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Is it wrong for Christians to judge others? Or put differently, is it sinful for Christian’s to express judgments about the lifestyles of others?
A friend recently asked this question:
What do you think about some Christians’ attitude that we are to love people no matter what they do and never “judge” or talk about what they are doing?
Or about an attitude that you can’t talk about sin (eg homosexuality) unless you know people who are like that?
Following are some passages that affirm clearly how Christians should respond to others when it comes to judgment.
Christians are commanded to judge other believers and judge between believers
1Co 5:12-13 ESV For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
Deu 17:7 ESV The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Although Paul is not affirming execution, his reaffirming the importance of excluding people from the Christian congregation who the church has judged to be in unrepentant sin.
1Co 5:4-5 ESV When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, (5) you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
1Co 6:1-3 ESV When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? (2) Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? (3) Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
Christians are commanded not to judge non-Christians
1Co 5:12 ESV For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside.
We are forbidden to judge others about things the Lord allows
Rom 14:1-6 ESV As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. (2) One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. (3) Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. (4) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (5) One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (6) The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Our judgments are based on the ‘fruit’ we observe in people’s lives
Mat 7:15-20 ESV “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (17) So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Hypocritical judgment is forbidden
Mat 7:1-5 ESV “Judge not, that you be not judged. (2) For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (3) 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? (4) 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? (5) 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.
Rom 2:1-3 ESV Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (2) We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. (3) Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God?
Final judgment of a believer is forbidden
It is impossible for us to make a judgment on a person’s final eternal destiny. Only the Lord knows all the extenuating circumstances that surround a person’s life and so only He can judge accurately whether or not a person will be accepted or rejected by Him.
Jas 4:11-12 ESV Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. (12) There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
1Co 4:5 ESV Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
Judging others is implied when the moral propriety of an action is observed
When the Biblical authors state that a certain action is sinful they are making a judgment both about the action and about those who perform those actions. There are dozens of passages that describes actions that will incur the judgment of God. All these passages imply that the author (and reader) has judged those who do such things.
Heb 13:4 ESV Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Judging others is implied when a person is rebuked, chastised or corrected
We must first form a judgment about the actions of an individual before we rebuke or correct that person. Thus, in all correction, the person being corrected has been judged by the person doing the correcting.
Luk 17:3 ESV Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,
2Ti 4:1-2 ESV I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Tit 2:15 ESV Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Tit 1:13 ESV This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
We are to judge what others say
1Co 10:15 ESV I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.
1Th 5:21 ESV but test everything; hold fast what is good.
Examples of judging others
Joh 7:7 ESV The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.
Act 7:51-52 ESV “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. (52) Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,
1Co 5:3 ESV For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.