One of the greatest stumbling blocks in the Church today is the “anti-judgment” movement. No, it’s not an official movement. I made the name up, but I think it’s just as much a problem to the church as many real movements in this day and age. Its main idea is that if you say anything negative about another person’s lifestyle, convictions, or habits, then you are considered “judgmental.” If you think that someone else is not living the way God wants them to, then you’re judging them. If you try to tell someone that they should not be committing a sin that they struggle with, then they proclaim, “Don’t judge me!” Some may quote verses in the Bible about being kind to others, or how Jesus told us not to judge in Matthew 7:1. Some of this may be true, but far too often we use this phrase with a clever mix of Truth and lies and the twisting of Scripture to satisfy our own desires to not have others rebuke or correct us; simple selfishness.
What is Judgment?
This culture has manipulated the term, “judging,” to mean pretty much anything one person says against another person (especially concerning religion, race, and belief). Anyone can label an attack from another as “judging” and all of the sudden the attacker is in the wrong. This is absurd. When Jesus tells us not to judge, He defines it as condemning a sinful quality in another when we ourselves are guilty. We aren’t to rebuke others if we are trapped in the same sin or are unsure of the other person’s faults. In other words, it is wrong for a man who recently divorced his wife to go around telling other people to stop fighting with their wives in their marriages, or for a guy at school to condemn a girl because of how she looks. That’s trying to pick the speck out of our neighbor’s eye while there’s a giant log stuck in ours. It’s pride and hypocrisy. That’s the evil form of judging. That’s the example Jesus gave in Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 6:41-42. That’s also what the Pharisees were like. They told others to observe the law while they themselves lived ungodly lives.
Now, we must be careful here about how we define what we call judging. While it’s technically wrong to “judge” in the sense of Matthew 7:1, it’s not necessarily wrong to rebuke others or condemn other people’s actions. Let me explain. The Bible condemns judging in the form of evil and hypocritical words or thinking against another person. But the term “judging” has several different meanings. One of those is “to decide upon critically,” and this is the common definition our culture takes and runs with as if it were what Jesus told us not to do. Yet, we as Christians are called to “judge” in this sense. We must critically observe others’ lives to tell whether they are genuine believers, and whether what they say is to be trusted and followed (Matthew 7:15-16). But the Bible makes clear that in our evaluations of others, we should not use hypocritical methods of observation. In other words, we must critically examine others and in some cases point out wrong, but we are not to do it if we are not in authority to do so, if we are failing in that area in our own lives, or if our motives are prideful, hypocritical, or unbiblical.
I know this is a little complicated, but please bear with me. It’s important we understand the difference between the biblical and unbiblical forms of judging. Like I said before, we as Christians must carefully look at others’ lives to determine where they are lacking and whether they are following the Lord. We can use this to confront them appropriately and point out their faults to help them get on the right track again. This kind of judging, void of hypocrisy, is right and just, and if we can turn a straying heart back to God in this way, we will have saved a soul from death and covered over a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20). But the evil form of judging that Jesus describes in the Bible (which comes from a heart of pride and conceit) is by all means sinful. We need to be wise in how we judge others, and to meticulously analyze our own hearts and lives before exposing others’ wrongs.
Now remember, just because we aren’t exactly struggling with the specific sin that someone else is doing doesn’t mean that we have a warrant to rebuke them all we want. We are all sinners, and we shouldn’t make it our job to tell people how they’re failing all the time (even if our motive is to see them grow in Christ). If we aren’t in the position to rebuke someone, then we should let things be and just pray for them. If we feel through prayer that we should go to them, then so be it, but we must not catch ourselves judging others’ actions inappropriately. And if we are battling the same sin as someone else and we are actively fighting against it, then it’s fine to share our struggles and victories with them in order to let them know that they are not alone, and that we will conquer it with them. The problem comes when we want to authoritatively admonish them for something that we ourselves aren’t addressing. We need to make sure we are building one another up with encouragement, not tearing each other down with self-righteousness.
Many people nowadays say, “Don’t judge me!” But most of the time this phrase is used to make the speaker look like the victim and give them free reign to do what they want with their lives, regardless of what’s right or what other people think. This is pride. A lot of times when we push away other people’s observations, we want to live in our own little world where everything we do is ok because we think so. We don’t want to hear how we’re making mistakes because it hurts our image. This is just sin! We need to learn how to accept criticism like a mature follower of God and learn from the mistakes we may very well be making. This doesn’t always have to be in context of the specific phrase, “Don’t judge me.” I have acted like this without using those words multiple times before in my life, and it has always hurt people and boosted my ego. I sincerely regret the times where I stood on my pedestal refusing to be in the wrong and claiming that everyone who was trying to help me was misled. Please don’t do this. It’s sinful, and it will contaminate your soul with pride and damage your relationships with other people. Believe me, I know.
Now, I realize that this isn’t always how the term, “don’t judge me,” is used. Sometimes it’s used in a joking manner. If our friends are teasing us because we like a certain sports team or something, then it’s totally fine to say, “Don’t judge me,” as a friendly joke. But if someone tries to point out a weakness or fault of ours, we shouldn’t automatically say, “Don’t judge me!” Now, if they’re being a jerk and blatantly disrespecting our privacy, then yes, it is appropriate to tell them to stop. For example, if a bunch of kids are insulting someone because they look like they came from a bad part of town, then they should shut up. They are not in authority to judge, because all they have to go on is physical appearances. That’s probably the only time this statement is appropriate. But please, do not use this to escape from reality or dismiss other people’s opinions. A lot of times a friend of ours or someone we know will say something about us and our first reaction is to say, “Don’t judge me!” But we must check ourselves and make sure we are not saying it in order to push people away and pridefully ignore others’ critical observations that could potentially help us grow in Christ.
Don’t Judge… However…
So don’t judge… in the sense of hypocritically pointing out other people’s faults. But do judge in the sense of building one another up in Christ. Don’t pridefully shut out those who only want to help you out of your sin or unwise decisions. Be upfront and honest with the people God has put in your life, and let them keep you accountable.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” – Jesus (John 7:24)