:24). Many of Jesus’ discussions of being judgmental condemn not judgment in general, but proud judgment that lacks any awareness of one’s own faults. In other words, judgment without humility.
Sometimes people will use Matthew 7:1 — “Judge not, that you be not judged” — to reprimand Christians for condemning sin. Setting aside the point that this in itself is a judgment, look at the rest of Matthew 7. Jesus tells us not to give what is holy to dogs, not to cast our pearls before swine (v. 6), to beware of false prophets (v. 15), and to know a tree by its fruits (v. 20). Clearly, he wasn’t opposed to all judgment.
He describes the kind of judgment he condemns in Matthew 7:3-5 using a striking analogy.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
The meaning is clear: before we start looking at other people’s faults, we must achieve the clarity of humility by looking inwardly and working on our own faults and seeing these as greater in degree than the faults of our neighbors.
Judgment in and of itself is not bad. Blind judgment is bad, the kind of judgment that ignores your own faults so that it can emphasize everybody else’s.
Ultimately there is only one judgment we should be worried about—Christ’s. His judgment will decide whether we’ll spend eternity with the Father or with the devil and his angels (John 12:48).