As Christians, we often hear, “You clearly are not a Christian because Jesus told us not to judge.” Statements like this reflect our culture. Judging is wrong, and if you do, you are labeled intolerant. Am I not allowed to have an opinion? Clearly, others have theirs. The things we are allowed to judge and not Judge are confusing. We can’t judge someone’s sexual behavior, but judging a person for wearing fur is acceptable. Some do not care if they are judgemental and feel they have the right to be. Others do not even want to appear to be judgemental. Regardless, we do continuously judge each other every day.
In judging others, Christians should follow Biblical principles, not culture. Unfortunately, Scripture appears to have contradictory messages about judging. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus says, “Do not judge,” but in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, the apostle Paul says, “The 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 for judging?
Here are some guidelines I find helpful.
Christians Must Judge
Scripture explicitly teaches Christians to judge other Christians. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul instruction the church “not to associate with sexually immoral people,” which to obey involves making a judgment call. 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, but they should also discipline them based on those judgments. Equally, Jesus says in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” Clearly, Jesus expects us to judge. However, He wants us to judge correctly, using appropriate values.
Judge Actions, Not Motives
It can be problematic when you try to judge other’s motives. Paul in I Corinthians 4:5 says that we should resist passing judgment on someone else’s heart. I Kings 8:39 says God alone knows what’s in the human heart. God will do that at the chosen 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 restrict their judgments to what they can accurately distinguish — peoples’ actions. We may think we know what another person is thinking, but most often, we do not. We need to remember He is omniscient, and we are not.
Seek to Restore, Not to Judge
Our motive must always be in love and desiring to restore the wayward believer to God and then to the fellowship. Paul said we should discipline an immoral Christian “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Similarly, in Galatians 6:1, Paul writes, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” The keyword is “gently.” I hear Christians judging, but it’s not in love, and it is not done gently. Their motive is not to restore but to gossip with other Christians and elevate themselves.
If we have to judge and correct, it should be after exhausting prayer, and correction should be much love. There should be no part of us that wants to judge or correct another believer. If there is – then you haven’t prayed enough.