The words "Judge not, that ye be not judged," are often employed to hinder a sound judgment as to the plain path of right and wrong. If a person is walking in that which I know by the word of God to be wrong, I must judge that he is walking wrong, or give up my judgment of right and wrong. I may trust he may be misled, or that difficulties and temptations may have overcome him, and consider myself lest I also be tempted - think the best I can of him; but I cannot put evil for good, nor good for evil. There can be no right motive to do what is wrong to do - a thing contrary to God's will. There may be ignorance, want of light in the conscience, and I may and ought to take all this into account, but I cannot say that the person is not doing wrong. Woe be to me if, for any personal consideration, I enfeeble my own sense that a wrong path is a wrong one. The saint must be very careful not to allow any sophistry to modify his submission of heart and conscience to God's judgment of good and evil. As regards the church of God, the scriptures plainly declare we are to "judge them that are within, but them that are without God judgeth." This is no imputation of motives, nor habit of forming an opinion on other people's conduct, which is an evil habit, but the duty of not allowing evil in the house of God. It is positively commanded to us not to allow it.
Again, many apply this to judging whether people are Christians, but this is founded on a fundamental mistake. It is assumed that people are supposed to be Christians unless proved to the contrary. If the faith of the soul be a personal thing, and I value Christ, this cannot be. I am not called upon to be volunteering to pass a judgment on the point whether such or such an one is a Christian. The person who blames me for saying such an one is a Christian is judging that he is so of course, which is quite false. The apostle says, "The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." Believing this, it is a joy to believe that any one has passed from death unto life. That is not a judgment; it is the rejoicing of the heart that faith in that person has brought him into the blessed place of a child of God. It is a most horrible principle, that we cannot know who are God's children, Christ's disciples; it destroys all godly affections. If the children of a family were told that they could not know, and ought not to judge, who are their brothers and sisters, what would become of family affections? The Lord has said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." How can this be if I do not know who are disciples, and towards whom this love is to be exercised? We must know each other to love each other as children of God - to love "as brethren." He who objects to judging that such and such are God's children objects to the love of the brethren; he is rejecting the spiritual affections on which the Lord and Scripture so much insist.
There is a wrong spirit of judgment. If I occupy myself needlessly in thinking of others, and expressing an opinion of them; if in questionable cases I ascribe, even in my mind, wrong motives; nay, if I do not hope in such cases that the right motive is at the bottom, I am in the spirit of judgment, and away from God. If severity of judgment on the person, when I am bound to judge he is faulty, possesses my soul, this is not the Spirit of God.
But to weaken the plain, unequivocal, and avowed estimate of right and wrong, under the pretence of not judging; or to deny the knowledge of one another and mutual love among the saints, under pretence that we have not a right to judge, is of the enemy, and a mere cover to a man's conscience to avoid the conscious pressure of that judgment on himself. If I am to maintain a divine standard of right and wrong I must judge those who do wrong to be doing so. I am not always called to occupy myself about them - then, if volunteered, the spirit of judgment comes - but if I am, I must judge according to the word of God. If 1 am to love the disciples of Jesus, the saints of God, the "brotherhood," I must know who they are. If there is a disposition to distrust or to impute motives, then the spirit of judgment is at work. J. N. Darby.