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What Does the Bible Say About Judging Others?

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 21, 2010


It is never a good practice to read the Bible through the filter of your opinion.  More often than not, this habit will yield bad interpretations and won’t accomplish the real purpose of the Word of God, which is to change us.

If you look at the area of “judging” for example, many believers, along with most non-believers, think that Christians are not to judge.  After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1)?

This argument is usually posed by those that don’t want to be judged because they are hiding something or sinning and don’t want to be found out or corrected.  Instead of the Scriptures telling us not to judge, it give us very solid guidelines around how to judge including – the accountability of the judge, when it’s appropriate, what should be the condition of the judge, how it is to be done, and what to do with the results.

The Accountability of the Judge

In that Matthew passage above, if you read on, you find that Jesus warns the judge that when they judge, they themselves will be judged. Not only will they be judged, but it will be by the same rules with which they are judging.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Vs 1-2)

The law of sowing and reaping is in play, so it is essential that the judge be honest, true, pure, righteous and merciful.  The judge will also be judged by the Great Judge.

Jesus simply warns that if you judge, you are going to be held to a higher standard.

When is judging appropriate?

The whole point of judging is to bring identify the error and bring reconciliation (James 5:20). Most judging will around sin, but sometimes it involves questionable actions and words.

We are to judge correctly(Luke 12:57, c.f. John 7:24), judge only after resolving the same issue in our own life (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37-42), judge those in the church (1 Corinthians 5:12), judge believer’s actions (1 Corinthians 5:2-4), judge fruits (Matthew 7:15-20), test spirits (1 John 4:1), prove doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-4), judge teaching (1 Corinthians 10:15) and most importantly, judge ourselves (Galatians 6:4) – Especially at communion time (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

We are not to judge those outside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12), judge people’s relationships with God (1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Romans 14), play favorites (James 2:1-4), take our issues with other believers to secular courts (1 Corinthians 6) or judge a book by its cover (John 7:24 c.f. 1 Samuel 16:7).

What Should Be the Condition of the Judge?

First, the judge should be spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). We must remember that we are judging spiritual matters, so without the Spirit of God, we judge with human judgments.

Second, the judge must be free of the same issue that they are judging (Luke 6:37-42).  In order to see clearly to remove the speck from the brother’s eye, you have to have the log out of yours.  Only then, will you see clearly to remove the speck. Jesus still wants you to remove the speck, just do it in the right order.

Third, they should not be a lone wolf (Matthew 18:15-17).  You will see the times when Paul is making a judgment (1 Corinthians 5) or Jesus gives instruction, judgment occurs in the church and it may take others in the church, (e.g. mature believers, leaders and elders) to help judge fairly.  The goal is not just to point out sin but to bring about restoration whenever possible.

Finally, they must show maturity (Hebrews 5:14). Specifically, they need to know right from wrong, know how to judge with mercy and love and base sound judgment on the Word of God.

How do you judge?

When a situation arises where judging comes into play, a general process should be followed based on Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5 and others already mentioned:

  1. Judge yourself – make sure you are in right standing with God, with the issue at hand, that you are in prayer, and that your motives are pure.
  2. Get support – This could be prayer support from mature believers (obtained without gossiping about the person), but may also include involving church leadership. They do not need to be in direct contact at this point, but it is a good thing to make them aware of what’s happening so that you have some protection.
  3. Confront them directly in love – Point out the “sin” or what you see going on.  This is the hardest step in the process and must be done in love and not with a tone of condemnation.  Tact is certainly in order because you will attract more bees with honey than vinegar and have a better chance of getting the right results. Remember, you are judging and not condemning. Condemnation is not your job. You are commanded to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Many issues can be resolved in these simple one-on-one moments, but if not, you may need to move on to the next step.

Special Note on Divisive People: If you find that the person is being divisive, involve the leadership and then stay away. The leadership is directed by Paul to warned them twice then have nothing to do with them. (Titus 3:10-11)

  1. If there is no resolution, and you have reached a stalemate, you may need to involve one or two more mature believers.  The point here is to bring in extra eyes, ears and prayers so that a point of resolution and ultimately restoration can be achieved.  It is best not to ambush them with your “extra people”, and it will serve best if you warn the person ahead of time by letting them know that you’d like to bring in a person or two just to help work out the situation.
  2. If there is still no resolution, and it is a matter of sin, then the church leadership needs to get involved.
  3. If they are unwilling to repent from sin at this level, then it may be time to implement discipline such as releasing them from the local church community. Both Jesus and Paul say to do this. Paul explains that in doing so, they are being turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that restoration may take place.

What to do with the Results

Hopefully, reconciliation occurs somewhere along the line; but there are times when the person needs to be released.  The Church in America is quite soft on this subject, because, I suppose, they don’t want to “hurt someone’s feelings”, but we do them and the church more injustice by letting sin and error go on unchallenged and unresolved.

Here are some tips and directives on what do when reconciliation is not achieved:

  1. Stay away! (2 Thessalonians 3:6) This seems harsh, but it is for the protection of the church and young believers.  The only thing worse than an unrepentant sinner is an unrepentant believer. They are like a cancer in the church that will spread the sin, corrupt and destroy everything they can. Sin is at work and it needs to be purged from the congregation. Strong tone, but that’s not mine, it’s Jesus’. (c.f. Titus 3:10-11, Matthew 18:15-17)
  2. Watch out! (Romans 16:17) Specifically, Paul says, “for those that cause divisions or put obstacles in the way contrary to [truth]”.  We must stay vigilant for the work of the enemy, which would try to derail the church of God.
  3. Don’t even eat with them. When it comes to certain types of sin, “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler” (1 Corinthians 5:11), Paul says, “Don’t even eat with them.”  Eating with someone is a form of identification, and when we associate with someone that calls themselves a “believer” and yet lives in sin, we identify the whole church with that sin.  This is a bad testimony to the world of the righteousness we have in Christ.

So if you do judge, do so rightly.

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