To Judge or Not to Judge – That is the Question
- Christian Living
- Dr Eliezer Gonzalez
- New Testament
Jan 22, 2014 1959
One of our friends on the Good News Unlimited Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/GoodNewsUnlimited) asked me, “Christ says…by their fruits you will know them. Where is the line between discerning another’s character/fruit and judging them?”
That’s a very good question, and I will try to answer it briefly here…
Although we don’t think about it, in English, we use the word “judge” in two different ways. It is exactly the same in Greek.
We use “judge” in a neutral way, which means that we make a decision about something. Then we also use the word “judge” in a negative way, meaning that we condemn something. The New Testament uses the word “judge” in exactly the same way.
Notice the words of Jesus here:
God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17, CEB).
You can see here that the idea of judging is the opposite of salvation; in other words, judging means condemnation. Jesus didn’t come for that purpose; He only came to save. Jesus also commands us,
Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. (Mat. 7:1).
In other words, if we look down on others, condemning them in our hearts, then we ourselves are automatically condemned. The reason is that when we do that, we are forgetting that we ourselves are also sinners, and jointly guilty of the blood of Christ. There are no first class-seats at the foot of the cross.
The focus of the follower of Christ must be the same as His focus, one of forgiveness, acceptance, healing, and restoration. Then we are truly His sons and daughters. This is the attitude of the person who has the heart of Christ.
The ministry of Jesus on earth was not a ministry of judgment; it was a ministry of mercy; the time of the judgment was not yet. If the Father has placed all judgment in the hands of the Son, then we must do likewise (John 5:22). And if you really want to understand what the judgment is all about, look to the cross. There you will see how God views sin, but more importantly, how God views sinners.
On the other hand, Jesus also said,
For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. (John 9:39)
Was Jesus contradicting Himself? Here Jesus clearly says this within the context of knowledge and decision-making. Accordingly, Paul says,
Don’t you know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary things? (1 Cor. 6:3).
What does this look like in practice? Let’s say that there is someone you know who is committing a particular sin. You are to treat this person exactly as Christ has treated you. You are to win this person over by your love and kindness.
Assuming that this sin is not one in which you, your family, or the community is threatened, the fact that you are convinced that this person is seriously wrong is not to influence how you treat this person at all. If you love this person enough, he and she will come to know your position with regard to their choices, but they will never feel condemned by you. Like Christ, we are to approach people in love, and not in judgment. Of course, this is not about just externals; you don’t fake love and acceptance while all the while you are condemning in your heart. The prerequisite is your own true conversion and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Graham and Michelle Hood, good friends of mine, run an incredible ministry called, “Mission Serenity” (http://www.missionserenity.org.au). They work with victims of sexual abuse, and all kinds of abuse. They have a beautiful wooden sign at the entrance to their property that says, “No Judgment Past This Point.” They have understood the gospel. You cannot reach the wounded lambs of Christ with condemnation.
Certainly, we are to judge in the sense of understanding, but never in the sense of condemnation. There are too many Christians who are more obsessed with sin than with Christ. They feel compelled to spend more time denouncing sin than confessing it in their own lives. We must be obsessed with Christ, and not with sin. That’s why we’re called “Christians” and not “Sinians.”