By: Linda Freeman
How many times have we heard “Christians should not judge?” How many times have we said it ourselves? This sentiment has been repeated so often in our culture that it’s come to be accepted as biblical Truth. It is not.
The reality is that Christians should be the first ones to judge…first themselves, then others. What needs to be more clearly defined is not whether Christians should judge, but the use of the terms “Christians” and “judgment.”
CRITICISM vs. JUDGMENT
DEUTERONOMY 16:18: You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment ESV
Unlike what is meant in this passage, the term “judgment” in our time has come to be redefined as “criticism.” This negative connotation conveniently excuses people from being “judged” for their choices and behaviors, either by examining themselves or being examined by others. They are not interested in judging or in being judged and have no concept of the biblical imperative here is meant for their good, and not for evil.
The term “Christians” has come to mean anyone who shows up for church or uses that term to identify themselves, regardless of whether their beliefs are biblical. The term no longer carries the weight of describing a man or a woman completely devoted to Jesus Christ to such a degree that his or her entire life revolves around being submitted to and committed to following Him according to a biblical faith and set of clear standards.
This is why Pastor Paula often points out that the earliest followers of Christ called themselves Saints or Believers, rather than by the secular term coined for them as “Christians.” This is also an important distinction. True Saints – genuine sold-out and submitted Believers in Christ – are not necessarily what is meant by the term “Christian” as it is used today, but they are the ones who can have a biblically authorized position, mandate, and responsibility to judge righteously.
MATTHEW 15:6; 9 – So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the Word of God…teaching as doctrines the commandments of men ESV
The idea that Christians “shouldn’t judge” is a man-made cultural ideal that also has been embraced in Christian culture as if it were biblical. Sadly, this widespread lack of will to judge and to be judged within and outside of the Church has led to a widespread “lack of judgment” in our society. People are no longer interested in whether their choices or behaviors are “right” or “wrong,” or qualify as sins or not.
Instead, people are more concerned with preventing anyone from judging their behaviors and choices, and they certainly are not willing to judge themselves. So the idea that Christians “cannot” or “should not” judge anyone or anything is more about people wanting to preserve their freedoms to do whatever they want without the challenges of standards for righteousness.
This all gets packaged up with the positive and virtuous-sounding sentiment that it’s not “nice” to judge but there is nothing nice about the absence of judgment. In fact, it could be said that the complete moral decay of our culture, the utter disrespect for whatever is pure and holy and beautiful, and the crumbling of ideals like modesty, charity, self-control, marriage, honor, virtue, valor, humility, respect, and the sanctity of life can be blamed on the LACK of judgment now rampant in our culture and, dare I say it, in our churches.
MATTHEW 18:15-17 If your bother sins against you, go and tell him his fault…ESV
Churches are in moral decay and biblical disrepair, in large part due to an unwillingness to judge sin – or even call it sin – in ourselves and even in each other. Yes, in each other. This verse clearly says that if your brother sins against you, “go to him” and tell him about it.
If that doesn’t resolve it, Matthew goes on to record the step-by-step biblical process for addressing the sin and not ignoring it, sweeping it under the rug, or smile-ing it away. This process used to be called church discipline (or reproof, or correction) and it started with the churches’ responsibility and willingness to judge sin.
PROVERBS 15:31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise NIV
This verse describes what we used to call “being teachable.” If you’re old enough to ever have experienced church discipline, done properly, you know that the goal is restoration and not humiliation or rejection. The purpose for confronting sin, judging it as sin, and correcting it biblically with love, is to stop sin in its tracks and to deliver people from its grip. As well, confronting sin brings life to the person who accepts God-given correction and disables the enemy from freely roaming around the Body of Christ, seeking whom he may devour. It also makes us wise. Without it, we are fools.
In the absence of the churches addressing sin within its own ranks, there are deceptions, false doctrines, and concepts being preached and unbiblical practices being tolerated, accepted, or even embraced and endorsed. We must get back to judging sin within ourselves and among ourselves but the biggest risk – and the reason church discipline became looked down upon and stopped being practiced – is when it goes too far and becomes a work of the flesh rather than the work of the Holy Spirit.
CONVICTION vs. CONDEMNATION
MATTHEW 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your bother’s eye NIV
A few years ago, I sought the Lord about this whole “judgment” thing. I was troubled by the mantra that “Christians shouldn’t judge” in light of a conviction I felt that Christians absolutely should be the ones best equipped TO judge…specifically, to judge sin. Again, first within ourselves, and then with whatever is going on around us.
As I prayed and read and researched, I came to realize there is a difference between judging for conviction and judging for condemnation. When someone is judged by anyone whose motive is not love and righteousness, it’s the same as condemning the sinner to hell because it is not aimed at forgiveness or restoration to relationship with God and His people. This important distinction solved it for me!
JAMES 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. AMP
Judging sin in order to bring conviction and repentance is aimed at restoration and is a biblical mandate for our personal lives and for the Body of Christ. We are biblically RESPONSIBLE for judging sin personally and corporately. When Matthew 7:1,2 declares “Do not judge, lest you be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,” consider “the way” you judge others. If you judge unrighteously, without love or justice, that is how you will be judged. Instead, we are able to be AUTHORIZED by the Holy Spirit to judge RIGHTEOUSLY, if we are completely yielded to Him and to His authority over ourselves. This enables us to have “the mind of Christ” and to judge after the Spirit, and not after the flesh.
We may “condemn the sin,” however, we do not have the authority or the POSITION IN CHRIST to condemn the sinner which is, whether knowingly or unknowingly, condemning that person to hell. To Gehenna – a terrible place of death described in the Old Testament, and the “abode of the damned” in Jewish and Christian eschatology. It is like throwing someone to the dogs and leaving them outside the reach of the love of God.
So, to say we “judge the sin, not the sinner” is true but it is not the whole Truth. We should judge the sin but the sinner must also take responsibility for the sin – whether that sinner is ourselves or someone else – in order to be able to repent and be restored to RIGHTEOUSNESS; that is, to right standing with God.
RIGHTEOUSNESS vs. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
MALACHI 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you Except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), And to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]? AMP
One of the weaknesses we all have in the flesh which blocks God’s Righteousness is our own self-righteousness. God’s Righteousness is based on His Standards which is only able to be revealed to us in our spirits by His Spirit, and which is based on His Word. Self-righteousness is based on what WE think or feel is right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or evil.
ROMANS 14:3 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. ESV
In this verse, the standard is derived from the man himself, based on what he does (thinks, feels) rather than on a Standard that is inspired by and required by God. While we may believe we are thinking correctly, what happens from mentally setting standards of “rights and wrongs” is that we become the standard rather than God being THE Standard. The larger problem is we begin to derive our own sense of “authority” to set those standards, rather than properly deriving the authority to discern good and evil (sin and not sin) from God Himself. All authority must be derived from a higher authority, and we are not it.
MERCY vs. GRACE
JAMES 2:13b Mercy triumphs over judgment. NIV
Churches in America are on Grace-overload. Grace and mercy are two different things but the word “grace” is now commonly substituted for what should require mercy – namely, sin. The concept of Grace – which actually means “unmerited or undeserved favor” – is not the same as the definition of Mercy – which means “withholding punishment when punishment is deserved.”
The word “grace” is now used to ignore sin, to cover it up as if it doesn’t exist. People often don’t even know what they are saying when they throw this term around, and why should they when grace is preached continuously and mercy is not. Grace feels good! Grace doesn’t require any humility or sacrifice on our parts. Grace declares we are favored, no matter what we do or say! Grace has nothing to do with the judgment of sin.
Mercy requires judgment to be administered which is why I suspect it is no longer preached or mentioned from most pulpits. If sin is being ignored and judgment is being ignored then mercy must be ignored. But Mercy is essential to the “absolute righteousness” of Godly Justice!
HEBREWS 1:8b A scepter of justice (absolute righteousness) will be the scepter of your kingdom AMP
I love this verse because it reminds me that without Righteousness (the absolute Righteousness that comes from God alone), I cannot possibly have the authority of the Kingdom to administer true Justice. In other words, real Justice can only come from God’s Righteousness, which is based on judging sin from a higher Authority and showing the sinner the way for repentance and restoration, and not from man’s own self-righteousness, which is derived from a lower authority (man’s own mind and flesh).
PROVERBS 21:15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous (the upright, the one in right standing with God), but to the evildoers it is a disaster. AMP
It is a joy to see true Justice done but there can be no Justice without judgment and the judgment must be RIGHTEOUS. This is why the unrighteous hate Judgment and want to silence others from judging sin. It is also why Christians – Believers, Saints – must NOT abdicate their authority to judge or their understanding of how to judge JUSTLY.
THE HOLY PLACE
JOHN 5:30 I can do nothing on my own initiative or authority. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just (fair, righteous, unbiased) because I do not seek not my own will but only the will of Him who sent me. AMP
Believers have a biblical responsibility to judge justly and there is only one way for us to be equipped to do that rightly and Righteously before God. This is what Pastor Paula taught in her Sunday morning message on The Holy Place (5/2/2021) and it is the only way for the Saints to be equipped to judge justly. Here is what Pastor Paula said:
“I can judge justly, correctly, when I am seeking God’s will, when I have discernment and correction. When it’s my will, I don’t judge correctly and I won’t be able to correct situations. When I’m seeking His Will and His Presence (in the Holy Place), I won’t be deceived.”
Isn’t the goal the “correct situations?” Seeking and standing in the Presence of God is the key to doing so. This is where we arrive after we have put off (crucified and denied) the flesh, once we have submitted our mind, will, emotions, and body to the Holy Spirit. It is where our minds are renewed and we are transformed into the Righteousness of God. It is the entrance to the Holy of Holies where God Himself dwells, and is the only place where we are fully and completely restored to right standing with God.
When I was a producer for CBN News (The 700 Club), my story assignments were generally about family, abortion, the occult, and the gay rights agenda. I quickly learned that my stories would fall far short of insights and revelations of Truth if I relied on my education, knowledge, current events, experts, political beliefs, and feelings. Instead, the first thing I did when I got a new assignment was to press in to the presence of God by the Holy Spirit, to seek His mind on the matter, to hear His voice, and to ask the Holy Spirit to lead me and to guide me into all Truth. The Holy Spirit never failed to lead me to information, people, and resources that I never would have considered or pursued or interviewed if I had relied purely on my own mind and the “arm of the flesh.” By the time I had finished my assignment and reported my story, I knew that it had been told justly – in fairness and impartiality – and presented a solid case for a Righteous judgment (conclusion) of the matter.
We are all on assignments every day. To judge justly is one of our Divine Assignments! It requires humility and it requires sacrifice but it is a Holy and Righteous calling, and it begins with us…not just to be judged, but to judge. Let’s be sure we are qualified by the Holy Spirit to judge justly, and let’s stop the myth that “Christians should not judge.” If we continue to be unwilling to fulfill this mandate, we unwittingly condemn the unrighteous to an “uncertain outcome” in the absence of our Righteous judgments.
I PETER 4:17 For it is the time [destined] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not respect or believe or obey the gospel of God? AMP
If you would like to watch Pastor Paula streaming LIVE, every Sunday at 10:00a.m. EST and Wednesday at 7:00p.m. EST CLICK HERE: Paulawhite.org/live
Linda has a master’s degree in journalism, and is a former network television news writer, producer, and on-air talent. She has more than 20 years’ experience working for national/international broadcast news outlets (CBN/The 700 Club in Virginia Beach; NBC/MSNBC in New York City), followed by a second career in corporate communications with IBM in New York. Now retired, Linda specializes in writing screenplays based on or inspired by true stories. Two of her projects have been optioned by a Hollywood producer, who is currently collaborating with her on multiple film and television projects. Linda is also a published author and occasional guest speaker in churches and women’s groups. She is also an amateur pool player and has competed in national tournaments, where she looks for opportunities to share her many testimonies about God’s supernatural interventions in her life. As a college student, Linda lived and studied in Spain, and still speaks, reads, and writes Spanish with fluency. An “Army Brat” who was mostly raised in New Jersey, Linda now lives just outside of Austin, in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. She has been happily married for 30 years to her second husband, and they have raised four children together. They are finally enjoying an empty nest, if they don’t count their collie and two cats.