Today’s Gospel contains perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible: “Judge not, that you may not be judged” (Matt. 7:1). For those not inclined to keep the Ten Commandments, and even less to being reproved for violating them—even if done charitably—this is a go-to verse, an attempt to invoke Jesus to shut down his disciples from calling them on to holiness.
But that’s not Jesus’s point, of course, because he admonishes the scribes and Pharisees for violating the moral law (e.g., Matt. 23:13ff.), and also clears the temple of the moneychangers (John 2:13–22). In addition, St. Paul affirms Jesus in teaching, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17, emphasis added).
At the same time, we must begin with judging ourselves, lest we fall into the vice of judging others so as to excuse our own sins or take the focus off of our own wrongdoing: “for the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Matt. 7:2). In focusing on the speck in our neighbor’s eye, we can become morally blinded to the beam or log in our own.
Jesus gives us an example in a parable. A man forgiven a debt he cannot repay forgets the mercy he received, choosing instead to assail another who owes him a fraction of what he had owed his master (Matt 18:23–35).
When we recognize our own need for God’s mercy, and thus our own need to repent and grow in holiness, we will be in a much better position to engage in spiritual works of mercy (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2447), including being more likely to be heard.
To speak the Gospel truth self-righteously, or to speak the truth ineffectively otherwise, is no way to share the Gospel.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
That is why Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves; and, if we have any doubts how that should be done, Our Lord refers us to the standard with which he loves us: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13; see 1 Cor. 13). St. Peter also reminds us to share the Faith “with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Such an approach includes loving the sinner, while hating the sin, and thus not presuming to make a definitive judgment on someone’s subjective culpability.
In short, we want to win over our brothers and sisters to the Lord if they stray, and the best way to do that is to begin with a good, joyful, holy, and humble life witness ourselves. When others see that we love them, they will be more likely to listen to us.