One of my pet peeves is when the word “judgmental” gets thrown around incorrectly. Especially when it’s said with a knowing “I got this from the Bible” attitude. Often this happens when someone is trying to justify their own ungodly behavior or when they’re afraid of being the “bad guy” by pointing out something harmful someone else is doing.
I admit it’s something I did often in the past. Maybe that’s why it irritates me so much! Claiming that someone is “being judgmental” or that one doesn’t want to “judge so and so” is more often a subtle tip of the hat to that widely touted false grace: tolerance. Tolerance has it’s value. Toleration of sin, however, does not.
Today at church one of the pastors gave a definition that is really helpful for me. The “judging” or “being judgmental” that the Bible warns against is about when we “stand at a distance and condemn”. John Mark (the pastor who was speaking) said it nicely when he said that anytime we judge a person or group (standing at a distance and condemning them), the Bible says it is premature. Only God can judge. And He will! We all know people who shout condemnation on groups and individuals. We may have even found ourselves slipping into that at moments. It is not of God.
However, making wise judgements and biblically sound decisions is encouraged in the Bible. As is encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ and even correcting or rebuking them when necessary, and always in love. The Bible also tells us that we should not grumble against each other in the body of Christ – that includes our church leaders, people! (James 5:9) We all know people who grumble constantly. We may have found ourselves slipping into that as well. It is also not of God.
What IS of God? Encouraging each other with scripture and truth. Extending grace and forgiveness. Covering sins with a love that is stronger than any sin – the love of Christ, which is in us when we accept Him into our hearts. It’s a love that is ready to be poured out through our lives.
With our fellow believers, we can come together and encourage each other, with purity of heart and a spirit of genuine care and love, to live the godly lives empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is our responsibility to lovingly correct and rebuke when we see a fellow Christian doing something we fear is not God’s will for them, especially when we have a scriptural basis for our concern. (Matthew 18) (Eph. 5:11-13) We can accept godly counsel and correction with humility and grace. Proverbs 27:5 says “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” To not call someone on what they’re doing isn’t love or grace – it is simply a shallow tolerance. It’s looking the other way at sin so that we aren’t faced with confrontation and discomfort or the prospect that someone might be mad at us. In fact, it is a lack of love.
It’s true – we all screw this stuff up. We call each other on valid issues but in an unloving and contenious way. We shame each other instead of encouraging. We cower behind “judge not lest ye be judged” as a reason to avoid discomfort or make firm decisions about how we should live our own lives. We stand at a distance and condemn. It’s awful. It’s in our flesh.
But we are blessed in that Christ lives in us, and we can call on Him for wisdom and discernment in each situation. We can feed on the Word of God like bread that strengthens us in knowledge and wisdom. We can ask the Holy Spirit for help and rely on Him to bring to mind the right words and the right scriptures for each situation. Of course, we’ll still screw up. But we’ll also be given opportunities to be a blessing to others.
Reading back through this I am even more impressed by how often I fall short in these challenges. Knowing the truth is only part of acting according to the truth. Thank God for his grace and forgiveness, and the love the covers a multitude of sins.