Rules to Judge by

Sam Petitfils

“Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1)

Can a believer ever judge another in a righteous way?  How do we know when and if our judgment is just and merciful?  If we choose to never judge, do we risk allowing evil in our lives and the lives of others?

Of course these questions can trouble the believer as he or she navigates the difficult waters of exercising discernment and compassion in a very murky world.  Here are some principles to help guide us:

1) In general, it’s best not to judge.

“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.  Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

As I mention below, we can and should judge at times, but in general it’s best to reserve judgment as this verse directs us.  In order to judge righteously and accurately, we need all the necessary information, something only God possesses.  In my own life, I have worn egg on my face many times when I judged another’s actions or motives, only to be proven wrong upon further examination.  I generally try to apologize to those I judged prematurely.

2) Examine yourself.

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)

“But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” (1 Corinthian s 11:31).

3) Judge righteously.
Though this can be hard to determine, we must follow Jesus’ words:

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24).

4) Judge gently.

 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

Remember, the goal of any corrective action is restoration.  We can get across our point and lose our brother or sister if we forget to act in gentleness.

5) Judge obediently.

“ For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”  (1 Corinthians 5:12)

The Bible indicates that God wants and expects the church to judge others when they have disobeyed God in a flagrant, public manner that threatens the welfare of the church.  In this verse, the Corinthian Church had someone who was committing serious sexual sin of an incestuous nature.  The Apostle Paul expected the church leaders to act quickly in dealing with the offender.  In this instance, the church sinned in not administering appropriate judgment in taking steps to insure the purity of the church.

Pastors and church leaders must, at times, exercise righteous judgment in reproving sin (2 Timothy 3:16), and rebuking those who contradict the Word (Titus 1:9), sometimes sharply (Titus 1:13).  In doing so, they honor God and maintain purity in the church.  Indeed, Jesus Himself reproved churches for not applying appropriate judgment in combating sin (Revelation 2:14-16; 20-23). 


As I mention above, when in doubt, it’s best to reserve judging others until and unless God’s Word indicates otherwise.  When we do feel compelled to judge, first examine our own lives then judge with compassion and mercy, desiring to reconcile and restore.  We should support church leaders who, out of obedience to God, administer judgment to on God’s behalf.  This is sometimes called church discipline, something God expects to happen when warranted.

Let us praise our wonderful God who alone possesses all knowledge, righteousness, and mercy, and above all, let’s thank His dear name for showing us mercy in our time of need.


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