Christian, legalism cries out from a fear driven heart saying, “Do this! Do that! Don’t do this! Don’t do that!” But those who walk in the Spirit have a different cry, “I want to do this! Please help me to do that! Please keep me from this! I will not do that!” The outward effect may look the same, but the motive of the heart may be polar opposite. That is why although we must observe another Christian’s “fruit”, and act accordingly, (Luke 17:3, Matthew 18:15, 2 Samuel 12, Galatians 6:1, Colossians 1:28, 3:16 etc.) we are not to judge the heart of a man, the motive beneath, for that is only for God to do.
Observation can turn to judgment in the blink of an eye, and that is why we are warned “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.” (Matthew 7:1-5) What often happens at this point is one of three things. One, we ignore our log and condescend to let the “sinner” hang for his speck. No one benefits, we remain blind to our own log, and our brother is either shamed or embittered. Two, we refrain from mentioning his speck for fear of appearing judgmental and harsh, and never even bother to deal with our own log. No one benefits, we both remain in sin, but we remain “nice”. Or third, we work daily with Lord on our own log (s) (1 Peter 1:13-16) , letting Him chip away at it, so that when we observe our brother’s speck we can more easily see our shared brokenness, and help him to remove his speck with gentleness and love. In the third case, everyone benefits and glory is given to God.
Interestingly, bypassing our call to mere observation, we also have a tendency to judge the sweetness of the fruit when it was never the intention for us to taste it. When the rich young ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:18-19) the ruler having observed His miracles assumed that He must be good. Although in His case, He actually was, Jesus was revealing our tendency to assume sweetness based on outward appearance. It is true that we can judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16) but only as far as observation takes it. It is only God who decides sweetness, for we have no idea from the outside if the fruit is rotten inside or made entirely of wax. How many a person, confusing observation with judgment have followed a wax fruited leader to his own destruction?
So we must take the words of James in James 4:11-12 to heart. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. THERE IS ONLY ONE LAWGIVER AND JUDGE, HE WHO IS ABLE TO SAVE AND TO DESTROY. But WHO ARE YOU to judge your neighbor?”