Is judging a sin? What do you think?

The writer is pastor of the United Church of God Big Sandy and a Journal columnist.

By Dave Havir

BIG SANDY, Texas-Sometimes a good question can spark a lively discussion. Here's an example: Is it a sin to judge?

Some people would answer: "Yes, it is a sin to judge." Their reason would be Christ's own words in Matthew 7:1-5. The word judge in this section of Scripture could also be translated "condemn."

Other people would answer the question, "No, the Bible instructs Christians to judge." Their rationale would be based on Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 2:15. Judge in this section of Scripture could be translated "discern."

Clearly defining the word judge determines the correct way to answer the question. Condemning is completely different from discerning, and in one sense the answer to our original question is easy: We need to understand the word judge in its proper contexts.

But it's not as easy as it sounds. People are continually confusing the discernment kind of judging with the condemning kind of judging.

When you meditate about judging for a while, can you recognize some of the emotional influences on the people of God that cause them to confuse the two concepts? Notice a few:

  • When many people held the belief that leaving a corporation was the same as leaving the Church of God, they placed themselves in a psychological straitjacket. If they could discern that not all was right in the corporation, they found themselves psychologically tormented. Sometimes their discernment brought them internal conflict.

How were they to deal with this conflict? Should they follow their conscience and live in conflict with the corporation, or should they accept the authority of the corporation and quit analyzing things?

Christians who consistently defiled or at least denied their conscience because of a faulty premise may still be dealing with some anger and frustration.

  • When many people felt that loyalty to God was directly related to loyalty to men, they also placed themselves in a psychological straitjacket. Should a person be loyal to God or to a physical messenger? Isn't the message more important than any physical messenger? Should a person be true to his conscience or to another human being?
  • When many people did not feel free to express their ideas and feelings to leaders in the Church of God, they made some poor choices. Some people have kept their ideas and feelings to themselves, and they are still dealing with suppressed anger. But, for other people, years of forced silence have blossomed into active and enthusiastic communication.
  • When many people learned about some of the events associated with their religion, they felt hoodwinked. First of all they were probably angry at themselves.

As a result, many people now have a distrust toward other people in general, especially those who could be thought of as authority figures. Many people agree with the adage: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." A quest for personal discernment is understandably activated in these people, and sometimes an attitude of condemnation can follow quickly on the heels of a discerning approach.

  • When many people learned about some of the events associated with their religion, they felt a genuine need to help other people avoid mistakes they had made. They know that God hates deception. Their desire to encourage discernment in other people can easily lead to an attitude of condemnation.

These are only five trains of thought going through the minds of many of the people of God. You can probably think of others. If you can understand the real factors behind events and the reasoning and emotions that influence people's decisions, you can be better prepared to help others.

Do you create an environment of understanding for yourself and your brethren? Are you patient with people who may carelessly tend to condemn when they are making an honest attempt to discern?

Do you foster an environment of personal responsibility? Do you influence people to practice proper discernment? Do you reward the positive use of discernment?

The people of God will be priests during the Millennium (Revelation 20:6). The people of God are learning how to judge by living in today's world. Is your example helping their learning process?

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