Is It Always Wrong to Judge? | How Judging Can Be Good

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Is it always wrong to judge people? Should a Christian ever judge? What is the difference between sinful judging and righteous judging? Learn what the Bible has to say about judgement and discernment today. 

"Only God can judge me."  We hear that phrase constantly, and it is often followed by something like "Don't judge, just love", or "What gives you the right to judge?". But I wonder, why does everyone assume that all judgement is bad? After-all, being discerning requires a certain amount of judgement, and God tells us to be discerning (1 John 4:1).

The Bible does say not to judge though. So what does that mean? If we are to be discerning, yet we are not supposed to judge, then how do those two things work together? How can we judge what is right and yet not be judgmental? The secret is to start by looking at God.


How Does God Judge Me?

The Bible says that we are broken. Our eyes are blinded to the path of life and peace. And as Jonathan Edwards famously said, without Christ, "we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God"! If we were left there- sinful, self-seeking, and always meandering our own way- we would be doomed. But praise God for his love and mercy upon us. He was once far away, because of our sins, but He desired so deeply to be close to us that He gave His only Son to die on a cross for us. He suffered a gruesome, horrendous death, with blood gushing from his side, pain rippling through his body, and nails piercing his hands and feet.

And now because of Christ's sacrifice, we can be sinners who are saved, washed clean, and made beautiful. We can now call God our own Father, and we can now be with him always.

This is the only thing that keeps us from being judged by God. Sure, He still technically judges us, but now when He looks at us, He sees Jesus' sacrifice, and that Jesus took our punishment. Now instead of being angry and disappointed with us, He smiles upon us; He sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17). And now, we can be confident before God when He judges us.

So knowing this, why is it so bad to say "only God can judge me"? Well, technically nothing. But if we take a deeper look at scripture, we learn that once we are saved through Jesus' sacrifices, we are called away from sin. And in that way, it really all depends on the context of why we are saying "judge not".

Related Post: Do You Believe in the Real Jesus?

Am I Living in Sin?

We aren't perfect. We fall and fail every day of our lives. Whether we steal, cheat, lie, think a lustful thought, snap at our spouse, or yell at our kids, we cannot escape the sinfulness of the flesh while we are here on this earth. That is why Jesus came, and that is why we need him so desperately.

However, there's a problem. So many people think that they can live however they want to while still claiming the name of Jesus. They think that the Bible is only accurate part of the time. They invent their own God and start believing in a false Jesus by picking for themselves what sins God does and does not approve of.

We cannot be like this. We must believe that what the Bible teaches is true and  reject sin if we follow Christ. Sin is real. Sin is something that grabs us like a vice grip and holds tightly until we are deep in our grave- unless we repent and give it to Jesus.

Related: 5 Reasons Christians Stop Growing in Their Faith

Why Do I Need Christian Friends?

Peculiar people, there are several ways that we can start growing in our faith and forsaking sin, but one way that we do that is through having our brothers and sisters in Christ call out our sin gently and encourage us in the truth.

We need people who will build us up in truth, and people who aren't afraid to call us out on sin when we are going down the wrong path. A real friend shows us (lovingly) when we are living wrongly. Some people call that judging; I call that friendship. 

Be willing to develop friendships like this, but always discern whether or not these friends are actually building up and giving godly help to walk in the right way. There is a huge difference between being a good friend and helping others see their sin versus being critical and judgmental. The latter is not the kind of friend God is calling us to. We must recognize the difference.

Surrounding ourselves with other Christians is huge for our walk with Christ. We need encouragement. We grow through fellowship with other believers. And we need to be held accountable. Finding godly friends can be difficult, but if we keep our eyes open and ask God to lead the way, Christian community is out there, and we need it desperately.

When we decide to look for godly friends, the goal should be to find friends who challenge us, and will be blunt with us if they see sin in our lives. Unfortunately, we tend to get angry when people call us out on our sins. We feel criticized and put down. And somehow, instead of being grateful for friends that steer us back to the right path, we end up going back to that original phrase: "only God can judge me". It's not comfortable to be told we are doing something wrong, and we don't like it. In fact, most of the time, we avoid it at all cost.


When Is It Okay to Judge?

Scripture is clear that the fruit of our lives is proof that we belong to God. Apart from God, we can do nothing, and godly fruit produced in our lives is a witness that we know Him (John 15:4-5). Being discerning is necessary. God calls us to live a certain way. That's not because we have to earn salvation, but because He wants us to live the life He died for us to have. He wants us to embrace holiness and reject sin. We will never be perfect in this life, but we are to seek God and obey Him to the best of our ability. But sometimes that is easier said than done, which is why we sometimes need the help of other believers.

Christians are called to lift each other up and encourage each other towards godliness (Eph. 4:29), but how can we do that if we aren't willing to be corrected? If I am living a sinful life and my husband just says to himself "I shouldn't judge her", then I am not being held accountable for my actions. I am not being challenged to repent and change.

As Christians, we should always want our brothers and sisters to be on the right path. We should (appropriately and lovingly) call them out and try to steer them back on the path of righteousness (Gal 6:1-2). But if all we are is a community that is focused on "loving" (a.k.a. avoiding confrontation), in order to stay away from "judging", we will fail miserably at our call.

You see, the bible never says not to deal with sin; it merely says to deal with it in an appropriate manner.

Matthew 18:15-17 lays this out pretty clearly:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

This passage is rarely quoted anymore. Instead, we commonly hear "Judge not, lest ye be judged" (Matthew 7:1). But the people quoting this scripture often fail to recognize that it is speaking to someone who struggles with a sin, refuses to deal with it, yet judges someone else for the same sin. They also fail to mention that in verse 6 of the same passage, Jesus says that we should deal with our sins so that we are better able to help our fellow Christians with their sins.

So if, for instance, you have gotten in the habit of drinking too much when you are stressed, but you also judge and criticize another person for doing the same thing, it is sin. At that point, you need to get the plank out of your eye before trying to pull out a splinter from your friend's eye (Matt. 7:5). And guess what, if someone were to call you out for being hypocritical, their judgement would be right. "Judge not", in such a case, would just be ignoring godly instruction.

The Truth About Judging

Yes, of course judgmental attitudes are against God. Judging a person just because they are different from you is wrong. Judging someone based on gossip, or a one-time meeting is usually inaccurate and unfair. Judging someone who is caught in a sin that you also are caught in, is wrong. Do not judge. Do not assume things about a person that you barley know.

But remember, being judgmental is very different from discerning right from wrong. It's different to encourage our fellow believers away from sin than to chastise them and make them feel worthless.

God will judge all of us one day. The question is, will your judgement be covered in Christ's blood, and blessed with the fruit of the Spirit, or will it be tainted with the sin that has poisoned your fruitless life?

What to know more about judging? Here's a list with some bible verses to look up.

Judging is good when it is used as:

  • Discernment of the spirits (1 Corinthians 2:14-16, Philippians 1:9-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:21)
  • A means of helping our brothers and sisters out of sin (1 Corinthians 5:12, Galatians 6:1)
  • An Assessment of our own faith (2 Corinthians 13:5 )
Judging is bad when it is used as:
  • Hypocrisy (Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:1-3)
  • A bias against certain types of people (Deuteronomy 1:17, Romans 14:1-23) 
  • A way to sit ourselves in the place of God (1 Corinthians 5:13, James 4:11-12)
If you have any constructive questions or comments about this post, leave them below. Have a happy week!

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