We hear all the time, “Don’t judge!” But, on the other hand, we’re supposed to promote righteousness, aren’t we? And not condone sinful lifestyles, right? So how do we do one without the other? It turns out one is Judgement and the other is Discernment. There’s a difference.
When the Bible says “Don’t judge or you too will be judged” (Mathew 7:1), it’s talking about condemnation, “to condemn like in a courtroom.” There’s a legal aspect to it. So you could read the verse like “Don’t condemn or you will be condemned.” That’s judgement.
Discernment is a whole different matter. We’re supposed to discern (or “tell the difference between”) right from wrong, righteousness from sin, the fruit of theSpirit from the works of the flesh. We’re supposed to call righteousness “righteousness” and sin “sin”, and not sugar-coat it. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can correctly discern behavior without condemning the person, like Jesus did. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but he also told her “go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). He ate with the tax collector’s (national traitors), but did not mince words about their sinful lifestyle (Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 19:1-10). When Jesus says “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9), he’s overtly implying that it wasn’t there before. Strong words but put without condemnation.
He also ate with Pharisees, the religious people, and similarly did not mince words about their sinful lifestyle (Luke 14:7-24, Luke 7:37-47). He treated everyone the same. He lovingly accepted them, but still told the truth about their behavior. The tax collectors and prostitutes were teachable and accepted him and his correction. The religious Pharisees were not and did not.
When people say “don’t judge me”, what they really mean is “don’t discern my lifestyle as wrong.” They are under the deception that discerning their actions as wrong is equivalent to condemning them personally. Unfortunately, this lie’s gotten some traction from some of us who act out of religion rather than out of the Spirit.
But we are not what we do. Calling out a sinful lifestyle as self-destructive is actually very loving, as long we do it in a loving way. The media loves to run with Christians calling out sinful lifestyles in unloving, condemning ways, which furthers the deception. Let’s stop giving them ammunition.
We, as the people of God, need to be very careful that we speak the truth in love, loving the sinner while hating the sin, like Jesus did.
I think one of the easiest ways to do this is to just simply say, “I’m not condemning you, I”ll still be your friend. But I wouldn’t be a good friend if I condoned something that’s hurting you.” Often people will still disagree with me about their lifestyle, but they respond positively to the respect I give them as a person. And it gives room for the Holy Spirit to work.
How about you? What tricks and tips have you found to be discerning without being condemning? Share them with us in the comments. And if you think this would bless someone else, please share it on Facebook or your favorite social media. The share buttons below will take you right there.