When to judge or not to judge
Definition for the verb, JUDGE (Strong's Concordance #3212)
- to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
- to approve, esteem, to prefer
- to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
- to determine, resolve, decree
- to judge
- to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
- to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined
- to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
- to pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
- to rule, govern
- to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions
We must always exercise moral judgment and judge (evaluate, discern, determine) what is right or wrong according to the standard of God's Word:
"Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?"Luke 12:57
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”John 7:24
"For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged."1 Corinthians 11:31
"Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" 1 Corinthians 6:2
"God said, 'Ask! What shall I give you?'
And Solomon said: '...O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.'
"The speech pleased the Lord...." 1 Kings 3:5-10
While we must judge (discern) between good and evil (works, influences, messages, practices, etc.), we are told not to judge unbelievers or hold them accountable to God's laws (which can only be understood by those who are filled with the Holy Spirit).
"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ."1 Corinthians 2:14-16
When we discern error and the Holy Spirit prompts us to correct a brother or sister, we must "speak the truth in love." We must help each other in our walk with God. This means addressing our brothers and sisters in Christ in ways that point them back to our Father's wise Words and guidelines. For example, "Our Father told us not to do that in ....)
"...we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ...." Ephesians 4:14-15
"Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins."James 5:19-20
Since only God knows the heart of a person, we cannot judge whether the person is saved (born again of the Spirit) or not.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Matthew 7:1-2
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God."1 Corinthians 4:5
"But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore...." Romans 14:10-13
When judging error, the focus is on the act and teaching, not the person.
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven....
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye." Luke 6:35-37, 41-42
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.... For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:12, 14-15
“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7:47
Jesus knows the hearts of all people, we don't. So, while we are to walk in His steps, we cannot judge hearts nor proclaim condemnation as Jesus did.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" Matthew 23:29-33
Christians must handle legal disputes with each other from God's perspective
"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!" 1 Corinthians 6:1-6
Ultimate judgment is in God's hands and time. He is our Judge and will judge all people:
"'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."Hebrews 10:30
"...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints...."2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
But don't expect the world to acknowledge our great and glorious Lord. Now as always, those who reject His truth to pursue feel-good visions and contrary ways will have zero tolerance for God and His saving truths. Few realize the consequences before they are too blind to see and too corrupt to care:
"Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised My every rebuke,
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.” Proverbs 1:29-33
God will judge those who despise His ways and distort His truth.
"Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Heb 10:29-31
That seems strange, doesn't it? We don't like to hear about His wrath and judgment. We want His love and grace, not His truth and judgment. But we belittle Him when we twist His message, ignore His warnings and conform His ways to popular views of love and tolerance. And --
"God will not be mocked!" Galatians 6:7.
Jesus told His disciples, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters." Luke 11:23