"I don't know...I can't judge that."
I rarely hear someone actually employ the concept of righteous judgment, while recognizing that, indeed, we are commanded not to judge in some cases. Just to say "judge not," with no context, is not taking into account the whole counsel of God--and is often used to dismiss any exposition of sin or falsehood. To assume we may never judge anything is simply a fallacy. I'd like to look at a few scriptures about judging, retaining my disclaimer that this is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject.
First and foremost, we ARE warned about judging. God is the Ultimate Judge (John 5:27-30). To the degree and in the manner we judge someone's actions or walk before the Lord, we will be judged, if we do so unrighteously, pridefully, or hypocritically. But context is so important. What does the Bible say?
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see 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,' when there is the log 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."
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man--you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself--that you will escape the judgment of God?
What is Jesus warning about above? Instead of judging my brother, especially when I've got plenty of wood in my eye, I need to make sure I am right with God (have repented of all sin and am walking in faith and love), and then I can help restore my brother. Restoration is done in gentleness, not a spirit of prideful, high-handed judgment:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Our modus operandi should be love, the kind Paul expounds on in 1 Cor 13. Love isn't out looking for who's screwing up so he can pound them into smithereens...love is hoping, praying and believing for the best. Love is not, however, stupidity or refusal to see the truth. Too many people quote the "judge not" without bothering to remove the other person's speck (or even their own log!).
Contrary to popular opinion, we are told to judge...but we must judge with righteous judgment. That means the timing, attitude, and rationale of our judgment must be in accordance with Scriptural commands and principles.
Jesus answered them, "I did one deed, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."
Just as no one can rightly approach this scripture licking their lips and rubbing their hands together ("YESSSS!! I get to JUDGE!"), so too, no one may rightly refuse the task of judging with righteous judgment when the situation calls for it. That situation--the specks we must help remove--is sin. Not debatable matters.
The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls....You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. For it is written, 'As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
Please note that Paul is not saying NEVER to judge ANYTHING. Honestly, that would be an absurd command. We judge things all the time. If you tell a new believer that Ozzy Osbourne is not a holy man, and he shouldn't be listening to that satanic drivel (okay, you might not say it that way), aren't you judging with righteous judgment that Ozzy Osbourne will not help lead this new disciple into all righteousness? Can I sit by while my brother drives off a cliff?
It is not unrighteous judgment to encourage one another to obey God wholeheartedly, and to help one another recognize sin.
Brace yourself: we are to judge things inside the church. We must do this to maintain purity in teaching and in practice.
1 Cor 15:11-13
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you.'
WHOA, Paul! Judge NOT, man!!
Here's a great example of how to judge and how not to judge. Notice how Paul does not condemn Alexander to eternal fire (it is God's place to render eternal judgment), but he certainly does warn the brothers about this man, by name.
2 Tim 4:14-15
Alexander the coppersmith has done me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said.
We'd better get used to judging rightly:
1 Cor 6:2-3
Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
And we must judge ourselves now, or we will be chastened.
1 Cor 11:30-33
That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
I pray the Lord will help us judge with righteous judgment those things He desires us to judge, and that He will help us to have loving, generous hearts that desire to see our brothers and sisters walk in truth.