Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
There is a significant difference between judgment and discernment. God sees people’s hearts and knows their motives (Prov. 16:2). Only God can accurately judge those who deserve punishment. Ultimately, Christ will sit in judgment upon us all in the day of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). Our problem is that we like to sit in the judgment seat and pronounce condemnation upon those whom we think have sinned!
Scripture commands us not to judge or condemn others, for we cannot be judgmental and redemptive at the same time. It is difficult to pray sincerely for someone while we are judging them. At times our judgmental attitude can seem to provide us an excuse not to become involved in God’s redemptive work in someone’s life. Scripture reminds us that God will treat us with the same grace or severity with which we treat others (Luke 6:38).
God commands us not to judge others, but He does want us to be discerning. Jesus said we would know people’s spiritual condition by the fruit of their lives (Matt. 7:16). He said grapes are not produced by thorn bushes. If a person’s life produces thorns, we can assume that person is not a grapevine! Are we being judgmental? No, we are being discerning.
Scripture commands us to avoid associating with scoffers or fools (Prov. 22:10; 17:12). Unless we are able to identify scoffers and fools, we cannot obey God’s command. That is not being judgmental, it is being discerning. As Christians, we have been instructed to observe the lives of others so that we can help them while avoiding any sinful influence.
You will be helpful to others only if you see them as God does. If you have been judgmental of others, ask forgiveness and pledge yourself to let God use you as His minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).