JUDGING: WHEN? WHY? HOW? – Part 2
It has been amazing to see the response to our current series, as we pull apart the topic of judging – bringing understanding, according to the Word of God, when judging is necessary, why it was instituted by God, and – more importantly – how to exercise judgement in the way that God intended it to be.
It’s frightening to see what happens when judgement is abused – whether it be in a household, in an organisation, an institute or even in a church – but what is even more concerning is the chaotic state of these when judgement is lacking.
God is a God of order, and for there to be divine order, there needs to be authority and judgement. But, that leads us to the question, “When is it ok to judge, and when not?”
The confusion comes in when one reads how many scriptures there are, especially in the New Testament, stating that we are not to judge, but on the other hand, there are just as many stating that we are allowed to judge. So which scriptures do we follow?
It is crucial to understand the purpose of judgement, which I’ll outline in three points below.
When to Judge? # 1 - To Bring Order To Our Personal Lives
We are responsible for judging our own personal conduct and relationships. It can be proven in this scripture,
1 Corinthians 11:28 “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (NKJV)
The phrase “let a man examine himself” means “let a man judge himself”. We are warned that before we partake of communion, we should examine/judge ourselves. Judge ourselves according to what? According to the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 11:29-31 “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (meaning that many died untimely) 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (NKJV)
This is a powerful statement; if we judge ourselves, then God won’t judge us. Judging ourselves according to God’s Word will cause us to bring the things that are not in line with His Word back into alignment, and continually examining our lives will cause us to walk faithfully and blameless with God.
When to Judge? # 2 - To Settle Disputes Between Believers
Leaders are expected to judge those whom they lead. Hebrews 13:7 and 13:17 were addressed to church members, but also indicate what is expected of their leaders:
7 Remember those who rule over you [or who lead you], who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct [that is, the results you see in their lives].
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls.”
It is clear that church leadership is expected to exercise authority and maintain discipline.
2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (NIV)
Again, this type of judgement must be done according to the guidelines stipulated in the Word of God, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit. The intention of discipline should always be done with the intent to correct, heal, restore and to protect, bearing in mind that effective leadership is to apply the right discipline, when and where needed.
Church leaders are not meant to get involved in every small matter and disagreement, but only when the first steps have been followed, without seeing success. These steps are,
- Go directly to the person.
You need to directly approach the person who has harmed or hurt you, and dealing with the matter directly with them. More than 50% of people get this wrong, yet it is the more basic and foremost step outlined in the Word of God. Majority of people first run to two or three others, before confronting the one who hurt them, this however, is nothing but slander and gossip. Remember, gossip and slander are worse than the grievance which was done against you.
Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (NKJV)
- Try again, with a witness present.
Matthew 18:16 “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’” (NKJV)
At this step the church gets involved. Here you take two or more leaders of the church with you as witnesses. These leaders are to stand as mediators concerning the situation. There can be no partiality from the leaders.
Many times one can quickly get consumed by the situation because of being hurt, this can cloud your judgement, causing you to perceive the situation wrong. The leaders that now step in will provide a panoramic view over the situation, allowing them to give sound judgement.
Only if the person still refuses to listen do you proceed to the next step.
- Make it known to the church.
Matthew 18:17 “if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church…” (NKJV)
This means to expose such an individual to the entire church. This individual will now be marked, still with the hope that they might repent and so be restored.
This is the final warning. If the individual carries on with their misconduct, then the church will have to resolve to the final step.
- Separate that individual from the flock
"…But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (NKJV)
After numerous attempts to restore and heal, but to no avail, the church will now have to apply final discipline by expelling him/her from the church, to protect the rest of the flock. This individual is now given over to the world which brings us to reason number three of judging.
When to Judge? # 3 - To Maintain The Moral Standards Of The Church
1 Corinthians 5:1-3 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!|” (NKJV)
Here Paul is addressing a serious matter of sexual immorality that is going on in the Corinthian church, where there is a man that is having a physical relationship with his stepmother, and the situation is not being handled by the leadership of the church.
Like with the Corinthian church, there is also a serious lack of discipline in many churches today. As a result, the body of Christ is injured more from the inside out than from the outside in.
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (NKJV)
Believers who take on the responsibility to judge unbelievers has caused a block between the unsaved and the saved, where they constantly feel judged. However, we are not to judge the unbelievers – God will do this. We need to judge those on the inside – in the church.
So the question remains… how are we to judge? Here are a few guidelines:
- Judge with righteous judgment. – John 7:24
- Judge on the basis of proven fact. – Genesis 18:20-21
- The accused has the right to face his accusers. – John 7:51
- Judge on the basis of at least two and preferably three reliable witnesses. – Matthew 18:16