There are plenty of times when "judge not" does not apply. For example, we are to make judgments about the kind of person we want to marry-or to hire to roof our house, for that matter.
But there are plenty of times when "judge not" does apply. I'm sure I have often judged someone without knowing all the facts or extenuating circumstances. But of course I don't tend to think in terms of extenuating circumstances unless I am the "judgee" rather than the judger.
God reminded me of all this on two recent occasions. One was a few Sundays ago when my son, who lays tile for a living, drove from Philadelphia's center city on Saturday night to go to church with me on Sunday morning. He forgot his good shoes at home (45 minutes away) and so had only his cruddy grout-encrusted boots to wear.
My son was mortified as we drove to the worship service. But when we considered the alternative to going to worship (which was: not going to worship), it was clear to both of us that the sin of abstaining from joining the assembly because of dirty shoes was greater than the "sin" of joining the assembly with dirty shoes. At some point in the calculation, fear of man was a foe to be confronted and repelled. We just hoped that the other people in church that day would be better people than we have often been.
The other teachable moment occurred when I walked into a pharmacy-convenience store with my granddaughter and purchased three packs of candy cigarettes. They were for my mother, to help her quit smoking. (Ours is a three-pronged approach, applying prayer, the "patch," and the cigarette-shaped confections for the oral fixation component of the addiction.)
After I had paid my money and walked out of the store with my granddaughter and my cigarettes, I wondered if the sales attendant thought me a monster for setting my child up to be a smoker by letting her pretend to be one with kid-imitations.
"Love believes all things" (1 Corinthians 13). Love gives the benefit of the doubt.