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James 4:11 – Judging Others

“Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

James 4:11

This sounds pretty cut and dried about Christians not judging, especially other fellow believers. So, I dug into it a little more, and it’s more nuanced and more in line with what I believe the Bible teaches. It’s not a blanket statement to never judge without discernment or at all.

The key for me is this:

We live in times when tolerance, unity, and “love” (which usually means, being nice) are dominant themes in the evangelical church. If you dare to confront or expose sin, or if you label someone’s teaching as unbiblical, or the person as a false teacher, you get accused of being judgmental and unloving. But the Bible is clear that a pastor is being extremely unloving to allow wolves to prey on the flock or to allow sinning believers to infect the flock without confronting and exposing them.

Note Romans 16:17-18: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

Some would say that it’s okay to expose the false doctrine in general terms, but that you should never specifically name a false teacher. I’ve been criticized and have had people leave the church because I have named men like Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Schuller as false teachers. But in 1 Timothy 1:19, Paul mentions that some have rejected faith and a good conscience, “and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” He doesn’t leave it there, but goes on (1:20), “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.” In 2 Timothy 2:17, he names Hymenaeus and Philetus, adding (2:18), “men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.”

In 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul tells Timothy, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me….” In verse 14, he warns Timothy about “Alexander the coppersmith,” who did Paul much harm. In 3 John 9-10, the apostle of love warns the flock about “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them,” but “does not accept what we say.” Paul names two quarreling ladies, Euodia and Syntyche, urging them “to live in harmony in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). He pointedly tells the church in Colossae, “Say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to your ministry’” (Col. 4:17). He named names!

The apostles were not, in any of these instances, wrongly judging others. So we must conclude that it is not judging someone to exercise discernment about ungodly behavior or false teaching.

My point, which I’m unpacking out in a sort of thesis about our current age, is that Christians need to discern Truth in all situations and so called news. That way, they can stand confidently in their conviction that what they believe is objectively true. Those that don’t, but rather choose to accept more emotion driven or ego stroking news that tickles their ears, should be called out. Why? Because by letting them continue in their belief, AND perpetuating their false belief, it just makes it harder for the Truth of the situation to be revealed.

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