Are Christians to Judge Others?

Increasingly Christians are becoming more aware that we do not live in a Christianity society. I’m hesitant to call our society post-Christian because I’m not convinced it ever was truly a Christian society. A society may have values that square remarkably well with Christianity, or may even be influenced by Christianity, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the society itself is “Christian.” This awareness of American secularization in particular has left many Christians confused. They wonder: How in the world do we relate to non-Christians?

There seems to be two groups of Christians with polarized opinions that speak rather loudly: Group 1 says that we are to judge those who live lifestyles contrary to Scriptural teachings, and Group 2 who says, “We aren’t to judge others, so who cares how people live?”

JD Greear clears up much of the ambiguity concerning what it means to judge someone: “You judge someone not when you asses their position, but when you dismiss them as a person.”[1]

This is an important distinction that, frankly, many people get wrong and it causes incredible damage in their relationships and it diminishes the gospel.

Jesus provides a great example of how this worked out. He didn’t look at sinners and say, “I love you, live however you want.” He also didn’t say, “Get your act together or get out of here.” Jesus called sinners to follow him. That means two things: 1) He recognized that they were sinners (he didn’t excuse them); 2) He drew near to them (he didn’t reject them). Thus, the very act of Jesus calling someone to follow him assumes communion. When Jesus says that he did not come to judge the world, but to save the world[2], he’s saying that he did not come to reject the people of the world, but to draw them close to them.

The application here is that there is nothing wrong with assessing people’s lifestyles and communicating in love and grace that these lifestyles are contrary to God’s intentions. Where the judgmental attitude comes in is when you reject a person based on their lifestyle and push them away.[3]

We must always remember Christ’s example in our interactions with both Christians and non-Christians. Christ drew near to us, loved us, forgave us, and sacrificed for us while we were at our ugliest. This will say far more to the outside world about the beauty of the gospel than any boycott ever could. Pray that we will all have Christ’s love for others, and that God would put people into our lives who have worldviews completely different from our own.

( Note: I strongly recommend reading JD Greear’s 7 Signs That You’re “Judging” Others for a practical list of ways we may be wrongly relating to others.)

________________________________

[1] J.D. Greear, “7 Signs That You’re “Judging” Others,” JD Greear, June 2, 2014, accessed July 16, 2015, http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2014/06/7-signs-that-youre-judging-others.html.

[2] John 3:17.

[3] I’m speaking of interpersonal relationships. This is different from, say, a church refusing grant membership to an openly homosexual couple. Refusal to grant membership is not a rejection of the person(s), but a call to live in accordance with Biblical teaching.

(Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to share in the comment section or contact me at zacklocklear@outlook.com)

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6 thoughts on “Are Christians to Judge Others?

  1. I love this. You’re writing and explanations are so so good! As usual I have a question, lol. I totally agree with everything you are saying, but here’s a scenario to illustrate my q. let’s say i have a friend that’s living a sexually promiscuous lifestyle (for lack of a better example). Let’s say i communicate to her in grace and love about my desires to walk in purity. My hesitancy to doing life with a person like this is that our values will be in conflict and there might be some temptation for me. So if i choose to not be friends with her and reject her is that wrong? If I’m trying to maintain the integrity in my own walk? Based on the article i feel like you are saying we are called not to reject ppl, when i think there are times we do need to reject ppl bc they are not healthy for us. Appreciate your response.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maya,

      Thanks for reading. I think your scenario is a good one because it illustrates why this is such a difficult issue for many Christians. I want to draw special attention to the quote above by Greear, because I think does such a good job clearing up the confusion around this issue:

      “You judge someone not when you asses their position, but when you dismiss them as a person.”

      There’s nothing wrong with looking at someone who is clearly living out of step with Biblical teaching and saying, “I love you, and I think that this it is not in your best interest to be doing x, y, or z.” What we’re doing here is that we’re assessing a person’s position (i.e. what a person is doing or where they are in life) without dismissing them as a person (i.e. rejecting someone as a human being, the whole of the person). Because of our theology, Christians really have no right to completely dismiss a person. If all people are created in the image of God, we’re all on equal footing in terms of our ontological position. A person carries intrinsic value because they are a person. But also, Christians can’t dismiss others because Christ did not (and does not) dismiss us. So if the God of the universe does not dismiss us, then we especially have no right to dismiss others.

      Going back to your scenario, there is definitely a time in life where we need to distance ourselves from other people for one reason or another. I think this is what you were getting at in your example. Sometimes we do this because we need to heal, or because another person is having an influence on us that we do not like. But the key point is that we never reject someone as a person. That doesn’t mean that we have to be around them all the time, it just means that we choose to love them—not because they deserve it, but because they are a person whom God has created, and died for. That does not detract from the reality that they are sinful just like you and I. It just puts things into their proper perspective. So we can be there for them, and we can love them, but we can also draw boundaries. Drawing boundaries is different from complete rejection.

      I realize that this is somewhat of a nebulous response, but I hope it adds a little clarity. Of course, as always, we want to pray that God would give us wisdom in figuring out how to best handle complicated relationships. We also want to pray for those who are headed off in a destructive trajectory. I all too often have failed to pray when I was put in difficult scenarios like the one that you mentioned, and I’ve made a royal mess of things as a result. Great question. I hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi thanks so much for your prompt responses! I appreciate them both.

    I have a follow up perspective i would love your insight and opinion on.

    A few years ago i was dating a Christian guy who was in the church ( not my church but another one). I prayed all thru out our short few months of dating about God’s desire for our relationship. After a time I noticed several red flags and decided to stop dating him and let him know we should not move forward but we could be cordial and remain acquaintances.

    He did not take my rejection of a relationship with him well and immediately became verbally abusive. After which i immediately asked him to leave me alone but he would not comply. Over a period of two months he began harassing me and i had to get family and community members involved before he would stop.

    I later discovered that this person had a different identity than he told me and had lied about several things in his background.

    I initially rejected him as a boyfriend and later i rejected him as a person because he was not safe for me to do life with under any circumstance bc he clearly didn’t have good intentions for me. Would you say in this circumstance Jesus is saying we should still not reject people even if they seek to bring us harm?

    Thank you!

    Like

    • Maya,

      Sorry to hear about your experience. Referring back to my last post, sometimes we have to cut people out of our lives for various reasons. Your story sounds like a pretty clear example of a situation where you needed to (probably permanently) separate yourself from someone.

      To clarify, when I talk about ‘rejecting’ a person, I’m talking about more than cutting ties with someone, I’m referring to rejection as a deep repulsion to a person’s personhood. For example, this would be equivalent to me saying, “I would never associate with x person because they are a homosexual, or a different skin color, or they are from a particular nationality.” So this is different from saying, “I’m going to separate from this person because they are abusive, toxic, dangerous, etc.” So it doesn’t sound like you rejected your ex-boyfriend because you rejected him as a person (if you did, you would have never dated him in the first place), but you separated from him because you rejected his behavior—not necessarily his personhood. Hitler rejected the Jews because of their personhood. He hated them simply for who they were. I’ve had to separate myself from people in my past, not because of who they were, but because of what they were doing, or because of how they treated me or my loved ones. Jesus would not have us reject anyone, in the sense that we reject their personhood. Perhaps we would not be accepting of a particular behavior they held (and perhaps we would even need to cut ties with them), but we wouldn’t see them sub-human or unworthy of love.

      Hopefully I was a little clearer this time around!

      Liked by 1 person

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