The Penn Speaks: What Does It Mean To Judge, And Is It Permissible For Christians To Do So?

Ayvaunn Penn, All Christian News

There has been so much controversy in the nation lately with people — including Christians — savagely debating over Chick-fil-A’s stance on homosexualitygun control, and most recently Beyonce’s potential GQ magazine cover. In the midst of it all, the first thing many people — including Christians — say is “Don’t judge.” Well this raises a very important question. Exactly what does it mean to judge? Furthermore, is it Biblically permissible for Christians to do so? After all, if we as Christians are going to be fluent with the term, it is imperative that we have a firm understanding of what it means.

As a part of my quest, I was interested to see what other believers had to say on the matter. Hence, I turned to the members of Ladies Who Love The Lord to hear their views on the meaning of judging and whether or not judging is right or wrong for a Christian to do. Many of the responses from members consisted of the famous “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Other comments included:

  • “I think people say that (‘Don’t judge’) when they know they are in the wrong. I don’t think we are judging when our intentions are to get them away from a dark path.”
  • “Judging is judging period. God said, ‘Have faith in me.’ That has nothing to do with human insight; everybody has their own walk with God, and we need to respect that. We can’t learn each others lessons can we?”
  • “Well telling someone what God says in His scriptures in love is not judging, but when you do it in contempt (un-loving) as in to make yourself bigger than the other person, then you are putting yourself higher than God, and that is wrong.”
  • “We are required by scripture to judge a person by the fruit they bear.”
  • “To judge is to condemn of a wrong AND sentence, in this case, to hell. Only GOD HAS THAT AUTHORITY. GOD grants us the authority and responsibility to see wrong and speak to our fellow-saints in loving correction. Those that wish to continue in their wrong will quickly & wrongly play the ‘THOU SHOULD NOT JUDGE’ card.”
  • “Swipe around your own door, before you go to judge someone else.”

These are just a few of the numerous comments from Ladies Who Love The Lord, but they do encompass the main range of ideas: one should never judge, there is a right and wrong way to judge, the Bible encourages judging, and judging is to condemn and sentence. This colorful array of answers left me lacking an answer, however, so I proceeded in my quest.

The next step I took in my research, was to look up the definition of “judge” in the Oxford English Dictionary(OED). For those who are not familiar with the weight carried by the OED, looking up a word in this widely respected reference book is not like looking up a word on Dictionary.com. The OED is used by scholars and institutions of higher learning because of its hugely expansive and far-reaching etymologies. You not only get the meaning(s) of a word based on current social practice but also based on social practices dating back as far as tangible records show — including Biblical uses if applicable. The general consensus among the numerous definitions of the verb tense form of “judge” is as follows:

“To pronounce sentence against (a person); to sentence, condemn.”

Hence, we may take note that calling an apple red, an orange orange, or say…homosexuality Biblically wrong…is not judging but merely stating blatant fact. A person is not judging until they start treating or thinking of a person negatively because of their actions. With that under my belt, part of my quest still remains a mystery. Is it Biblically right or wrong for a Christian to judge?

 Next, as only appropriate, I looked to the Word of God and started with the most popularly quoted scripture: “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” Matthew 7:1 KJV. Many people take this to mean “Never judge. Judging is a sin.” That is not true, however. One must never sound bite the Word of God or any body of text, because it leads to a misunderstanding of the main idea. The verse immediately following states, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Hence, the full understanding of the text is not “Never judge.” Instead, it is a cautionary note to think about before one engages in judging should he or she choose to do so. The way you judge another person, is the way you will be judged in return.

 For example, you see a young adult at church wearing attire that allows their underwear to be seen. There are two ways to handle the situation. You can lovingly inform them that such attire is not appropriate in the house of the Lord, or you can raise a stink, tell the ushers, and attempt to have the person escorted out of the church because their underwear is showing. Now, let us say the very next Sunday you were in a hurry getting dressed for church, and without intending it to be so, YOUR underwear is showing. How would you want your church members to handle the situation? Whatever your answer is, is how you should handle the situation with another person.

For those who are quick to say, “Check yourself before criticizing someone else,” there is actually scriptural affirmation for that. Verses 3 – 5 of Matthew chapter 7 read, “And why beholdest thou 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? Thou 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.”

There are numerous other scriptures on judging in the Bible, but the Matthew passage — in this small space — is sufficient to cover the main question of whether or not judging is Biblically right or wrong. I encourage you to read more in the Bible on the topic of judging, and share what you learn. All in all, judging is not a sin, but we can see from scripture that there are consequences.  The degree to which your consequences are good or bad depend on how you judge others.

  ~

The founder of Your Black PoetsAyvaunn Penn is an award-winning writer pursuing her graduate degrees in dramatic writing and acting. Click to follow her on Facebook and Twitter. To have Ayvaunn Penn feature your original poetry on Your Black Poets, click here.

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