In this blog entry, we will be discussing a major epidemic of our day. While this epidemic is not a disease of the body, it is a far worse disease of the soul. It is when, in an effort to ward off correction from sin, people play the “Don’t judge me” card. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” We will be discussing the vast differences between correcting someone for their own good and being condemnatory toward them by casting judgment. We will also see Biblical examples of how correction and discipline is for our good. Granted, the Bible teaches us in Matthew 7:1 not to judge; but make no mistake about it… Correction is not “judging.” We will also take a more in depth look at this scripture (in Matthew) later.
How can we conclude that correction is not the same as judging? First off, let’s begin by looking at how the word “judgment” is defined in the Bible. God is the ultimate Judge and He will judge to make the final decision on Judgment Day where we spend eternity – Heaven or Hell. Even though God will judge, it is our choices and words which will exonerate us or condemn us. Matthew 12:36-37 says that on Judgment Day we will be either justified or condemned by our own words. In this text, the English word “Judgment” (as in, Judgment Day) is used to describe the Greek word, “krisis”, used in the original Biblical text. Krisis is derived from the word “krino” which means this: “Divine judgment – it can apply either to a positive verdict (for righteousness) – or more commonly, a ‘negative’ verdict which condemns the nature of sin that brings it on. Specifically, [in regards to the negative sense of the word] it means the sentence of condemnation, damnatory judgment, condemnation and punishment; eternal damnation of the wicked.” In other words, to be judged is to be given a verdict or sentencing which will result in consequences, penalties, and punishments. The difference between correction and judgment is that correction gives the person a chance to change before the consequences (of the final judgment verdict) are permanent. So actually, correction is done out of concern and love for another person’s soul and eternity.
Secondly, let’s lay some scriptural groundwork in regards to correction/discipline. Scripture is the final authority and the truth. A quote by John Owens says, “Without absolutes revealed by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice, and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.” Therefore, let’s not leave our inquiries to be answered by mere opinion, let’s look at scripture. We will find that correction/discipline is a good thing, and even encouraged. Perhaps a word of discipline will even persuade us to change our minds and be saved from an eternity of Hell. Below are some very important examples of correction found in the Bible:
2nd Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
2nd Timothy 2:4 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Psalm 141:5 “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head…”
Titus 2:14-15NLT “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.”
Titus 1:13 “…Wherefore rebuke them [false teachers] sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…”
Titus 1:9 (In regards to an elder’s conduct) “He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.”
Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
Proverbs 15:10 “Correction is grievous unto him that forsakes the way: and he that hates reproof shall die.”
Proverbs 10:17 “People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.”
Hebrews 12:11ISV “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, for those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.”
If someone who claims to be a Believer is in error or sin, it is not loving to allow them to continue down that path. Just like the Edmund Burke quote says, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” But, what do we do if they will not listen to our warnings? Titus 3:10-11 answers that question by saying, “Have nothing to do with people who continue to teach false doctrine after you have warned them once or twice. You know that people like this are corrupt. They are sinners condemned by their own actions.” You see, as a Believer, it is in our nature to embrace the truth. 2nd Corinthians 13:8 puts it beautifully: “For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth.” John Calvin echoes this. He once said, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” So yes, it is our place to correct other Believers who are in error, as long as it is done in a loving manner. But remember, love can also be bold. As for unbelievers; we are to pray for them, show Jesus’ love to them (which does NOT mean condoning their sin, by the way), and witness to them – but since they do not know God’s Word, it is unreasonable to expect them to adhere to it yet. Therefore, we present the truth to them; then, it is their responsibility to adhere to it.
Many people who play the “Don’t judge me” card are, in essence, really saying, “Don’t correct me.” They say, “If you love me you wouldn’t judge me.” However, their definition of the word “judge” is inaccurate. Allow me to state this fact again… correction is not the same as judging. In fact, it is very loving to humbly correct/discipline others for their own good. Revelation 3:9 says that who God loves, He corrects and disciplines. If we have a wall or a shield up, we will reject correction. A wonderful Bible teacher, Elder Zac Poonen, once said, “If only you would be willing to listen to the word of correction, to the word of rebuke; instead of thinking that you are so senior and so spiritual that you don’t need any correction; perhaps, you could still be a blessing in your church. If you can be humble enough to say, ‘Lord, that word applies to me.’”
So, now that we have covered correction/discipline, let’s discuss the topic of judgment. When a word is used in the Bible in more than one passage, it is possible that the word may have an alternate meaning depending upon the context in which it was used. For a very basic example, think of it like a jalapeno pepper versus a bowl of creamy potato soup. We say the jalapeno pepper is “hot” (as in, spicy) even though we can touch it with our hands and not get burned. We also say that a bowl of creamy potato soup fresh off the stove is “hot” – but not in the same sense that the jalapeno was hot. This rule applies to the word “judgment” or “judge”. Let’s use the scripture in 1st Corinthians for an example.
1st Corinthians 2:14-16 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” In this context, the word “judge” does not have the same meaning as we saw earlier in this blog. Earlier, we discussed the word “judgment” from the Greek word “krisis.” However, in the context of this particular scripture, the word “judge” comes from the Greek work “anakrino” which means this: “I examine, inquire into, investigate; examining through the process of careful study. To discern.” So, in this case, it is not a sin to judge (in this sense of the word).
I wanted to cover the differences in meanings according to the context so that I would not give the word “judge” a negative connotation in every sense of the word. Judging can be defined as “discerning” in the above-mentioned scripture, whereas it may be defined as “giving a verdict of punishment” in another.
There is yet another scripture I would like to mention in regards to judging. I did not want to cover this scripture since its meaning has been debated by commentators and scholars. But, I would be slack in my writing if I left it out; plus, I feel it pertains to the topic at hand. In 1st Corinthians 6:2-3, it says, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” My personal interpretation of this scripture is that it means exactly what it says, taking into consideration that it is future-tense. However, it is up to each of us to allow the Holy Spirit to help us understand scripture accurately. Additionally, Proverbs 28:5 says, “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. “
Finally, I want to briefly address two more topics. One is the taunting by people who feel we cannot correct them unless we are perfect and have never sinned. They quote, out of context, the verse of scripture which says, “Ye without sin, cast the first stone.” Secondly, I want to take another look at Matthew 7:1, the scripture that is highly quoted yet vastly misunderstood.
In John 8:1-11, we find the account of where the scribes and Pharisees brought Jesus a woman caught in the very act of adultery. They were tempting Jesus to have her stoned to death. While Jesus did not embrace her sin, He also did not condemn her. Out of His infinite mercy, He was willing to give her a second chance. He replied to her accusers, “Ye without sin, cast the first stone at her.” You see, they wanted her judged/sentenced right then for her sin and to be put to death; but they did not wish that their own sins be judged at that time; for their sins would have been judged by the same manner. Suffice it to say that they weren’t “playing fair”, so to speak. Since they weren’t blameless no one could cast a stone at her, so they left. Jesus was merciful toward her, but bear in mind, He also left her with these words of correction, “Go, and sin no more.” When people try to deflect correction by quoting, “Ye without sin cast the first stone;” they are forgetting to take into account the rest of the story… that Jesus did, indeed, correct her. This passage teaches so many things, but primarily it teaches us that we are not the final Judge of someone’s fate or worth; and it also teaches that correction is to be carried out, yes, but in a non-condemnatory manner.
Matthew 7:1 is the final scripture I will expound upon for this particular topic. It says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” However, we must read the scripture in its entirety. In verses 4-5 it goes on to say, “…how will you say to your brother, Let me pull the speck out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.” This passage does not say that you cannot cast the speck out of your brother’s eye; it merely says to get the beam out of your own eye first AND THEN you can see clearly to cast the speck out of his eye. In other words, if I were in a deep sin of swindling people out of their money, how in the world could I tell someone else not to gamble? That would be very hypocritical of me. But, if Jesus has cleansed me from all unrighteousness, then it would not be hypocritical to lovingly instruct another that their choice is not pleasing to God. Again, there is a vast difference between judging and correcting.
Many people won’t take a stand against evil for fear of coming across as judgmental. In the name of “love” and “acceptance” and “tolerance”, they remain spineless. This is not love, acceptance, nor tolerance; but it is cowardice and disregard for another’s well-being. Such people will not take a stand against sexual immorality, moral decay, false religions, or deception found in much of today’s “entertainment”, all because it is politically-correct, popular and accepted – and they wish to be popular and accepted. G.K. Chesterton put it like this, “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” I have always said that many people try to be so politically-correct that they are morally-wrong. God is the one we must please. Let us be apt to be more like Jesus and to accept and give discipline in a way that would be pleasing to our Master.