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What Does It Mean "to Judge" Someone?

by David A. DePra

     In this day and age of moral degeneration, people are more and

more calling right "wrong," and wrong "right." More and more, any

one who dares to say wrong is "wrong" is painted as "mean." For

instance, if you say homosexuality is wrong, you are accused of

being part of a hate group, or accused of being bias.

     Yep, things have gotten to the place where even many educated

"experts" are on the side of the media and those who ridicule

Christianity. Even doctors of theology and Biblical studies are

denying the resurrection and the validity of the Bible. Question them

and you are likely to be ridiculed. But take a closer look at the facts

and you will find that they have none.

     It doesn't take a genius to figure out what is happening. If it

continues, there will be no right and wrong defined. There may still

be laws in place -- for even agnostics recognize the necessity of the

rule of law in society -- but there will be no morality. For according to

those who are headed in this direction, any declaration of right and

wrong is immediately bias. It discriminates against someone.

     When President Clinton was disgracing the office of the

presidency, and the airwaves were filled with opinions and moral

discussions on the subject, it was amazing, if not an outrage, as to

how many people responded by saying, "We must not judge." It

was incredible how many NON-Christians used this ploy on

Christian people. What made it so frustrating was that not many of

the Christian people or leaders who were confronted with this on

television were able to give a clear and Biblical answer.

     Is seeing a wrong, and calling it "wrong," JUDGING? Is THAT

what Jesus said NOT to do, when He told us, "Judge not, that you

be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be


Common Sense

     The first thing we need to do is use our common sense. If Jesus

meant we should never make moral judgments as to what is right

and what is wrong, then where does that leave us?

     One place it leaves us is that we cannot obey God. That's right.

How can we obey God if we must not judge between right and

wrong? Futhermore, we cannot ever help other people obey God

or know His will, for to do so would necessitate making certain

moral judgments.

     Another thing it would mean is that we would never be able to

pray for someone who is going astray. How could we? We aren't

allowed to even think they are going astray. That would be

"judging." So that's out the window.

     Conviction of sin would be wrong. Because let's face it, if we

are to be morally callous as to right and wrong, we must no longer

have any conviction as to right and wrong in ourselves, or others.

Discerning the difference between true and false doctrine must

also cease. For that too would be judging. Thus, we must adopt

an "anything goes" attitude towards Christian teaching. To question

it would be "judging."

     The fact is, Christians ARE to discern between right and wrong.

But we aren't "to judge." Jesus obey both of those principles. How

do we reconcile the two?


     There is a world of difference between DISCERNMENT and

JUDGING. We are to discern. We aren't to judge.

     Both words are used in the Bible. In fact, both words have the

same Greek root. But they carry different meanings. We need to

see these meanings if we are to understanding the Truth about this

important issue.

     "Discern," in the Bible, comes from the Greek word, "anakrino."

It means "to distinguish, or separate out so as to investigate." Also

the word, "diakrino" is used, which is similar in meaning, but which

can also mean "to learn by discriminating." Another word used is

"dokimazo." It means "to test, prove, scrutinize, so as to decide."

     Contrast these meanings to the word which is most often

translated "judge." That word is "katakrino." It means to "condemn,

to pass sentence upon, to judge against."

     Now we can see a vast difference between discerning good from

evil, and judging against someone. To discern is simply to call

things what they are. To judge is to decide what people deserve

because of it. To discern is to be sensitive to sin. To judge is to

play God.

     Christians are to discern. We are to know right from wrong. In

fact, the closer you get to God, the more sensitive to sin you will

become. However, you cannot get closer to God unless you are also

convicted of, and repenting of, your own sin. This means that

carried with real Godly discernment is love, compassion, and a sense

of empathy. You know that the worst you see in others is merely a

reflection of the same in yourself. You may not have committed the

exact same deeds, but you have the exact same sin nature and

capacity. And more importantly, you have the same need for Jesus


     The writer of Hebrews made it clear that we are to discern:

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those

who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both

good and evil. (Heb. 5:14)

     Mature Christians do not walk around with a big magnifying glass

trying to figure out everyone else. They do not hold up a little list of

rules and laws and try to see whether everyone else is living up to

their standard. No. Mature Christians have all of that kind of

self-righteous attitude crucified out of them. Their focus is upon

Christ. And while a focus on Christ does make us sensitive to sin,

both in ourselves and in others, this sensitivity is of a completely

different source than judging. It is centered in the interests of Jesus

Christ in other people, not in my own pride.

     Godly discernment is not the product of putting up my antennas

and pointing them towards everyone else. It is not the product of

effort at all. Real discernment is the product of holiness. Because

I know Jesus Christ, by default, I am going to be sensitive to all that

is not of Him.

     We must see this. If I am straining and grunting to try to see the

sins of others, I am simply evidencing my own problem. Discernment

doesn't work that way. Discernment is the product of knowing Jesus

Christ. I never discern because I am looking for problems. I discern

because I know the Truth.


     Now, it is true that there are some passages where the words for

"discern" are translated "judge." But the context in those cases

clearly indicates the intended meaning. The most well-known

passage on the issue is probably found in Matthew 7:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment you judge,

ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be

measured to you again. And why do you behold the mote that is in

thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own

eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out

of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? You

hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt

thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. (Matt.


     Jesus is here talking about the tendency of some Christians to

become so focused on the problems of others that they do not see

their own. The problems they see in others, mind you, may be real.

But God doesn't care if they see them. He wants them to see their

own sins and failures.

     Jesus is not talking here about seeing the sin of someone else,

and of taking it before the Lord in love and concern. Rather, He is

talking about the type of person who takes a superior position above

others in the church. This is someone who feels that it is their right

to analyse everyone else, and then come to conclusions about what

is going on between them and God. So they say, "Let ME take the

mote out of your eye."

     Now note what is being said here. This person is not asking God

to take out the mote. No. THEY feel qualified to straighten this

person out. THEY take the position of the superior person and want

to take the mote out. In other words, instead of releasing the person

to God, they intervene and begin to direct traffic for God in the life of

that person.

     If we think we know the beginning from the end as to what is

going on between someone else and God, we are terribly deceived.

Yet it is not so much the fact that we might be mistaken that is the

problem. The real problem, according to Jesus, is that we have

taken the whole thing upon ourselves to begin with. Who are we to

decide for God in the life of someone else?

     This is more common than we might imagine. Anytime we decide

we know what is going on between someone else and God, and then

close the case as final, we are judging. Anytime we decide what the

motive is behind what someone is doing, we are judging. And

anytime we decide what someone deserves for their sin, we are not

only judging, but we are playing God.

     Note that the key in all of this is attitude. It does nothing to

dismiss sin. No. Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. And right is right. And

we ought to say so. But once I shift from talking about the wrong of

a sin, over to judging what the person deserves who committed it, I

am judging. Once I shift from saying, "That was wrong," over to

deciding WHY the person did it, I am judging. It may be apparent

why they did it. But I cannot know the beginning from the end about

that. I cannot wrap it up and build a case. Only God knows.

Some Answers

     So all of this tells us -- not only how we ought to answer those

who would say we are judging -- but it also tells us to beware lest we

do judge. Thus, I am fully able to say, "President Clinton disgraced

the presidency. What he did was wrong." But I cannot say, "Clinton

is going to hell for what he did." Likewise, I am able to say, "Such

and such is someone who is teaching error." But I must not say,

"This teacher has no salvation because of what they are teaching."

     Again, the words we use are important. But the motive and

attitude which produce the words are what God really looks at. I must

never JUDGE. But if I know Jesus Christ, I am going to DISCERN.

The Gospel

     The gospel is a message of salvation and deliverance from sin.

God does not say, "Believe in Christ, or I'll send you to hell." What

He does say is "You are already on your way to hell. You are already

dead. You were born that way. In Christ, I have given you the way

out. Believe and be saved."

     Christians need to reflect that in their attitude towards each other

and towards unbelievers. If God Himself, despite being the Judge of

all men, calls us to repentance and forgiveness, rather than to

judgment, where does it leave us? How Christians respond to sin

is a great witness and testimony to the world as to the kind of God

in which we place our faith. *

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