Who Are You to Judge Others?
Many Christians on their high horses are guilty of being heavily critical of others. But what does the Bible teach about criticism? In a nutshell, yes we can criticize, but make sure you are also praying for the person you are criticizing. If not, you could just be judging. Paul Copan, a Christian theologian, an analytic philosopher, and apologist breaks down how Christians should criticize and judge people.
What Christians should ask before criticizing others
● Am I better than the person I’m criticizing?
● Is it a genuine concern or just to put someone down?
● Is there grace (or redemption) in what I’m saying?
Paul Copan: Hands down, Matthew 7:1 is the most frequently quoted Bible verse today: “Do not judge so that you won’t be judged.” It’s been twisted to mean we can’t say someone’s action or lifestyle is wrong. However, when someone says, “Don’t judge,” he’s judging you for judging someone else. You’ve done wrong by saying someone else has done wrong! Clearly, we can’t escape making moral judgments.
It’s been twisted to mean we can’t say someone’s action or lifestyle is wrong
But Jesus too made moral judgment
Furthermore, in the same context of the oft-quoted verse, Jesus made a moral judgment about certain persons, using metaphors about “dogs” and “pigs” (Matthew 7:6), stressing that we shouldn’t continue to present God’s grace to those who persistently scoff and ridicule. At some point, we must shake the dust off our feet and move on to the more receptive (Matthew 10:14; Acts 13:51). On the other hand, Jesus commanded, “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment” (John 7:24, emphasis added).
How do we resolve the apparent tension?
By taking note of the spirit in which we make judgments. Do we think we’re superior (the attitude Jesus condemned), or are we assessing actions or attitudes with a spirit of humility and concern, recognizing our own weaknesses (1 Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 6:1)?
In Matthew 7:5, Jesus told us first to examine ourselves (removing the log from our own eye), then we can help our brother or sister (taking the speck out of his or her eye). So there is a problem to be dealt with but only after self-examination.
The wrong kind of judging is condemning. The right kind of judging is properly evaluating moral (or doctrinal) matters with a humble, helpful attitude. (In 1 Corinthians 5:5, “judging”-even excommunicating is required in light of a church member’s shameless sexual misconduct.) We should treat others the way we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), thinking.
The right kind of judging is properly evaluating moral (or doctrinal) matters with a humble, helpful attitude
We can’t shrink from making moral judgments
So when discussing judging with others, first clarify what you mean by the word “judge.” This can serve as the context for clarifying right and wrong kinds of judgment. Further, we must take care to avoid the “Who am I to say So and So is wrong?” mentality.
We can’t shrink from making moral judgments, nor can we escape them – lest we declare it wrong to say another is wrong.
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Written by Paul Copan, HCSB – Paul is a Christian theologian, an analytic philosopher, apologist, and author. He is currently a professor at the Palm Beach Atlantic University and holds the endowed Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics. This article was printed on page 1417 of the HCSB, Hollman Bible Publisher, USA.