Douglas Burton-Christie calls the early Christians’ refusal to be judgmental a “hermeneutical act” (The Word in the Desert, p. 280). He means that the early Christians took Matthew 7:1 with utter seriousness. To refrain from judgment was to trust the power of Scripture to do its work.
As a hermeneutical act, non-judgment recognizes that there must be a context in which any proper assessment occurs. The context includes the mixture of a particular person in a specific situation. It includes the necessity of getting to know a person and coming to understand the motives which gave rise to his or her action.
This is the very thing judgmentalism lacks. Judgmentalism is a self-authorizing arrogance that flings verses at people without even knowing who they are. It presumes to know everything when, in fact, it knows little or nothing. And failing to establish a relational hermeneutic, judgmentalism’s conclusions are fraught with errors–errors which the judges never see (or if they do, they cover them up) or acknowledge.
Instead, the early Christians acted kindly toward others, not only because they knew themselves to be sinners too, but because they believed kindness was the doorway for getting to know others truly. Moreover, they believed that kindness was the atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit works.
In the end, our predecessors knew that we are all judged by Scripture. We have no right to “lay the Word” on another while refusing to wear its mantle ourselves–a mantle of grace and forgiveness, not one of guilt and retribution. The Bible speaks to every heart, beginning with ours.