It seems to us that believers have swung from one end of the pendulum to the other in the area of judging. Have you, as a Christian ever been accused of being intolerant and judgmental? Some of the quips most often used are: Judge not, that you be not judged! Or, everyone makes mistakes!
But is it ever okay to judge anything? What does the Bible have to say?
Most people (even non-believers) are familiar with Luke 6:37 which tells us not to judge others, lest we be judged, and not to condemn others, lest we be condemned. First Corinthians 4:5 (AMP) puts it like this: “So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secrets things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God.”
In other words, most of the time, we don’t know the full story about anything enough to judge it fairly and righteously, as the Lord does. God sees the beginning and the end of a person’s life simultaneously. We don’t! He knows every detail about each life, and the motives and intents of each heart. The majority of the time, our tendency to judge others comes out of an area of pride in our own hearts. It’s no one’s full time occupation, or calling, to go around judging others.
Yet on the other hand, if we see something or hear something that we know does not line up with Scripture, or with what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us, are we not to ever warn others about those things? First Corinthians 2:15 (AMP) answers that question: “But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things]…” Notice that it says “all things,” not “all people.” Also, see 1 Corinthians 2:15 which says, “He who is spiritual judges all things.” (Notice again it says “all things.”)
As we judge scripturally in this way, it is best to seek the Lord and ask Him what He wants us to do with what He has shown us. He may want us to warn others, or He may simply want us to pray about the situation.
As believers, we often walk a very fine line between discernment and judgmentalism. It is so easy to get into criticism, condemnation, contempt, and slander without having a full understanding about a situation. Our words really do indicate what is in our hearts!
Here is a key: It is safe to judge doctrine, but never to judge the intents and/or motives of another person’s heart.
We can examine the fruit of a person’s life by listening to his words and observing his behavior, but it is still not up to us to judge that person. It is okay to test the spirit that is operating through an individual. Sometimes a person has all the right words, but something just doesn’t seem right. It may be the wrong spirit behind what is coming forth!
Lastly, there is a big difference between judging those within the church and those who are in the world (unbelievers).
In the entire chapter of First Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul adamantly asserts the need to examine what is going on inside the church (among believers). In V. 6 (AMP), he says, “[About the condition of your church] your boasting is not good [indeed, it is most unseemly and entirely out of place]. Do you not know that [just] a little leaven will ferment the whole lump [of dough]? V. 7, “Purge (clean out) the old leaven that you may be fresh (new) dough, still uncontaminated [as you are], for Christ, our Passover [Lamb], has been sacrificed.” He goes on to say in the next verses that we are not to habitually associate with those who bear the name of Christ if they are known to be guilty of immorality, greed, idolatry, have a foul tongue, or any other such thing.
In V. 12, he makes a distinction between those who claim to be Christians and those who are outside (in the world). He says, “What [business] of mine is it and what right have I to judge outsiders? Is it not those inside [the church] upon whom you are to pass disciplinary judgment [passing censuring sentence on them as the facts require]? V. 13, “God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside. Drive out that wicked one from among you [expel him from your church].”
How often do we see that actually done in the church today? What is implied in many of today’s churches is, in fact, the opposite end of the spectrum and is promulgated heavily in the seeker sensitive movement that has gained so much popularity today…
Can’t we all just get along?
Love tolerates everyone and everything.
I’m okay, you’re okay, and we’re all on our way!
Ephesians 5:11 tells us to, “Have no fellowship with the hidden works of darkness, but rather expose them.” In First Timothy 5:20, Paul says, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
When it comes to judgmentalism, we must be careful to stay on the safe side of that “fine line” between discernment and judgmentalism. But at the same time, we must not be afraid to expose evil and refuse to have fellowship with it, always speaking the truth in love.
We don’t have to judge people’s hearts and motives. The Word of God judges all of us and is sharper than a two-edged sword (according to Hebrews 4:12). So you don’t have to shy away when people say, “Don’t judge, lest you be judged!” You can say, “I don’t judge you—that’s not my job—but the Word of God judges both of us.”