Christ and His prophets have shown how to judge righteously.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”Matthew 7:1
“Sin” has become a taboo word. No one likes being told what they are doing is sinful. No one likes to think they are a sinner. Everyone can justify whatever they are doing isn’t “sin”. This sort of mindset has spread all over the church (and the world) and has caused an atmosphere that is counter-intuitive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People don’t like talking about sins as what they are, sins.
Growing up, I would often hear the verse quoted above used as a reason we shouldn’t talk about sin. After all, you wouldn’t want to be judging someone, right? Recently, I have heard other statements on the matter of judgment, see if any of these sound familiar to you:
“It isn’t my place to say that person is sinning.”
“You’re supposed to look at the beam in your eye and not the mote in your brother’s eye.”
“Judging people is wrong.”
“Only God can judge us.”
“That person has agency, let them do what they want.”
While all these statements contain truth with the correct context, they more often used as a way to justify what a person is doing. By stating these things, you are likely saying is, “I am afraid to call out moral wrongs.”
Why is this? Why are we as members so afraid to call out sin as sin? I believe it is part of Satan’s plan. If you make calling out sin shameful, then people stop encouraging others to repent.
“Repent” is the other taboo word of the day. Often, when one is invited to repent, the invitation is met with one of the justifying phrases listed above. Repentance is a beautiful thing, afforded to us by the love of Jesus Christ, and no one should be ashamed to repent. Every person who has ever lived has the requirement to repent on a daily basis. But how can one repent if one is not willing to acknowledge sin?
This leads to the situation we are in today. Where people are so afraid of “judging” another person, that they are totally unwilling to define what is sin. Satan has successfully clouded members of the church so that they are complacent watching their spirit-siblings do wrong. What can we do instead? We need to understand how to judge properly. Let us study two passages of scripture, starting in the Book of Mormon:
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
Breaking down these verses, Moroni ends it with a “don’t judge” statement. But he clarifies, teaching that we should not judge wrongfully. In the prior verses, he tells us how we can judge. He reminds us we all have the Spirit of Christ, that we may know good from evil. We have the capacity to understand what is right, what is wrong, make a judgment, and define it.
Take careful notice that Moroni doesn’t say anything about judging an individual. The entire point isn’t to judge an individual, it is to understand the difference between good and evil.
So you might be asking yourself now, “how can I tell my friend that what they are doing is sinful, without judging them as an individual? How can I condemn sin without condemning the person?”
This leads to our next passage of scripture, one of my favorites.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
This event in the Bible shows the mercy and the love of our Savior perfectly. As well as it shows us the proper method of judgment. Let’s break down what is going on here. The Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of sin; one we still consider universally vile today, adultery. We can all objectively agree that cheating on your spouse is extremely wrong. They brought her before the Lord asking Him, “What do we do, the law says we stone her, but what do you say?”
The answer Jesus gives is profound: “He who is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her.”
In the culture, a “first stone” was usually the largest stone to be thrown. It was the stone intended to kill the person it was being thrown at. The “first” stone was intended to be the “final” part of the sinner’s life. If you survived the first stone, you would usually survive the rest of the stoning.
We are not to condemn people, to say they are “going to hell” or that they deserve to be punished. This is unrighteous judgment: condemnation. We can, however, follow the Savior’s example at the end of the passage, inviting others to “go, and sin no more.”
Jesus didn’t say, “I accept you for you,” and He didn’t quip, “you have agency, I respect that.”
He exhorted, “sin no more.”
This beautiful invitation to repent is exactly the proper way to judge sin. Objectively acknowledge sin has taken place, and invite the person to repent in the most loving way you possibly can. Don’t condemn the person, condemn the sin.
It is my hope that we as members of Christ’s Church can follow the admonition of God and our prophets to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” That we can stop making “repent” and “sin” words of taboo and offense. It is my faithful prayer that we can all be humble enough to seek and accept correction, and we can all see sin for what it is, evil. We need to become a “sin-resistant generation” and in order to do that, we need to not be afraid of pointing out moral evils, incorrect principles, false doctrines, and incorrect teachings. Stand for what is right. Stand in church when evil is taught for good and call to repentance, call for others to follow the prophet.
The Lord will stand with you. I promise.
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.Doctrine and Covenants 6:9
- “Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others” -Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer, April 2010
- “Mercy – The Divine Gift” -President Thomas S. Monson, April 1995
- “Be Not Deceived” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2004
You can follow Robert on Twitter at @King_Rob3rt.