"Quick judgments based on idioms are not good because we can associate someone’s idiom (words) with some prior judgment that we have (a negative one) when the other person intends no such thing! Here is a simple example...." - Wyatt Graham
Good judgment is a function of wisdom, and exercising it—in the form of discernment—is a Christian duty. The Psalmist prays for discernment (Psalm 19:12), Proverbs exalts it (Prov. 14:8), and Paul prays that believers will abound in it (Phil. 1:9).
Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.
But sometimes when we think we’re exercising discernment, we’re really just being judgmental. We’ve taken a noble and nurturing love for truth and turned it into something ugly, harmful, and infectious. Those who are most zealous for truth and discernment may well be the quickest to stumble into judgmentalism.
So how do we tell the difference? How do we actively practice discernment (Heb. 5:14) without becoming one of those frowning, finger-pointing, spirit-crushing, accusers of the brethren?
I believe five distinguishing features of judgmentalism can help us identify and avoid it.
The Apostle John wrote, “Our law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing” (John 7:51). In other words, the believer should never judge on a whim, an impression, a rumor. The facts are necessary, and the believer should be quick to hear and slow to speak.
Romans 14 makes it clear that personal decisions can direct activities in areas where the Scriptures are silent. For instance, the Bible doesn’t specifically address credit cards, dating practices, plastic surgery, watching television, using electric guitars in church, ad infinitum.
From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010). Used by permission.
In the matter of church discipline, the Bible is clear that believers must judge themselves (See Part 1). When else is it right to judge?
The Apostle Paul instructed the church in Corinth:
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you. You have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this. (1 Corinthians 5:1-3)
Paul clearly announced, “I have already judged him.” It is important to note that Paul called attention to this man’s sin (sexual immorality) in the presence of the congregation.
From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010).Used by permission.
Paul instructed Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) which means we must engage in an active defense of the faith. That battle for truth begins in the local church where truth and holiness must be defended. And of necessity that involves church discipline. But what exactly is church discipline?
Church discipline can be broadly defined as the “confrontive” and corrective measures taken by an individual, church leaders, or the congregation regarding a matter of sin in the life of a believer (Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek Testament. Regency, 1976, p. 237).
Discipline and discipling are actually interconnected actions with similar goals in mind.