Have you ever heard the phrase, “Beware the sound of one hand clapping”?

The idea is that if you only hear one side of something, you haven’t heard anything at all. Proverbs 18:17 agrees: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

We should also beware of “one-verse preaching.”

The Bible is a big book, in case you haven’t noticed. It always makes me a little bit nervous when someone picks one verse out of the Bible and holds it up as the “trump card” against all other verses. We need to be people who declare the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

One of the places we sometimes fall into one-verse preaching is with the idea of judging. Most people immediately have a knee-jerk reaction: “Judge not that you be not judged!” (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37)

That’s not all the Bible has to say. There are plenty of other seemingly negative references to judging:

  • John 5:22 “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:29 “For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?”
  • Colossians 2:16-18 “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you…Let no one disqualify you.”
  • James 4:11-12 “But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
  • Romans 14-15 talk about dealing with disputable matters.

A pivot verse that sits on both the “pro-“ and “con-“ side of judging is John 7:24 “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Here’s the other hand clapping: passage that explain how Christians must judge!

  • 1 Corinthians 5:3 “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 “Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:15 “Judge for yourselves what I say…” (See also 1 Corinthians 11:13)

When you put both lists together, you see that Christians are not supposed to be haughty fault-finders who look down their noses at other sinners. Christians are supposed to be able to discern between good and bad, right and wrong, and even help hold each other accountable towards maturation and growth.

So whenever you hear “one-verse preaching” – look for the second verse and you’ll get a fuller sense of God’s Word.