“…reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching…”
2 Timothy 4:2
What Christian who speaks forth the word of God boldly has not been accused of being judgmental? There is a vast difference between judgment and reproof, between judging someone’s heart and intentions and correcting them out of love for their souls. Correction is not often perceived as loving, but as any wise parent knows, correction is necessary for the good of the child. (Heb 12:11)
Matthew Henry in his commentary on Matthew 7 writes, “We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions…” Interestingly, that is the same way I’ve explained the difference for years. When I’ve cautioned against certain lifestyles of sin, people have often responded: “Judge not.” It may be the only words some heathens know in the Scripture! Yet they do not understand the meaning.
Calling sin sin is not a judgment of anyone’s heart, but speaking forth the truth as shown in God’s word. We cannot understand all the situations and thoughts of a person’s heart, but an action or statement often can be plainly seen as either being in line with the Word of God or not. Witchcraft is sin. Fornication is sin. Sin is sin. Now, maybe if we had been in a certain persons shoes, we could have just as easily fallen into the same trap that was laid for him. Maybe we can understand and even sympathize with the situation. That doesn’t really help anyone. “The wages of sin is death.” Period. (Romans 6:23) Unless a sinner comes to repentance, how can he really be helped? God uses preaching to bring sinners to repentance. (Romans 10:14) Confusion over “judgment” and “reproof” stifles the truth, and only the Truth sets people free.
Again Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matt 7 states:
“Because we must not judge others, which is a great sin, it does not therefore follow that we must not reprove others, which is a great duty, and may be a means of saving a soul from death.” (Emphasis added)
So, at the risk of being called judgmental, let us continue as the Scripture and love demands in the DUTY of reproof. May we always do so with a loving heart, even though sometimes it be straight forward and firm. May it never be in mean-spirited name-calling of victims, but in spiritually discerning the damning lies and the deceptive manipulations of the enemy of humankind.
“Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)