Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at 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,” and behold, the log is 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. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:1-6)
There is a fine line between judgement and accountability, and it is predicated by a carefully cultivated relationship and personal responsibility. More often than not, when we seek to correct the behavior of another, we can be met with resistance. However, this resistance is mostly due to one thing: you have not cultivated the relationship necessary to develop a safe environment for accountability. In which case, attempts at holding another accountable will be seen as an attitude of judgement. This is why is vitally important that we have a sense of discernment about ourselves and the relationship we have with others before we seek to be an agent of correction and discipline.
All too often, anyone who feels judged will quote the first verse and leave out the remainder of the verse in an effort to avoid the feelings of correction. The remainder of this passage does not say that we should not hold each other accountable for our sins. However, it does explain that we should exercise self-awareness and discernment before we seek to correct our brothers and sisters. Ensure that your own heart is in the right and that your relationship with that person is in a place that is going to be receptive to the corrective accountability first. If you act of self-righteous indignation, then you will very likely not witness the repentance that is intended. Otherwise, hypocrisy is creeping at the door of your own heart.
On the other hand, we are indeed called to hold one another accountable within the Kingdom for our behavior. James put it this way: “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19) Notice here that James is leveraging the relationship of brotherhood in the course of accountability.
There are numerous times throughout Scripture that Jesus speaks to holding one another accountable within the Kingdom. But in every case, he encourages self-discernment and leveraging the interpersonal relationship you have with the other. If you do not have a relationship with someone that you are seeking to discipline, how can you expect them to heed your warnings? You wouldn’t go about disciplining an unruly child you didn’t know or have a relationship with, would you? Of course not! You’d seek out the parent of that child and describe the situation and allow them to exercise the responsibility of discipline because they have the relationship with the child that is more likely to produce repentance.
In the same way, Jesus admonishes us not to pass judgement upon those who are outside of the Kingdom when He says “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” In this passage, “dogs” and “swine” are referring to wild packs of animals – wild dogs and wild boars that would roam the countryside seeking to devour everything in their path – scavengers. At first glance, and when taken out of context, it seems like Jesus is being rude here, but you have to consider His audience.
Wild dogs are known to be destructive and untamable, often traveling nocturnally in packs together wreaking havoc on weaker animals and consuming the trash and leftovers of the stronger predators. In fact, it was recently reported that jackals were stating to take over parks in Tel Aviv, Israel at night due to lockdowns form the coronoavirus pandemic. These packs of wild dogs are not only dangerous to human populations, but are highly territorial and aggressive with one another in their fight for survival. Wild pigs were considered ritually unclean in Jewish society, but also would travel in packs or hordes. In both cases, if you approach these packs alone and try to scare them off or get them to stop their destruction, the entire pack is likely to turn on you, ignore your commands, and attack you instead. Is it any surprise that the same thing happens when we followers of Christ try to correct or discipline those who live outside of the Kingdom?
As Paul once wrote, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) The commandments of God were written for His people. The Scriptures give us a guide to live by and a standard to hold one another to. However, non-believers who live outside of the Kingdom are not likely to bow to the dictates of Scripture. They live by a different standard – typically the standard of their own humanism that elevates their own self-interest above the interests of God’s Kingdom.
As a nation, the United States is not bound to enforce its internal laws on the citizens of other countries when they are not within our borders. However, when citizens of other nations enter our borders, they are expected to abide by our laws and customs as a matter of mutual respect. The same is true for American citizen traveling abroad. And when mutually incompatible legislation exists between two countries, more often than not it is the country of citizenship that takes precedence on account of ignorance.
And the same is true of the Kingdom of God. And that is not to say that we should not seek to influence the world around us. If we expect to exact social change in our society, we must first seek to bring change to the hearts of individuals. Human behavior is an outgrowth of the condition of individual hearts. Behavior will only change when hearts change. And we can only impact the hearts of others when our behavior reflects the Kingdom heart of our Father and King. And that takes a carefully cultivated relationship that facilitates an openness of communication that will allow the seed of truth to be planted that will bring forth the fruit of repentance.