"Judge not lest you be judged!"These canned responses are mere smokescreens used to offer an attempted justification for their desire to get us to shut up. Thus, when evangelizing, I want to provide you with a few quick rebuttals to these responses.
"He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!"
"Do you sin? If so, then who are you to judge me?"
1. "Judge not lest you be judged!"
This response rips Jesus' words right out of the context of Matthew 7. Scripture twisting is the hallmark of a false professor who wants to justify their ongoing sin. Here's the passage with some context from verses 1-5,
"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 "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? 4 "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? 5 "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.The context makes it clear that Jesus is condemning all types of judgment, but only hypocritical ones. For example, if I sin and don't repent yet I go on to judge my fellow Christian for doing the very same thing that I refuse to repent of, then I am a hypocrite and have no right to point out that same sin in other believers. Christ tells hypocrites to first repent of their sin (v. 5, "first take the log out of your own eye"), then go and confront other believers who are doing the same. It is further evident that Christ is not condemning judgment altogether when He later says in the same chapter:
"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." (Matt. 7:6)In order to determine the difference between dogs, hogs and believers, Christ commands us to judge a righteous judgment (Matt. 7:6, 16a; John 7:24). This is a judgment call that is made by the believer with an eye to discerning whether the person lives a life that is characteristic of a true believer. John sums up this kind of life quite well in 1st John 3:6-10,
"You will know them by their fruits." (Mat 7:16a)
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6-10 ESV)When the unbeliever says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged" you can respond with, "Then why are you judging me?" Explain to them that everybody makes judgments when it comes to people's behavior and that is what they are doing to you. The real issue is whether your judgment is righteous or hypocritical. This means that you must continually fight against your own sin and put it to death by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13). It may be helpful to ask them, "Would you feel comfortable letting a drunk stranger rummage around in your home with your young children present?" The point in asking a question like that is to show once again that everyone judges since everyone must evaluate other people's behavior. This is not only necessary for Christian fellowship but also for safety. Some judgments are righteous and some are hypocritical and for a wicked sinner to make a judgment call on a righteous person who is lovingly confronting them in their sin is the height of hypocrisy.
2. "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!"
First, it must be noted that this quote from John 8:7 is the section dealing with the woman caught in adultery, commonly known by scholars as the Pericope de Adultera. Almost every evangelical textual critic over the last 100 years has considered John 7:53-8:11 to be a dubious portion of the text, which means that it was probably not an original part of this gospel. It is found in various places throughout the manuscript tradition of John's gospel (after 7:36, 44, and 21:25) and even one extant manuscript places it after Luke 21:38. Also, the earliest manuscripts and many early versions do not have this section at all. Many manuscripts that do have it contain scribal notations that indicate that it was not an original part of John's gospel. The vocabulary and style in this section are very different from John's own writing style and the traditional placement of 7:53-8:11 interrupts the flow of thought that naturally occurs between verses 7:52 and 8:12, further suggesting that this section is an interpolation. Finally, no Greek church father comments on this passage before the 12th century, further suggesting that this passage was not original to John's gospel. I favor the scholarly opinion that suggests that this narrative is a true historical event that occurred in Jesus' ministry that circulated as oral tradition in the early church but was never included in the original New Testament writings. Instead, this oral tradition was later added as an extended marginal note in some early manuscripts and because it is in harmony with Jesus' ministry it eventually made its way into the text of John's gospel as we have it today. However, since this section is in most Bibles, because the average person knows nothing about the text critical situation of John 7:53-8:11, and because believers almost never read the small footnotes at the bottom on the page in their modern translations, a few comments are in order.
First, when the objector says, "He who is without sin let him cast the first stone!" immediately ask, "Who's trying to stone you?" Explain that the context of John 7:53-8:11 is that of stoning an adulterous woman on the spot on the basis of two or three witnesses in accord with the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:7). Thus, their objection is irrelevant to our present situation since we are no longer under the Mosaic theocratic kingdom.
Second, this objection is not helpful at all to their situation since stoning someone under the Mosaic Law could not be done by witnesses who were complicit in the same sin. This explains Jesus' comment to the Pharisees in 8:7, suggesting that they too were adulterous. Thus, this objection is moot on at least two counts.
3. "Do you sin? If so, then who are you to judge me?"
This objection assumes that a person has to be absolutely sinless in order to preach the gospel, a notion that clearly contradicts Scripture and reality. We will never be completely sin free as long as we live in our unredeemed flesh, for even the apostle Paul said that he had not attained perfection in this life (Phil. 3:12). The Bible says that there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins (Eccles. 7:20) and that the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh so that you may not always do the things that you please (Gal. 5:17). Including himself in the "we", the apostle James said that "we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2) and the apostle John declared plainly "If we say that we have [Greek for "we have" is a present tense, indicating an ongoing action] no sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). To be consistent, that means that all people everywhere would have to stop preaching the gospel whether on street corners, in private conversations, or in church buildings because all people sin. The logical implication of this would be that we would have to rid the world of all true Christians. Ask, "So are you saying we need to get rid of all Christians everywhere since no one is completely sin free?" They might get confused when you say this, so go on to explain that Jesus commanded that all Christians go into the world and make disciples by preaching the gospel, which includes a call to repentance (Matthew 28:19), but if we have to be sin free to preach the gospel, then we can't preach the gospel. Worse, since everybody (believer and unbeliever alike) necessarily makes judgment calls on others, we would have to rid the world of all people since everyone judges others in some sense. Finally, like the first objection, this too is self-refuting since all men sin and yet they, an unrepentant sinner are judging you for judging them, thus, by their own standards they too are in sin.
I am sad to say that in spite of what's offered above, most unbelievers who bring up these inane objections could care less about your well reasoned responses. Few will listen; most will not. Their objections usually aren't borne out of an original interest to get help from Christ by removing their own intellectual debris, but to attempt to tie Christians up in knots so that they can feel justified in their sins. May God sanctify us as we seek to put to death our sin as we serve Christ with clean hands and a pure heart and may God grant them repentance through sincere gospel preaching.