“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
The above passage is one of the best passages of Christian love that our blessed Lord gave on the sermon on the mount. It has such depth of theology, meaning and truth. It talks of the natural blindness that fallen men are born with and the total depravity of their condition. Our blessed Lord warns us that we are just as bad as they are in the same thing or others. He calls us to be merciful just like He is merciful to us sinners. It is such a beautiful passage, but there are people who seek to distort that.
Though it is true that we are not to be judgmental of others. It does not mean, however, that we are not to judge at all. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are to judge in some circumstances. But it is important to layout the ground of our judgment in Truth, Love and Grace. Not to destroy or to demean, but to rebuke, reproof and bring back a fellow brother or sister back to the narrow road to life. This form of Judgment is called Discernment and it is a mandatory skill that we Christians have to possess. As i have said before the meaning of that passage was for people who judged hypocritically. They were guilty of the same sins they were judging, and even guilty of even greater sin than the people they judge. Christ says that we are to first examine ourselves and be freed from the log before we are given the permission to take the speck from our brother’s eye.
Before we go forward, lets first clearly understand what judgment and what to judge mean, because I think most of the trouble is caused by people who do not fully understand what the word means. So here it is.
judg·ment [juhj-muhnt] noun
* the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely,especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion.
* the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind
judge [juhj] verb (used with object), judged, judg·ing.
* to form a judgment or opinion of; decide upon critically.
* to infer, think, or hold as an opinion; conclude about or assess.
So as we can see from the definitions of the word, judgment and judging is something that we do every day. and something that we do constantly. Taste, smell, actions, plans, analysing other peoples words, reading, watching. It is a natural part of our behaviour to judge whether something is good or bad. Whether we are safe or in danger. Whether something is Biblical or heretical. We judge the fruits of the people we meet, the people we see and hear of. If a person lies to you, he’s a liar. If a person kills, he’s a murderer. If a person acts out of greed, we say he’s greedy. We judge the fruits of people all the time. If the person protests, we are calm. Because we are judging on the basis of his fruits, and we know deep down it is right to do so. The final judgment on whether they have eternal life or not is God’s business, not ours. However, it is commanded to us that we judge the fruits of others (Remember the parable of the wolves in sheep’s clothing? Ye shall know them by their fruits. Jesus himself taught that). To say that to judge at all is sinful (disobeying God’s command) and should be avoided is a gross misunderstanding of the purpose of it. It is to declare war on critical thinking, to declare war on discernment. And to say that judging is wrong is frankly.. well… judging the practice. Oh the irony!!
I can do nothing on my own. As I hear I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me. John 5:30
What did Jesus teach? In the above passage is one example of Jesus’ just judgment, and why his doing it is not sin. He clearly proclaims that is “because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me.” So where am I going by saying that Judging is right? Where i would like to write about is the 2 different paths of judgment. One is sinful and one is Godly. One makes people Judgmental, the other will be the trait that i am trying to spur you all to understand and practice; Discernment. What is the Difference? It is the foundation and the heart. In Dictionary.com it nicely summarised what Discernment is; “[A] trait of judging wisely and objectively.” I love that (Note: that description is the same as the 2nd definition of Judgment). It is that objectivity that Christ says in the verse above. He is not fulfilling His own agenda, but the agenda of the Father’s.
dis·cern·ment [dih-surn-muhnt, -zurn-] noun
* the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.
dis·cern [dih-surn, -zurn] verb (used with object)
* to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; see, recognize, or apprehend.
* to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate.
As we can see from the definition above there is a role of understanding and intellect that is involved. It is an understanding based on biblical principles. So where do we draw the line? Paul explained the groundworks of Biblical Judgment very clearly in 1 Corinthian 5:9-13:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Pay careful attention to those words: “God judges those outside.’Purge the evil person from among you.’” The bible is very clear on how we are to walk our lives, and this area of judgment is not overlooked nor is it vague. If we say that we are not to judge outsiders or sinner, I agree. Their Judgment has already been declared by God; they are sinners walking in the broad road. They suppress God’s Truth. They love darkness and hate the light. They are living in unbelief and they are going to hell. To argue over that fact is simply a practice of vanity. This is a verity that God has declared and our responsibility is to warn them and plead to them to repent and to trust in Christ.
However, in terms of Christians inside the Church who professes faith yet deny it by their works, we are to discern their fruits, their teachings, their foundation if need be and judge them accordingly. When a person walks contrary to the conducts of Christ. We are to reprove them, rebuke them, exhort and teach them. Discipline them. If they refuse, we are to bring a witness. If they continue to walk in sin, the Church must judge them. and if that fails we are to do what the God taught us through His word, excommunicate. Purge the evil person from among you [1 Cor 5:13]. We not even to eat with them [ 1 Cor 5:12].
God even commands us to discern. In 1 John chapter 4 verse 1 we read: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Test, determine, discern the spirits. It is further elaborated by John in the next verse what the test is. The test is whether the spirit confesses Jesus had come in the flesh or not. If he does, then He’s from God. If not, then it’s an enemy. The test of course includes all the nuances of Jesus’ doctrines not if it merely professes Christ as Lord. But I may need to get into more detail in another post.
As we are commanded to test the spirits, we are also told to test the fruit. Which brings me to methods of worship or of living. This is something that most Christians judge each other over. Not to say that all judgement and discernment on this subject is uncalled for. But to judge based on personal preference and not on scriptural parameter of worship is wrong. In Romans chapter 14 we see that what Paul was addressing was judgment that was passed based on opinion and not on a Biblical Truth. For an Example of what is proper; one may be able to say that most modern Christian music is self centred and is therefore a form of idolatry, since it violates the Faith at such a fundamental/foundational level, but it can’t be said that we shouldn’t listen to it because of a certain instrument, or the style of worship. We wrestle with the exaltation of ideas that is not God glorifying. In what we do for God as a form of worship and thanks giving, as long as it doesn’t violate the foundations of the faith, we are free to do it without the judgement of the brethren. In this, it is between God and us, it is with God we shall stand or fall (Romans 14:1-12). Here we see the midway between the spirit at work and the fruit. From this middle ground we are able to anticipate the fruit or discern the spirit. Only when we discern a different spirit or foundation present where the form of “worship” is produced that is contrary to scripture, or just needless weight to the believer are we to admonish and present a better way of worship, so that they can bear better fruit. At times we already see the fruit present and therefore discern based on the fruit, and we are to correct it if it needs to.
It is not without it’s dangers though. Many people people take discernment too far and infuse their own subjective ideas and delusions, becoming judgmental or vain. Calling out sin and bad doctrine, being harsh and unloving while under the guise of discernment. Or when they do speak out in discernment, it is out of place, or presented badly. Please be careful brothers. The chief end of discernment is love and the glory of God. It is not a tool for our own glorification, nor is it a tool to destroy people. Though many people with sensitive consciences may avoid discernment for fear of this, it is not a valid license for disobeying God’s commandment.
Why did God tell us to discern? Because He loves us of course. Why? because the risk of not discerning is high brethren! Without any filter in doctrine or conduct people open themselves up to people whom we are supposed to rebuke, reprove, discipline or even excommunicate. And in the end, those whom the Bible says are accursed and condemned(unrepentant false teachers); they welcome with open arms in the name of Christ. Just like a person with AIDS can die of a thousand diseases, a person without discernment can die of a thousand heresies. One is temporal, the other eternal. Not only that, I believe that having no discernment is frankly, unloving. Unloving towards yourselves, other people, but most importantly towards God. Because you don’t care about your own spiritual well-being, why would you care about others? and doesn’t disobedience prove our lack of love for God? We can be obedient without loving God, but we can’t love God without being obedient. We are even told to examine/judge ourselves and discern to see whether we are in the Faith. There is no escape from this.
Don’t be deceived brethren, the people who shout “Thou shalt not judge” are usually the one that know deep down their teaching, if held up to the biblical doctrine, will fall apart. All false teachers shouts for us to love them in a way that discernment is thrown out the window. But God forbid that we become lenient to any heresy. Martin Luther declared: “We are forbidden to let our love be so merciful as to tolerate and endure false doctrine”. and to those young in the faith and have followed the “no judging” path, admonish them. For in saying so, many become hypocrites. Saying they are not judging you when they give you a reproof, when in fact the very thing they were doing was judging (in this case: discernment). It’s just absurd.
So all in all, what is the difference again? Discernment is judgment within Biblical parameters, done wisely and objectively. If done without mercy, or love, we stop being discerning and start being judgmental. For people outside the Church, their judgment is God’s and we merely need to proclaim the Truth; that God has judged them already, but for those inside, we are to purge the evil person from among us. Brethren, we are to judge. But judge rightly, judge kindly, judge to do the will of God -not yours, and judge with love. If the Bible commands us to do so, then we should be mature enough to learn how to do it God’s way. May the Lord Bless you all. Soli Deo Gloria.