How is it possible that the same God who writes, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:1,2), also writes, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). How can Christians be expected to judge righteously and not judge at the same time? How does this make sense? Sometimes God forbids judging and sometimes God expects judging? Critics might read the verses and see a division in God’s will. However, the dutiful Christian and studier of the Word should ask, “What kind of judging does God expect versus what kind of judging does God forbid?” Clearly, not all judging is the same, and not all judging is forbidden.
Modern America throws out the word “judgmental” like a bad word. People cower at the hearing of it. To carry the label of ‘judgmental’ brings a death sentence to one’s reputation. The pop culture labeled churches as judgmental for years, and many Gen Xers and Millennials have left the church in frustration of being judged by the older generations. Surveys done by Lifeway Research and Pew Research in the 80s and 90s revealed that being judgmental was the number one reason people left a church. As a result, many denominational churches have changed and adjusted their services and preaching to be more inclusive of all lifestyles.
The fear of being judgmental and the shifts in the church’s teaching has created the concept that being judgmental to any degree is unchristian. To tell another person that he/she sins or violates the law of God now constitutes an ungodly judgment! This misunderstanding of how God and how Christians should view judgment misrepresents the biblical teaching on judging another person.
What kind of judging does God permit, and what kind of judging does God forbid? Paul writes by inspiration, “Do any of you dare, when you have a matter against another, to go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Cor. 6:1-2). Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for not being able to judge among themselves on matters that created contention in the brotherhood. The Christians sued each other and brought each other before a Roman court because they could not judge among themselves properly (1 Cor. 6:5). God requires Christians to learn and use judgment!
God, likewise, expects Christians to judge between right and wrong! Christ states, “Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” (Luke 12:57). Christians have a divine right to judge whether or not an action or belief is right or wrong (1 John 4:1; Gal. 6:1,2; James 5:19,20; Matt. 7:15-20). God does not forbid using the Bible to judge whether or not a person’s actions are godly, but rather forbids hypocritical judgment, shallow judgment, slanderous judgment, and ill-natured judgment (Matt. 7:3-5).
A Christian cannot judge what individuals think in their heart without hearing their words and seeing their actions. A Christian CAN judge an action or belief as right or wrong, but the judgment should not go beyond what has been manifest and judge a person’s intensions or motives. Only God truly knows the heart! Judas accused Mary of wastefulness when he was stealing from the bag (John 12:5,6). The Pharisees judged and condemned others while they continued to live in arrogance and false teaching (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 2:16-23). There exists a biblical difference between biblical judgment and unbiblical judgment!
How does one escape unbiblical judgment and not hasten to unfair judgments? First, Christians should practice the golden rule. Christ proclaims that “whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). However a person wishes others to think and judge of them, that person should think and judge of others. Before Christians make any accusations or reproves, they should ask how they would want to be treated. Also, consider the nature of God and love as all Christians should emulate. Love is “always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient” (1 Cor. 13:7, Moffatt). We should always give people the benefit of the doubt and never pessimistically assume the worst of others. Thirdly, a person should always examine self. Upon examining self, individuals may realize that they should first remove their personal “beam,” so that they can see clearly to remove the mote out of their brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5).