In reading scripture, we should apply it to ourselves and not to others. Some would argue that Saint Paul applied the Scriptures to other people. How are we to teach others and not to be judgmental?
For example, Scripture clearly says do not kill. Should we tell other people not to kill? The Fathers would say we don’t have to do that. We can certainly continue to say killing is a sin. But in this world, we are all killers so we cannot condemn others and very few of us are called to heal. Condemnation is out of the question because we are commanded to love the enemy. We have to love everybody, who is different from us. But we can still call sin by its name. We are not Saint Paul. When can one pick up Scripture and tell others what to do or apply it to them? The only time we can do that is when we become perfect. In order to use scripture for others, we have to fulfill all the commandments. One of the commandments is to love our enemies. The test is whether we are able to use scripture to correct others in full love toward the other or do we use it simply as a tool of condemnation. We can’t say for example someone will go to hell for this or that. We don’t know for we are not in charge. We also must perceive sin as an illness.
If we are perfect, we have the attitude of Saint Macarius the Great. Saint Macarius the Great was like a God on the earth because whenever he saw evil, it was as if he did not see it. Whenever he heard evil, it was as if he did not hear it. That is perfection and that is when you can talk about others. Saint Paul has reached that stage and he can tell someone, you have committed a sin, you have a problem because he was saying in his prayer so that he can go to heaven, let me go to hell in his place. Until we get that attitude, we cannot condemn anyone. We must not condemn sinners for we are all sinners and suffer from the same disease. Otherwise, it will be like someone who is sick going to the Doctor and being condemned by him for being sick. The fact is when it comes to sin, we are all victims and we are all in the same boat.
That is why we need to be focused on ourselves until we get this attitude of placing the salvation of others above our own. When we have gained that perfect love toward mankind then we can tell others in what they are wrong because we will do it with a proper attitude. Until then, we cannot do it because we are as sick as the sinner we are trying to correct. Otherwise, it is like someone who has the flu making fun of someone who has the cold. The Lord said to watch out for the log in our eyes. This is a commandment that will put us in the position of not judging. Some of us are called to heal so we don’t have a privilege not to. Those are the confessors, the elders, and the Saints since they have gained it.
Can we look at people and see the image of God? For example, if we are walking on the street and we see someone killing someone else, can we see the killer in the image of God? If we can do that then we have become a Saint and we can go ahead and say to that person, do not kill because we won’t do it with hatred or resentment. We will only correct with love. If we criticize, it will be with love because we are commanded to love our enemies. So we don’t condemn sinners, we try to heal them.