Read part one here
Are Christians supposed to judge, or are we not supposed to judge? I think first we need to understand the meaning of some words. The dictionary defines judgmental as "having or displaying an excessively critical point of view." Judge on the other hand is defined in several different ways. It can be a public official, it can mean to form an opinion or conclusion about, make a decision about, give a verdict on, or decide the results of. Judge and judgmental do not mean the same thing! This was an eye-opener for me. Most of the time when someone says you shouldn't judge someone, what they really mean is don't be judgemental. Is it possible to judge without being judgemental? Most definitely. It happens in the courtroom everyday.
Being labelled a judgemental Christian really upset me. I don't know about you, but I don't like being accused of something that sounds so negative. My desire is to glorify God and to become more like Christ. Certainly having an excessively critical attitude is not going to help with that goal. I think if every Christian were honest, they would have to admit that they've all had a judgmental attitude at times. None of us are perfect, and we all criticize. Being judgmental is not something that honours Christ, and as Christians we need to be wise in our attitudes. We also want other people to see a difference in us. John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. I know that being excessively critical is not loving, and that is why I was so upset at being called judgmental. However, my first love is not toward men, it is toward God. Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. So, what does the Bible say about judging?
To begin this study, I looked up every verse in the Bible with the words judge, judges, judged, and/or judgeth in it. I read all two hundred and eighty-six verses with these words, and found out that the Bible itself gives the definition of judging. I Kings 3:9 "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" Solomon desired to be able to judge or discern between good and bad. Now this is something that I know a Christian is supposed to do.
I Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Romans 12:9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Proverbs 11:27 He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.
The Bible doesn't just use the word judge to mean discernment. There are several other uses for this word in Scripture.
1. A person who rules (Exodus 2:14)
2. A name for God (Genesis 18:25)
3. To make a choice (Genesis 31:37)
4. To plead a cause; especially of someone less fortunate (Proverbs 31:9; Isaiah 1:17)
5. To give a verdict based on an action (Ecclesiastes 3:17)
It was clear from reading all the verses, that God did not always use the word with the same meaning. I realized that since the word "judge" has several different meanings, it was important to discern the meaning in each passage before making an application from the passage. Assigning the wrong meaning to the word could result in a faulty interpretation and/or application of the verse. One of the uniquenesses of the Bible is even though it is one book made up of many books, it is in complete agreement on everything. God does not change, and God does not contradict Himself. If God said to "judge" in one passage of Scripture and then to "judge not" in another, it cannot be a contradiction. I believe that God puts things like this in the Bible to make us more diligent Bible studiers. We can know the meaning of the Scripture, but often it takes a little more than just a surface reading to discern (or should I say "judge") what the meaning is. I Corinthians 2:10 "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."
The questions that I have sought to answer through my study are as follows:
1. Is judging wrong for the Christian?
2. Is there a right time to judge?
3. If there is a right time to judge, when is it?
4. What does it mean to judge?
5. Why does the Bible say to judge and then say not to judge? What does that mean?
6. What do people mean by saying don't judge? Is this biblical?
7. What does it mean to be judgemental? Is this biblical?
8. What does it mean to have a judge-not philosophy of ministry? Is this biblical?
9. Is judging more important that other things like love, forgiveness, truth, etc, or can all these things exist in harmony?