"Do not judge," says Jesus, "so that you may not be judged" (Matt. 7:1).
The first thing to see is that our Lord cannot have meant that we should never make moral judgments within the context of the Scriptures and our confessions of faith.
He cannot have meant that we should never look at a cruel or a dishonest act and say, "That is wrong." The Bible calls us to make judgments in terms of what God says about right and wrong. "Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good," says Paul (Rom. 12:9).
Jesus said "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matt. 6:14) and "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15). That is, judging their neighbour like the Pharisees judged Jesus – with legalistic, worldly, secular intentions.
Secondly, Jesus cannot mean that we may never appraise each other's character. We have to do that too. Every endorsement of a candidate for ministry, every marriage proposal, every choice of a business partner or a stockbroker or counselor or best friend — every one of these and many other situations require a judgment of character. Jesus knew there are some people you can't trust, and it's helpful and safer to know who they are.
So what is it that Jesus said we must never do? The answer is that he does not allow us to be judgmental. Jesus allows judgment, but not self-righteous judgment or uncharitable, merciless, ungracious and unreasonable judgment that does not serve our calling for reconciliation, or to love others the way we love ourselves, because unwise, secular style and unfair judgments are boomerangs.
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” Do only the kind of judging you would be willing to have come right back at you.
This rules out self-righteous judgment, for example. Self-righteous judgments don't work. Nobody listens to them. If we criticize someone with a tone of voice or as a worldly settling of scores, all we have accomplished is the permanent alienating of another human being. Self-righteous judgments are both wrong and dumb. One reason they're dumb is that other people know enough to look who's talking.
And no presumptuous judgments too! Presumptuous judgments are ones in which we presume to know what we do not know about another person. We should be very careful to judge the degree to which people are accountable for their acts and character.
The ultimate judge is God. We most of the time don't know other people's God given personalities and individuality. How they were raised and who humiliated and hurt them when they were young. Only God knows, and God doesn't tell us. Only God knows human hearts.
Judge only in a way that you would agree to be judged yourself. Leave the final judgment to God only, who alone knows the human heart, knows his divine purpose for every person and who redeemed us all from evil’s ruthless snares.