It happened when I posted something to social media lamenting author Jen Hatmaker’s disastrous decision to affirm gay unions. It happened again when I criticized a Saturday Night Live writer for attacking Barron Trump, the 10-year-old son of the president. Truth is, it happens anytime I make a judgment about anything or anyone.
“Christians are not to pass judgments, only state the truths,” one person commented.
“Christ taught us to LOVE EVERYONE. Judgments are for our father in heaven, not us,” said another.
And ironically, someone even stated, “You obviously are not a Christian because Jesus told us not to judge.”
Are Christians supposed to judge or not judge? And just what is the Christian standard?
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As David S. Oderberg, professor of philosophy at University of Reading, wrote, “We in the liberal, democratic West live in a society with a split personality, deriving from our own individual dissociative traits. . . . We do not want to appear (or even to be) judgmental, but we also know that we do judge our fellows continuously, and believe this is often justified.”
As Christians, we take our cues from Scripture, not culture. But even Scripture appears to give conflicting messages about judging. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus says, “Do not judge,” but in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, the apostle Paul says, “(T)he Lord’s people will judge the world. . . How much more the things of this life!”
So what gives? Are Christians supposed to judge or not judge? And just what is the Christian standard?
As someone who regularly writes and speaks publicly, this is something I have sought to understand. And it’s really not all that complicated when one studies the Scriptures in context, and considers the whole counsel of Scripture, not just a few select verses. So in the interest of clarity, I offer the following biblically-based principles concerning judging.
1. Christians Must Judge
Scripture specifically instructs Christians to judge other Christians. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul commands the church “not to associate with sexually immoral people,” which to obey, requires making a judgment. He further writes, “Are you not to judge those inside (the church)? . . . ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’”
So not only should Christians judge other believers, they should also discipline them based on those judgments. Similarly, Jesus says in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” Clearly, Jesus expects us to judge, but simply wants us to judge correctly, using proper standards.
2. Don’t Apply a Double-Standard
The solution isn’t to refrain from judging; it’s to fix yourself so you can help fix others.
In other words, don’t apply a double-standard and judge someone for a sin you’re equally, or even more guilty, of committing. Instead, Jesus says, “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” So the solution isn’t to refrain from judging; it’s to fix yourself so you can help fix others.
3. Judge Actions, not Motives
Christians get themselves in a heap of trouble when they try to judge other peoples’ motives. First Kings 8:39 says God alone knows what’s in every human heart. And Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:5 says we should refrain from judging someone else’s heart, but allow God to do that at the appointed time: “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
Christians need to confine their judgments to what they can objectively discern — peoples’ actions. We may think we know what another person is thinking, but we need to temper these opinions with the truth of God’s Word. He is omniscient; we are not.
4. Confine Judgements to Matters That Aren’t Disputable
Though God has given us clear moral boundaries, He also has given us freedom within those boundaries. For example, Scripture clearly says that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but it doesn’t say whether dating couples can kiss. I have good Christian friends who strongly advise against kissing before marriage. I have other Christian friends who think refraining from kissing is unnecessarily restrictive.
Regarding these so-called “disputable matters,” Scripture says we should not judge each other, or treat each other contemptuously. Paul writes in Romans 14, “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.”
Extending grace in these circumstances is tough to do because we often feel very strongly about our personal convictions. But this is critical if we’re to honor God and our brothers and sisters in Christian community.
5. Seek to Restore
So when we make judgments, we must do so humbly. And we must do so with the intent of helping our brother or sister escape sin and the destruction it wreaks, not to elevate ourselves.
So when we make judgments, we must do so humbly. And we must do so with the intent of helping our brother or sister escape sin and the destruction it wreaks, not to elevate ourselves. Otherwise, we become like the Pharisees who tied up “heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders,” but were not “willing to lift a finger to move them.” In everything, we must be motivated by love.
12 thoughts on “5 Ways Christians Should Judge”
Once again you have articulated clearly a topic that can be difficult to understand. Thanks.
Thank you very much Julie!!! We had just recently discussed this topic and all scriptures we found on the subject in a men’s group. This is a blessing in that we can share this blog with the group as a refresh! God bless you as you have to so many of your listeners!
A very good summary! It might also be helpful to say out loud what you hinted at in your first point: Christians have no business judging the world outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). If we rightly judged those within the church, that would be quite enough! Unfortunately, we often do the opposite: judge the world, and avoid any judgment within the church.
Well, Paul judged Elymas, and Jonah judged the people of Nineveh. Christians do not judge outsiders for the purpose of giving them “church discipline” (obviously), but we certainly can call out their actions as right/wrong (which is what judging really is, simply). Strategically, speaking the truth in love, full of grace, seasoned with salt, of course.
As good an analysis as I’ve read on this often misused/misunderstood wisdom from our Lord.
Matthew 5.1 neatly side-stepped! But only by misinterpeting what Jesus actually says. He is evidently not saying, ‘make sure you don’t apply a double standard’ but ‘if you judge, expect to be judged in return’ (by God? by others?). Or, to put it plainly, ‘go ahead, judge if you must but don’t be surprised when you’re then judged right back.’
And you Christians certainly don’t like that, do you! Persecution, persecution!
I just found your site and thank you for this article. I love the phrase, judge actions, not motives…but that still gets me into trouble! I “judged” that it made me sick to my stomach to see a Christian sister’s post on FB that she was seeing the latest 50 Shades movie…and was given the “judge not” card. I “judged” that the Shack movie is written from a Universalism point of view and contains several glaring heresies of the Christian faith and again, called on the carpet. One Christian sister who was promoting the movie even said, “Well, it isn’t too evil.” Now there’s a comfort! It seems that many who name the Name of Christ, don’t want to hear anything but kudos and encouragement regarding their choices. Saying anything else gives you a whole deck of “Thou shalt not judge” cards.
I agree with all you wrote, but had a question in regards to judging non-believers; which i realize we are not to do. So would locking the doors to our homes and vehicles be considered passing a judgement because that’d say, “i don’t trust you, so i’m locking my car doors, and locking my home”?
Thank you.If we love people we won’t be compelled to judge them.Right on brither
the whole article was very helpful
Exceptionally good discussion of the issue of judging. Thought provoking and complex.
Since Jesus is our judge and he lives within us, there should be room for judgment of sin. Learning the appropriate way is the challenge.
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