Judging

<<evaluating, assessing>>

Consciously or subconsciously, we are continuously forming opinions about events in both in our lives and those of others. These mental appraisals vary from momentary, incidental thoughts through to lengthy evaluations requiring considerable input, exploring all the available information for major decisions with lasting consequences.

Hypocrisy and integrity

Human nature consistently elevates self to be the judge, speaking critically against those who hold different views or act in ways not in keeping with our standards, yet the Bible and Jesus (the written and living Word) are to be the benchmark, with our main responsibility to address our faults rather than point out those of others (Lk 6:41,42). This self-examination in the light of Bible truths and sensitivity to our conscience as we consider our sinfulness, is because we must answer to God for ourselves, not anyone else. Besides the Biblical values we are to be governed by our convictions for if we override them we sin (Ps 119:11,105; Prov 20:27; Rom 12:3, 14:1-15:3; 1 Cor 11:31). It is beneficial to examine and reflect on each day’s happenings, with the intention to bring change going forward – is there sin to confess; what did I do well that needs to be repeated; and what could I do better next time? Without this review, it is almost impossible to advance to a life of love and mutual edification as the same patterns of habit and reaction are unthinkingly repeated.

Standards for judgement

The Bible frequently gives specific instructions which must be strictly followed, while in other matters we have the freedom of personal preference and consequently a variety of different opinions and views are held. In these matters 'judgement calls' should still be governed by biblical principles, besides demonstrating love and doing right in the sight of all people, for Christian freedom is not liberty to sin (by doing as we want) but rather a freedom from sin’s control to be all God has made us to be.  So, while love is to be paramount it must go hand in hand with truth, it is not to be a substitute for the truth, or an excuse to ignore and fail to address what is wrong, for God can only bless what done according to His values (1 Cor 13:6).

The Lord, who looks at the inner thoughts and intentions of the heart, said “Stop judging by appearances, and make right judgments, you judge after the flesh, but if I judge it is

Judge yourselves, not others

with the Father’s true appraisal”, or spiritual discernment (1 Sam 16:7; Jn 7:24, 8:15,16). Thus, we are not to make rash, unjust, condemning judgements based on gossip and prejudice without knowing the real facts, being witnesses to the events, or hearing both sides of the story, as this risks discrediting another’s character (1 Sam 1:12-16; Prov 18:13,17, 19:5; Jn 7:51; Tit 3:2). God opposes the proud, and those quick to point out the sins and faults of other’s, for the self-righteous stance of criticism that tears others down can be a mask to hide their own character weakness by diverting attention away from themselves (Lk 18:9-14; 1 Cor 4:3-5; Jas 4:6,11,12). As not one of us is righteous in God’s sight, be determined to “Stop passing judgment on one another” (Rom 3:10, 14:13).

While we don’t know a person’s motives or where they stand with God, we can observe the fruit of their actions which indicate the root or core values (Lk 6:43-45).

Christian accountability

When we see sinful behaviour in a fellow believer, with the Bible’s truths being compromised, we are to speak truthfully, humbly and lovingly to them for “All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…be prepared, correct, rebuke, encourage” (Act 20:27; Gal 2:11-21; Eph 4:15; 2 Tim 3:16,17, 4:2). Inside the body of Christ sin is to be confronted and dealt with, with the aim to bring reconciliation with God and others (1 Cor 5:1-13). We are not to ignore sin as its influence can spread quickly, instead be motivated by love to be your ‘brother’s keeper’ by challenging them about issues that are inconsistent with the Bible and so turn a sinner from the error of their ways (Mk 12:31; Jn 13:34; Gal 5:9; Jas 5:19,20; 1 Jn 5:16).

By expressing your concerns with a non-confrontational approach you will be less threatening. Ask ‘Have you considered what the Bible teaches? Do you think that was the best course of action?’  rather than making harsh, legalistic, condemning criticisms or pronouncing a hurtful verdict. While

   Would I like to be corrected in the                                   manner I correct others?

sin is to be confronted such actions must be balanced with compassion to correct and uplift, as well as  humility for next time it might be us that has sinned (Gal 6:1). Help the offender see where and how they failed, and if appropriate assist them to remedy the situation and embrace a changed lifestyle for through repentance and forgiveness, relationship is restored with Jesus the source of truth (Jn 14:6). The Bible tells us to show mercy and treat people as we wish to be treated, so look for the good in them and give positive feedback, aware that if we don’t show mercy (remembering Christ has shown us an immeasurable amount) we will be judged without mercy (Mt 5:7; Lk 6:31; Jas 2:12,13).

Jesus said He came ‘not to judge the world but save it’, however judgment will come, based on each person’s acceptance or rejection of that offer of salvation and how they have lived (Jn 12:47).

Restoration not punishment should be the focus as we distinguish between good and evil (Heb 5:14). This calls for evaluating the words and behaviour of others, not to find fault and condemn them but rather to effectively guard our hearts against sin and error (Prov 4:23; 1 Cor 2:14,15). With impartiality assess the offence, and not the offender, focusing only on the earthly aspect of the fault and not their relationship with God who sees their heart (Deut 1:16,17; Jas 2:1-9). Don’t judge a person by what they currently are or appear to be, for in the hands of God their potential is unlimited.

We are not to judge a person for activities before they became Christians as the sin has been forgiven although there are still consequences. However doing wrong after salvation is disobedience against clearly defined commands or principles in Scripture, and has implications which include contaminating the body which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, choking of the spiritual life within or causing another to stumble in their spiritual walk (Mt 18:6; Rom 14:21; 1 Cor 6:19, 10:23,32). Thus the Body of Christ is also maimed.

Discernment and judgement      

Jesus said “Judge not, that you are not judged” and “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone”. In this context He was warning against negative, hypocritical,

Judge actions, discern motives

self-righteous judging, for if we engage in the same sin as we are condemning we will be judged likewise, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Mt 7:1-5; Jn 8:1-11; Rom 2:1,3).

It is appropriate and wise to assess what others declare as ‘from the Lord’, to ensure it does agree with the principles of Scripture and is not just the speaker’s own ideas – “let others judge” and “test all things” (1 Cor 14:29; 1 Thes 5:19-21).

Before partaking of communion, we are instructed to judge our hearts and put right any matters that need resolving otherwise being in an unfit spiritual condition we bring God’s judgement on ourselves (1 Cor 11:28-32).

In matters of conscience, while we can observe, we are not to impose our preferences, opinions and cultural bias on others as these should not be equated with the standards of Scripture, which must not be compromised or negotiated.

The world’s judicial system deals with non-compliance of society’s standards and it is not the churches responsibility to judge the unsaved in spiritual matters. “Who made you a ruler and judge over us” is the accusation sometimes made of Christians who speak out about the deteriorating standards of society. We must be very careful that our criticisms truly reflect the character of God and His requirements, not our personal arrogance or whims (Ex 2:14; Mt 9:4; Mk 2:6; Act 7:27).

See also: church discipline, commendation, communion, compare/comparison, condemn, correction, criticism, discernment, divine judgement, impartial, opinions, punishment, restitution/restore, review.
Christ said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matt. 7:1). Paul emphasized the same truth: “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” (Rom. 14:4). Many have taken that as an absolute norm for Christian conduct, insisting that no Christian may ever judge another human being. However, there are contrasting passages, one of which is also in the Sermon on the Mount: “Beware of the false prophets. . . . you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). In fact, Christ said directly, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24), and John reinforces that: “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God. . . . By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1, 6). To understand all God would teach us concerning judging and refraining from judging others, a systematic study must be made of all biblical teaching on the subject. However, at this point, it is important to note that neither of those teachings can be rightly understood without reference to contrasting passages.


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