Where does one draw the line between godly discerning as a Christian and the wrong practice of judging?
Discernment to the Christian is the God-given ability to know right from wrong, to evaluate properly in accordance with the Word of God. Judging, on the other hand, is viewing or evaluating someone as though one were passing sentence on him. The two words can be synonymous, but we’re looking at the two words in their most opposite sense. Romans 14:4‒10 is a good passage on judging. First Corinthians 2:15 also speaks of judging, but in the sense of discerning spiritual things as a believer.
A believer’s right discernment or wrong judging depends on his spiritual state. If he is under the control of the Holy Spirit, he will not be judging—the condemning, critical spirit kind of judging. But a believer who lets sin get in and who gets out of fellowship is often characterized by this judgmental mind-set. He has also forgotten, at least temporarily, that it is God Who judges all people and things perfectly, and that he as a human being can never evaluate perfectly.
It is sobering to realize that we are in company with Satan when we wrongly judge, since he is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). But Romans 8:33 asks, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” No one. We therefore should never attempt to pass a sentence on anyone (even if only in our minds) but leave that up to God.
Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). Obviously He was not referring to spiritual discernment but to the vindictive, maligning kind of judging. In this we miss the mark because we don’t consider ourselves and our miserable lot—our eyes are focused only on the sins and shortcomings of the other person. Only God can judge perfectly.
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