While much of the contemporary church moves no further than saying “judge not” repeatedly—almost as a mantra—the scriptures teach very differently. There is a safe and edifying realm within which brothers in Christ are to use the facility of judgment in order to keep their brother and the church in a healthy spiritual state. Just as the ‘judge not’ statement can be abused so also a teaching on ‘judging’ can be greatly abused. Those who truly love Jesus will be very careful and slow in any form of judgment and will seek a Biblical balance.
In the first post on Matthew 7 we showed that all judging was not forbidden by Christ and that in fact He went on to teach the wonderful benefit of judging when you use it to help your brother take something out of his eye. Jesus also taught in John 7:24 that we are to “judge righteous judgment.” This of course affects and influences the relationship between brothers in Christ. Any judgment that is not righteous is not biblical. Paul teaches in I Cor.5:12 that, “ye judge them that are within”—that is, those in the church; members in the body of Christ.
There is a whole realm of Biblical teaching that shows us that we ought to be equipped to sit in judgment on disputes between brothers. We don’t just say ‘love each other, shake hands and make up.’ No. We must have great discernment in applying the written scriptures in a righteous manner. Deut.1:16, “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother...” This is a Biblical principle and teaching in both the Old and New Testaments. In I Corinthians 6 when dealing with a problem in the Corinthian church where brother was taking brother to secular courts Paul teaches three very vital truths: i) you shall one day judge the world, ii) you shall one day judge the angels, iii) therefore you ought to be able to judge issues between brothers now in the church.
Judging your brother has everything to do with a deep sincere desire to perceive and then remove anything that stands between you and your brother or deal with what spoils fellowship between you. Therefore this type of judgment promotes unity, restores fellowship and is a manifestation of love.
Go to Your Brother
We are not to harbour things in our heart against our brother without trying to rectify it. We must attempt to both remove it from our heart and win our brother back. Jesus taught “That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Mt.5:22). Please notice that all anger towards a brother is not wrong. “Be angry and sin not.” But even when it is righteous anger there is always the danger of it becoming sinful. Even when it is righteous we are given clear instructions on how to handle it. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mt.5:23-24). Even if the anger is justified and if it is your brother who is the one who has the issue against you we are still told to go to him. Spiritual ministry, sacrifices and gifts mean nothing if our heart is not long for the recovery of sincere fellowship with each brother in Christ.
Even in serious situations where your brother is walking “disorderly—out of step with the written Word of God—and under circumstances in which you are to have no “company” with him or fellowship with him we still treat him as a brother. Paul writes, “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” If he was an enemy you would not admonish him. Admonishing is an act of brotherly love and deep concern. To admonish (noutheteo) means to put in mind, to bring to the attention of, to caution, or to reprove gently (II Thess.3:6, 14-15).
A Biblical way to Deal with a Brother
Luke 17:3, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him."
- Before you do anything you must take heed to yourself. If you do not go to your brother in the right manner, with the right motive for the right reason you will find yourself wrong before God.
- Trespass = to miss the mark; err or son. Please notice that this is a clear act of sin. It’s not a personal issue or a personality issue. It is something that the Bible actually clearly calls sin. It’s not off-loading your resentments or the things you don’t like about your brother.
- Rebuke – epitimao = this is an act of making your brother know the seriousness of his deed. It is an attempt to turn him from it, to correct him, enlighten him and free him from it. A loving rebuke to a brother is not only a biblical thing but it is also righteous and loving. To ignore the issue of sin and leave it in his life undealt with is unloving. (Lev.19:17; Ps.141:5; Prov.9:8; 17:10; 27:5-6). A vital scripture in relation to admoniting your brother is Rom.15:14, “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish” (noutheteo = to put in mind; bring to the attention of; to caution or reprove gently). Admonition is a mark of maturity. But to be able or mature enough for it you must be filled with goodness and knowledge.
- Repent. If sin has been committed we look for repentance. We don’t just love unconditionally and therefore forgive and forget when no repentance has been shown. We look for a change of mind and action. The Bible does not teach that if your brother sin against you that you go and ask him to forgive you. Neither does it say if your brother sin against you just love him, or just forgive him, or just leave it in the hands of the Holy Spirit. No it says go, rebule, and look for repentance.
- Forgive. If he repents then you must forgive. The word forgive (aphiemi) means to send forth, to send away, let go of, lay aside, put away, or to remit. After he repents if you don’t forgive by fully letting go of it then the sin is now yours.
the key issue in forgiving others and in following through the correct biblical way of restoring fellowship with your brother. It takes faith in God and faith in the wisdom of god's written Word to follow this proceedure.
Further Teaching from Christ
Mt.18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”
- “go” – What is our responsibility when we have been wronged by a brother? It is direct, honest personal and private communication. i) This gives an opportunity to clear up a misunderstanding. You may have misread the situation or there may be facts you don’t know. ii) It gives an opportunity for him to take responsibility for his sin. In most cases a true brother will immediately repent and apologize. iii) it gaurds his testimony and reputation. iv) It builds a solid basis of trust and confidence for a future relationship.
- “tell him” - elegcho = admonish, convict or convince; reprove or rebuke. There is no true biblical reconciliation without dealing with the actual issue. True love does not sweep things under the carpet.
- 18:16, “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." Of course this must be shared with trusted mature brothers in order to do this. When a brother will not talk, respond, or deal with his words and actions Christ instructs us to share the details with a few trusted brethren who can help in the situation. The Bible does not teach that we caanot share such an issue at all. However those you tell should go with you to the brother and now they are involved in this reconciliation process.
- 18:17, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” There is a preceedure before an issue becomes public in a church.
After decades of very close observation I am persuaded that few take this teaching of Christ seriously or have the courage to live it out. In the church of our day there are broken relationships between brothers but this teaching has never been applied by either party. It is wrong, it is sin, to withdraw yourself from fellowship, or to put up a blockade, or to create a distance from your brother without speaking with your brother or correcting him. Going to your brother on such issues is one of the haredest things in all the world to do, yet it is thoroughly Biblical, righteous and profitable. God help us to leave out these truths in the local church.