Are We To Judge Other People?

How many times have you heard someone say, “Don’t judge others and don’t judge me…this is what the Bible says…we are not supposed to judge people!” The next time someone says that would you respectfully and sincerely ask them to explain to you the context of what they mean, and where in the Bible does it say that? There is a chance they will take the Bible out of context in an attempt to explain what they mean, so, it is important for us to be informed of what Biblical judgment accurately means.

I am by no means a Greek or Hebrew Bible scholar and have no Seminary degree, and do not in any way want to hint I think I am a Bible expert by writing this article, as I am not even close. Rather, my goal is to cover a general topic using some basic Greek New Testament as evidence, so, please feel free to look up the following words in Greek for yourself for your own study to formulate your own opinions.

In my personal opinion, the Church as we have it today—the Body of Christ—especially in the United States, slowly began entering a theological “cotton candy” phase decades ago. On a larger scale much of the country and world, due to satellite television and the internet, became exposed to and began “drifting” towards an easier, softer, sweeter, more comfortable, self-absorbed “Gospel.” Society in general seems to have subtly moved into the “me, my family, and I” focus instead of others and the Great Commission focus. By that I am not saying we are too neglect our duty to love and care for our families, friends, etc., but rather we must realize that in each of our Christian lives the Great Commission is to be of utmost importance! In this day and age, we are at a point where it is not “politically correct” to have much, if any, discipline in the church, nor any confrontation for questionable “gray area” behaviors or outright sinful behaviors. If we do, then people, including many Christians, are quick to whip out their out-of-context Bible knowledge and quote from the “Bible” where it says, “Do not judge others” in Matthew 7:1. But, they just stop after that one verse, which leaves a huge hole in the fuller contextual meaning of what the word “judge” really means. So, let’s look at this word “judge” as we should, in the full context of what the Bible means, as this Biblical word “judge” actually has different meanings and applications to our lives.

First, let’s look at 1 Corinthians, Chapter 5, where the context is serious sexual immorality taking place by Christians. Verse 12-13 says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’” What Paul was basically saying here is to confront, discipline, and if necessary, expel and “judge” the Christians committing incest and hopefully they will return after they have repented and are willing to change. However, those outside the church, the non-Christians, we are not to “judge” because they aren’t believers yet, so if we distance ourselves from every sexually immoral person who is not a Christian how will they ever hear the Gospel and have the chance to repent and accept the love and mercy of Jesus Christ? In a nutshell, Paul was saying in the world outside the church there is going to be lots of sin, which is “normal” for the satanic world and this should not shock us. However, inside the church where believers in Christ are, there should be much less sin, so if a brother or sister in Christ is in sin we are to “judge” them. Now, the big question is…what does this word “judge” really mean?

In these verses we just read, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, the word “judge” is the Greek word, “krino,” which means “to divide, separate, to make a distinction.” Imagine taking a knife and cutting open an envelope you received in the mail to see what is inside, this is basically what this word means…to open up, investigate, and scrutinize. In this particular text, “krino” does not necessarily mean to judge in a condemning final verdict, but rather to “judge” and question inner content and motives, and to evaluate the possible effects certain behaviors and such can have on ourselves and others in the short and long term.

This Greek word “krino” is also used in the verse we started with, “Do not judge…” in Matthew 7:1. It is a mistake, however, to stop after the first verse of this chapter, so for context, here is Matthew 7:1-5, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

In these verses we find the same Greek work “krino” that was used in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, where, let me say again, the Bible told us we are to “judge” Christians inside the Kingdom of God. Krino is used 4 times in this text of Scripture in Matthew 7:1-5, which means it is an important word to have been used that many times in just a few verses. As we study the entire context, at least two things are clear: 1) We are not to “judge/krino” others if we have not first evaluated our own lives for “planks” of sin as it says in verses 3-5. Example, how can I go to a brother in Christ who is taking drugs and confront him on this issue if I smoke marijuana? I would be a hypocrite, as it says in verses 4-5. 2) After we evaluate our own lives, and have sought and received outside objective Biblical counsel and accountability, and after we have removed our “planks” in our lives, we are to then humbly and respectfully go to our brother/sister in Christ and lovingly “judge/krino” them—perhaps with tough love—and talk to them about any questionable behaviors they are doing in their Christian life. We don’t “condemn” them as that is a different Greek word we will talk about next, but rather we confront them on their behaviors and choices for the sake of questioning them, scrutinizing their choices, and talking to them to see if they understand and see that some of their choices and behaviors are questionable and can damage their walk and witness for Jesus Christ.

Let’s move on to a second word used for “judge” in the New Testament…we just alluded to it, it is the Greek word “katakrima” that is used for judging as a “condemnation.” This word is found in Romans 8:1, which says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation (Katakrima) for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This word, katakrima, is related to the word “krino,” but the addition of the suffix “ma” makes this word the result of judgment…the aftereffects of being judged, found guilty, and sentenced by a judge, “the exact sentence of condemnation handed down after due process.” Here is a way to illustrate the difference between these similar Greek words Krino and Katakrima. Let’s say we are in a courtroom observing a trial, and the lawyers are presenting their evidence…the lawyers are dividing, investigating, scrutinizing, and dissecting all the evidence. In a sense, the lawyers are “judging” the person accused of the crime by deeply evaluating all the evidence, this is the word “krino” in action when the lawyers investigate the evidence stemming from the life and circumstances of the accused person standing trial, but, the lawyers do not make the final decision of guilt or innocence. That is what the judge does.

After the lawyer’s “judge/krino” the evidence and circumstances of their case, they then hand their case to the judge who, after hearing all the evidence, makes the final “judgment/katakrima” of guilt or innocence. This is what the word “katakrima” can mean, a condemnatory judgment based on the evidence presented to a judicial judge who finds a person guilty based on the evidence. So, the lawyers have one form of judgment, “krino,” which is to evaluate evidence, and the judge has another form of judgment, “katakrima,” which is to decide final guilt or innocence. This courtroom illustration can transfer to the Kingdom of God in that we as Christians are in a sense the “pre-final judgment lawyers” who “judge/krino”— evaluate — the decisions and behaviors, the “evidence/fruit,” of one another in this life to help each other grow and mature and prepare for our final judgment, while Jesus Christ as “The Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42), will “judge/katakrima”— condemn — every person after death for those who don’t know Jesus personally. Now, for those who enter death knowing Jesus personally, this then brings up another word for “judgment” in the Bible, as well as gives us a second application of the Greek word krino. Let’s look at the following: 1) the judgment to determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. 2) the judgment of Christians before entering heaven.

The heaven and hell judgment is called the “Great White Throne Judgment,” and it is found in Revelation 20: 11-15. And guess what, the same Greek word “Krino” is used twice in verses 12-13, but, it is used in a different form, context, and application. In Revelation 20, “krino” is used to express action that is not continuous but just right now. In other words, the final judgment found in Revelation 20, “Krino,” is made by Jesus Christ once and for all…forever…before the Great White Throne. And that is it…it is over, and eternal separation from God then begins immediately after His final decision, His final “krino,” has been made. After a person dies and gives an account for their sins and why they did not turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation, their soul will have been judged for all eternity once and for all, and then hell is entered into forever after the final “krino” judgment in Revelation 20 that will take place before the Great White Throne.

Then, we have the judgment of Christians before we enter heaven. This is where each of us as Christians will give full account for our lives after we received Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and was saved/born-again at age 19, so, I will stand before Jesus Christ and give account of what I did since that age till my life ends. This will take place at what the Bible calls the “Judgment Seat of Christ,” which is found in 2 Corinthians 5:10, where Scripture says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The word “judgment” here is the Greek word “bema,” which means “step” or “base.” Basically it means the steps at the base of a throne. To use a court of law again to illustrate, the seat upon which a judge sits in his courtroom is called his tribunal, so the Judgment Seat of Christ will be the Son of God’s tribunal, below which and in front of me, you, and every Christian will bow and give an account of our Christian lives. Another way of describing the “bema” seat of Christ is the platform upon which Olympic judges stand to watch and evaluate the athletes competing in the Olympic races. When the race is over, the athletes would approach the “bema” platform upon which the judges are standing and then the athletes would bow before the judges who then place various medals around the necks of the athletes depending upon each athlete’s individual performance. So, here is how the Judgment/Bema Seat of Jesus Christ applies to you and me today as Christians: for those Christians who served the Lord wholeheartedly to build the Kingdom of God and fulfilled their particular role in the Great Commission, Jesus will Himself reward these Christians, and it will be a beautiful experience! To those Christians who chose not to be wholehearted in their devotion and service to Jesus Christ and His Great Commission, these Christians will lose some or all of their eternal rewards. No one knows exactly how all this will play out, but we do know it is much, much better to love and serve Jesus Christ with all of our hearts and be totally dedicated to serving in His Great Commission than to have any “question marks” and “questionable behaviors” in our Christian lives and in our Christian witness. Do you and I have any question marks and any questionable behaviors in our Christian life and in our public and private Christian witness? Have you and I left anything “undone” and incomplete in our Christian life and in our Christian witness? At the “Bema Judgment Seat of Christ” it will all come out into the open and every Christian will be individually “judged” for obedience, holiness, purity, fruit, motives, etc, etc, etc.

If we really love and care for each other as Christians we will “judge/krino” one another. By that I am not saying we just randomly in “cold turkey” confront Christians constantly about imperfections. But, if a Christian friend of ours has a behavior or something questionable in his life, it is my duty and responsibility as a brother in Christ to go and talk to him about it. I would hope my Christian friends who say they love me would confront me in love when I have questionable behaviors in my life. Actually, I have had beloved Christians confront me many times about things in my life walk with Jesus Christ, and once I put my pride and defensiveness aside I was able to admit my mistakes and/or blind spots, and then thank them for loving me enough to do the tough thing and “judge/krino” me. When they confronted me, or in other words, “judged/krino” my behaviors, they helped me grow as a Christian, and this is what it is all about…helping each other as believers in Jesus Christ to grow! If my Christian friends didn’t really love me, they would have just let me continue forward in my mistakes, blind spots or sins, and for all we know it could have brought long-term damage to my life and witness for Jesus Christ if they had not “confronted/judged/krino” me. Here is a hard truth: if you don’t “krino” me for any questionable choices and behaviors in my life, you are then accountable before God for not coming to me and talking to me about such issues. Likewise, if, after checking my life for hypocrisy, I do not “krino” you, than I am accountable at the Judgment Seat of Christ for not loving you enough to come to you and talk to you about a questionable behavior in your life.

As Christians, every decision and act is grounds for “judgment/krino” from other Christians, both to give encouragement and thanksgiving for fruitful choices and behaviors that impacted our lives in a positive godly way, and also to challenge and confront questionable choices and behaviors that can potentially confuse, damage, or cause someone to, as the Bible says, “stumble.” So, everything we drink, eat, say and do, and everything we don’t say and do, should be judged/krino by other Christians, as this is what the Bible says Christians are to do. We can help each other develop and mature as Christians when we “krino” one another with respect and love, and, when needed, we “judge/krino” each other using “tough love.” As it says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

So, what is the conclusion of the original question, “Are We to Judge Other People…Are Christians to Judge Each Other?” The Biblical answer is both yes and no. For the answer of no, we are not to “judge/katakrima” another person or Christian as to make a final verdict decision that condemns them. For the answer of yes, we are too lovingly and respectfully “judge/krino,”…evaluate, divide, and “check” each other…to weigh the evidence and dissect the fruit of our Christian lives, and when necessary use tough love confrontation. We are to “judge/krino” each other in this life now, but we are to do it after we have checked our own life for hypocrisy, and we are to go humbly to our brothers and sisters in Christ with a posture of equality, not a position of superiority. Imagine this, the “krino judgment” we as Christians apply to one another now in this life is actually a preparation for the “bema judgment” we as Christians will step into when our life in this world ends and we are standing before our Lord Jesus Christ. We can help each other prepare for eternity, and one vital way we do this is “judging/krino” one another!

In closing, two questions: 1) Do you have any friends the Lord is prompting you to “judge/krino” for any questionable choices, blind spots, and/or behaviors in their lives that could be hindering their walk with Jesus Christ and putting questions marks in their public witness for Jesus Christ? 2) Do you need to be “judged/krino” by a brother or sister in Christ for any questionable choices, blind spots, and/or behaviors in your life that could hinder your walk with Jesus Christ or be putting question marks in your public witness for Jesus Christ? As I write this, I am asking myself the same two questions.

No Responses — Written on September 13, 2012 — Filed in Monthly Devotion

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