Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

“Christians are not supposed to judge.” Really?

Most likely you’ve heard this phrase at some point in your life because it’s become common-law. What do I mean by that? It’s a rule regularly applied to custom situations in a manner not appropriately mandated by God’s statues. I imagine you may find this a little jarring. But, when we hear phrases used so often and by so many people, it’s natural for us to simply adopt them rather than questioning, “Are we using this phrase in its biblical sense?”

In some cases we are, but we need to clarify what we mean by “judging.” “To judge” is not the same as “to be judgmental” for we expect any human judge to reach conclusions without an attitude of judgementalism. “To judge” is not the same as “to condemn” for not all judging results in punishment, disapproval, or forced displeasure. “To judge” is “to form an opinion or conclusion about something” (Oxford Dictionary).

Certainly, we stand on scriptures that address judging. The most famously used is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, or you will be judged.” This paired with Jesus’ words, “For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” becomes a tricky dilemma for English speakers (John 12:47). Jesus himself is using the word “judge” with instructive language, but does Jesus really want us to not form options or have a perspective of our own?

Of course not. Followers of Jesus are to become wise and discerning and to “distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Christians are to judge but not to be judgmental or condemning. Jesus clearly said, “He without sin cast the first stone” meaning we can only judge from a place where we are all guilty and we must leave all punishment-declaring justice to the one who is without sin (John 8:7).

“For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Isaiah 33:22). “He shall judge the world in righteousness, and he shall administer judgments for the people in uprightness” (Psalm 9:8). So, when we hear this common statement, let’s rephrase it as, “Christians are to judge from God-given wisdom, but never to take God’s place as Judge.”

Today, we all stand before the same Judge. Use this time to confess where you have turned judging into condemning or giving someone forced displeasure because you have wrongly stepped in as God.

By Yvonne Biel