Judging (Discernment) vs Passing Judgment

Philippians 1:27 "Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."

     Often times, we see many quarrel over the idea of judging. Usually, people like to quote the Bible, and say that Jesus said not to judge others. Often times, this is misinterpreted. There is a difference between judging in the form of discernment about something that we know is wrong according to the Word, and the act of passing judgment. Jesus was very clear on this teaching, however, it is often used out of context. Did you know that sometimes, being silent in the face of things going on that are clearly wrong according to the Word of God, is a form of acceptance, saying that you are OK with it? Just as much as we practice our Faith, we must stand up for Jesus and Christianity as well, and not always sit idly by while something so obscene and opposite to what our Word teaches us goes on. In prior articles, I have discussed why it is not always good to cherry pick a sentence or two out of the Bible, rather, read the entire paragraph, chapter, or book to really grasp the message. This principle applies here as well, specifically to passages when Jesus was talking about judging others, and putting on the full armor of God.

     The first passage (and often most quoted) I’d like to examine is Matthew 7:1-5 “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.”

     It is very important that we understand what Jesus was teaching here, before we go around telling others not to judge. Jesus indeed tells us to judge others in the last line, but we must understand he is also telling us how to judge. He condemns hypocritical judgement, in which decisions are made to tell someone else how something should be done, when they don’t even do it themselves. Point in case, if you are going to tell someone something they do is wrong according to the Word, make sure you are doing it too. Jesus says here that once someone is able to make assessments about their own life, then he is able to tell someone else, and “take the speck out of their eye.” For example, if someones house was a mess and I critique them on it, I better make sure my own house is clean.

     Now, in understanding discernment, there is a difference between judging and passing judgment. Being able to judge something according to Scripture is not the same as passing judgment against someone. Judging has more to do with discernment, and passing judgment is a totally different thing. Passing judgment means to assume someone is guilty. Jesus clearly warns us to avoid the position of being judge and condemning someone to something permanent. This is not to say we don’t need the judicial system, and I won’t get into that here much, but rather it is to say to avoid this in how we conduct ourselves upon each other.

     Matthew 7:1-5, as seen above, is often taken out of context and used as a personal shield to prevent someone from giving wise counsel to another. Of course, no one wants to be embarrassed, and often times, hearing the truth hurts our feelings, so they fight back or make a comment. More often, you will see someone comment back at a person, trying to make them second guess their wise counsel, even when they know how it stacks up against the Word. If we understand what Jesus was teaching, we can find peace and the correct way to go about. He was certainly not telling us not to stand up for what we know is correct according to God, rather, he was warning us about condemning others for their actions.

     It is certainly OK for us to hate the sin, but we can’t hate the sinner. For example, and I know it is a touchy one - one can certainly stand up for the idea that God made Man and Woman, and stand against the transgender-ism movement taking place in our world today, BUT we are not the Judge and can't tell someone, “You’re going to hell for this!”, or some other accusation that puts you in the position of being ultimate Judge on the result of an action in regards to condemning a person. It is one thing to stand up for what you know is correct according to the Word, and a totally different thing to condemn someone to hell.  The point is, we must love one another no matter what and treat each other equally.  Hate the sin, not the sinner.

     Going further into this teaching from Jesus, we can read that He also was warning us to have great discernment, to know what is from God and what isn’t. Reading on further into Matthew 7, Jesus tells us not to cast our pearls before swines. We must read this and understand what it means. Jesus explains that the pearl is the Word and the swines are those who detest the Word, and through our discernment of such we can assess a person and how we proceed. We have to judge to be able to do this as Jesus commanded. We have to evaluate something or someone against the Word, to know if they want a part of it or not. We are instructed to know the difference.

     Further on in Matthew, Jesus warns us of false prophets, and simply put, the rule of thumb is to judge them by the fruits of their labor. If their works produce good things and are in line with the Word of God, then they are good. If they go against the Word, and produce chaos and bad things (bad fruits), then we know they are wrong. It really can be that simple, with faith in Jesus Christ

.To give further clarity, here are a couple more scriptures for the difference between judging righteously and passing judgment:

Judging Righteously

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Passing Judgement

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God

     This goes back again to knowing the difference - you can certainly dislike the sin, but we must still love the sinner, and it is out of love that we try to help others.

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

     Jesus certainly teaches us to stand up for ourselves for what is Right:  John 18:22-23 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

     Always remember, Only God can judge ultimately, as in passing final judgement, and He gives that power to only Jesus.

John 5:22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

     I’d like to wrap all of this up with a prayer that we can say alone or together with others and for others:

     Dear Lord God, I thank You for everyone in my life. I thank You for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who You use as tools to bring us closer to You. I ask for Your guidance in our path and that we are always doing Your will. I ask for Your protection God, and for Your mercy and grace, so that no weapon formed against me shall prosper. I pray that I always represent Your Word correctly. I pray that I lead others to Christ through my life and actions. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.