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What is the difference between “judging” and “condemning” people over sin?

A lot of Christians do not know the difference between “judging” and “condemning” people for their sins, which prevents us from lovingly, and openly holding each other accountable according to how Jesus and the apostles taught–so how do we learn to hold each other accountable with honesty and love?

Understanding The Difference Between “Judging” And “Condemning”

Apart from the fact that all discussions about sin should be navigated with love, patience, and kindness, we must understand the difference between “judging” and “condemning” in order to effectively talk about sin with other Christians

Judging = To objectively evaluate someone based on Biblical standards of conduct and morality

Condemning = Forming a negative, usually self-righteous, opinion about someone because they do not measure up to Biblical standards

When we look at the definition of these two concepts, the difference seems totally obvious right?

Of course!

As Christians, Jesus told us to judge ourselves and one another without being hypocritical ourselves. Paul and the Apostles gave these instructions as well. In particular, Paul demonstrated this teaching when addressing some particularly exaggerated sin in their congregation

However, it is important to keep in mind that at no point did they tell us to condemn anyone over sin–this is a very important point to lay hold of or we will miss the point of their message altogether

John 7:24
Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment

Luke 6:42
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye

1 Corinthians 6:5
I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?

1 Corinthians 11:31
But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

1 Corinthians 5:12
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

Since being able to tell the difference from right and wrong is so important, why do people frequently think we should not “judge” sin in each other’s lives even though the Bible tells us to?

There Are Words, And Then There Are The Meanings Of The Words

Okay, so we covered the difference between “judge” and “condemn” pretty thoroughly, but how do we apply this when reading the Bible?

In most translations of the Bible, it is very common to see the English word “judge” used in place of the Greek words for both “judge” and “condemn”

Huh?

It would be great to ask the translators of the Bible why they did this so often, but this type of oversimplification happened a lot when people converted the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into the various English translations we typically read now

For example, look at this scripture taken from the KJV

John 1:16
And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace

The meaning of “grace for grace” is really unclear if you just read the verse on its own without looking into the Greek texts it was translated from

However, when we look in the Greek texts, this scripture means we exchanged a relationship with God that just revolved around having his favor, to one where his spirit dwells inside of us to reflect his supernatural righteousness in an outward way through our lives

Without a doubt, the real meaning is a much longer, more powerful statement than just “grace for grace”

Learning from this example, let’s apply it to when the Bible uses the word “judge” for both “judge” and “condemn”

Look at how the two scriptures below do not make any sense unless we accurately discern which version of “judge” is actually meant because they seem completely contradictory otherwise

1 Corinthians 5:12
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

(Note that Paul says to judge people inside the church, not outside of it, ie: non-Christians)

Matthew 7:1
Do not judge, or you too will be judged

Unless Jesus and Paul have conflicting information from God, the word “judge” obviously has two different meanings in these verses, as Paul is telling us to “objectively evaluate those within the church”, while Jesus is saying “do not condemn others or you will be condemned yourself”

Easy right?

Here comes the uncomfortable part!

Not Being Able To Judge Ourselves, And Others, Reflects A Lack Of Spiritual Maturity

I thought a lot about this, wrestled is more like it, and there is no way to sugar coat the fact that if we are not able to accurately discern whether people’s clearly sinful actions are in accordance with God’s righteousness or not, then we are spiritual toddlers

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil

1 Corinthians 3:1-2
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready

1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will

The word “toddler” may seem harsh, as people often associate some type of negative connotation with it, but the reality is, if we truthfully have a faith that is in its early growth stages, getting upset about it is not going to help

Ha!

I mean think about it, how can people who claim to have the very spirit of God’s Truth inside of them not be able to let go of obvious, continuous sins in their lives, or know whether someone’s behavior reflects God’s character or is in line with his will for us to be righteous?

In my experiences, we usually have good intentions when it comes to avoiding “condemning” others for sin because we do not want anyone to feel bad. But, other times it is more self-centered as we just do not like conflict or feeling uncomfortable talking about difficult subjects. However, when we act in these ways we completely miss the boat in regard to how we are instructed to “judge” ourselves and others for the purpose of holding one another accountable as we push towards spiritual maturity

Jesus and Paul gave very clear directions on how to deal with sin, and in some extreme cases, they both said to kick people who refuse to let go of their openly sinful lifestyles out of the church itself!

Yikes!

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins against you,go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector

1 Corinthians 5:11-13
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you”

Also, notice that Paul says that we should “not even eat” with people who claim to be Christians but slander one another–think about that next time you hear any gossip and point people to this verse, and the verses, in the next section!

License To Judge Does Not Equate To A License To Condemn, But We Should Always Speak Truthfully To Each Other

It is very common for people to use the sins others, or even accusations of sin, as free license to slander one another–this shows a lack of spiritual maturity, and, more importantly, love

James 4:11
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it

1 John 4:20
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen

Ephesians 4:25-27
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold

It is important to note that Paul says “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor”, as it means every Christian should not hold on to negative feelings, especially in relation to things that someone might have done to offend or hurt them–we must be bold enough to approach one another, with love and humility, as this requires action on our part!

The reality is, since we are of the same body, when we see someone struggling, we should be worried for their salvation, and want to see them be restored rather than sit in self-righteous condemnation, as in the process of condemning others, we are condemning ourselves at the same time

Romans 2:1-4
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

Matthew 18:31-32
Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

Notice how Paul said people did not even realize that “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance”, highlighting again that the spiritually immature do not even understand what leads them towards the very promise of salvation they cling to

Because the immature are not fully aware, we generally lack the gratitude for salvation and mercy that should lead us to be merciful and kind to others regarding their sins. It is this lack of gratitude for God’s love and mercy that leads us to condemn others and act self-righteous when we see others stumble or struggle

Luke 7:47
But he who has been forgiven little loves little

James 2:13
…because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Romans 3:23
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

A good example of how Jesus addressed sin without condemning someone was when he spoke with the woman at the well

John 4:16-24
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back”

“I have no husband,” she replied

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”

This conversation is amazing, as Jesus factually points out that she is clearly living outside of God’s righteousness, and even goes on to say she worships a God she does not know, but he never condemns her in the process or speaks negatively

I hope this has helped establish the difference between judging and condemning!

Also, if you ever want to look anything up in the original Hebrew or Greek to seek deeper meaning, check out this free tool: http://www.blueletterbible.org/freeoffer.cfm

1 Corinthians 6:3
Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

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  • This has reaklly informed me that judging and condeming are two totally different things. So refering to my last comment, everyone is condeming, not judging, right?
     
    I shouldn’t condem, nor judge if I can’t do the same for myself. So it’s sort of the “I shouldn’t be talking” concept?

     
     

    • Hi Ashley,

      Yes, it sounds like people are condemning one another from what you explained

      Often, this usually happens because people are insecure themselves, and material things are incredibly easy things to point at as benchmarks

      It is ironic that people would look at other people’s clothes in a negative way, but show their personalities to be quite ugly in the process–people rarely say “hey, you are a dork for looking at people like that!”

      Regarding your question, we should always exercise caution when speaking to others about areas to improve, and like Jesus said, if we do not have a giant plank in our eye, it is okay to speak to others about improvement areas–always speaking in love of course, not jealousy, anger, etc…

  • Nathan,

    This has been a BIG question for me in the past 3 months, seeming that I have been going through alot…

    To me, Judging is along the lines of hipocracy. Just for example. I tell a guy to stop being in an homosexual relationship, becasue the bible clearly states that, but I am dealing with that myself?…is that correct?

    Also, what does the bible say about this statement…

    I am rebelling against God everytime I even pass a person and not share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ!…?

    Finally, arent we called to call out the sin in everyone, while constanetly calling our own selves out? Like saying, man that is wrong what your doing, but theres a way out of it?

    • Hello,

      With the parable of the plank in someone’s eye, Jesus said to stop being hypocrites and get the obvious sins in our lives under control before we go around and start telling others about their sin, but the intent was not to say we cannot talk to each other about similar sins as a black and white rule, he was telling people to stop being hypocritical

      However, if we go to someone with love and with a humble heart to discuss a sin that is shared, it can be a very powerful thing to say “I struggle with this too, let’s talk about it”, rather than saying “You are an awful person, you should deal with that”

      This is the type of honest, open relationship that can be very beneficial as it involves empathy and accountability, which is what Jesus and the apostles advocated in terms of discussing sins

      Regarding your first statement:

      “I am rebelling against God everytime I even pass a person and not share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ!…?”

      I have no idea where something like that would come from, where have you heard that?

      Jesus told us to preach the gospel, but I do not recall anything specifically about us “rebelling against God” if we do not share it with every single person we come in contact with

      Regarding calling out the sins of others, are you referring to non-Christians or Christians?

      Also, where did the notion come from that you should be “constantly calling our [selves] out”, I do not recall any scriptural support for that

  • Hey Nate xD i love what u post up, i pray God pours blessing upon blessing in your life and continues to fill u with the spirirt 🙂 ! nate , my question or problem is that i  find person i know realy annoying , i think this person can be to pushy on ppl at times, and i hate feeling this way, i feel like through my annoyance i’m judging this person, how do i deal with it ????? what does scripture say i should do in regards to it ? 😛 whats u’r advice ?lol

    • Hi Valerie,

      Thank you for the encouragement and feedback, I am glad you enjoy the articles, that means a lot!

      Before answering in detail, are they a Christian as well?

      One thing I found helpful when dealing with difficult people, is to keep in mind that Jesus died for us even while we were at the height of our sin, ie: when we were hurting his feelings the most

      This means God chose to love us even when we were at our most unlovable–when we were his enemies, and if we do not show this same level of patience and gratitude for the forgiveness we received, we are like the person who got mad at someone for owing them ten dollars, while we just had a debt forgiven for ten million

      Colossians 1:21
      Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior

      Through the same spirit of love and kindness we received salvation, Jesus also told us to pray for our enemies, and to love everyone around us, not just the people who love us already

      Matthew 5:43-48
      You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

      Also, when you feel particularly challenged on forgiving and loving someone who bothers you, look at how the apostles responded to Jesus when he told them to forgive their brothers endlessly when they asked for forgiveness–we should have this same attitude and ask God for help with eagerness, openly admitting it is not an easy thing to forgive and love our enemies unless we do it through God’s spirit working within us!

      Luke 17:3-5
      “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him”

      The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

      • hey nate thanks for replying 🙂 and yes that person is christian, i pray that God helps me love that person and i feel he has, and i am overcoming this ! 🙂 what should i do if that person never asks for forgiveness or recognize what they do wrong, i feel like ofcourse i should still love them, and forgive them , even if they dont ask for forgivness right ?:) but should i be more cautious around them,, how do  i deal with this on a daily bases if i see and work with person often ? 🙂

        • Hi Valerie,

          Number one, ask God for strength and guidance to understand why this person is so upsetting, and ask for revelation on what to say to them to smooth things over

          I have dealt with a number of difficult people in my career, which can be tough because we cannot “get away” from them sometimes–just remember the amount of patience God has shown us, even when we did not ask for forgiveness, and try to show the same love for those who “bother” us

          Matthew 5:43-48
          You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

          Also, do not underestimate how quickly our emotions can slip away from us, always be on guard around people that have proven to be challenging in the past, by going out of our way to make sure we do not get upset for any reason

          I always try to remember this one simple fact about difficult people: people sometimes do the worst things, we just cannot take it personally as they would have done it to someone else anyways

          People almost always have baggage that influences them, which they had before they met us in the first place, so we should go out of our way to try and understand their original hurts that caused them to be difficult in the first place, and not focus on our hurt feelings!

  • Hello Nathan,

    Yes i know, it’s been a while…but once again I felt a strong urge to check out your blog, and was delighted & encouraged by what you had to share.
    This topic is one that I’ve often struggled with in the past because I don’t want to come across as this goody-to-shoes-Christian who’s already arrived at the promise land – not! However, I’m also not one of those Christians who will sit idley by and let u sin, or fall into sin, if I have anything to say about it. I guess you can say that at times I can come off kind of strong, when it comes to my convictions…but anyhow…
    My point is that I truly appreciate your explanation on the difference between judging and condemning. In short I think judging is more like holding someone accountable, whereas, condemning involves more of a negative/punitive tone that usually shames & turns pple off.

    On one hand I refrain from exhorting pple not to do something if I’m still struggling in that area myself. However, I’ve found that in sharing my “sin struggles” with some select few, I’ve often been a help to them – demonstrating that the Christian walk can sometimes/most of the times be a messy one, but God…is always willing to strengthen & deliver our spirit man once we surrender to him. The word does say, “He is able to keep us from falling…”
     
    The easiest way to stay away from condemnation is to think about how you would want someone approaching you. Before you open your mouth, pretend to be the recipient of what you are about to say…How do the words or tone make you feel? If you feel like crawling under a rock, then don’t say it. I believe we should practice uplifting the hearts of others, not breaking their spirits with our tough talk.  We need to challenge our brethren & help them stay focussed. Christ drew us to Him with lovingkindness; how about we follow his lead and win as many over into the kingdom by our loving example?!

    Thanks for giving me this safe place to share. BTW, congratulations on finding your soul-mate. May the Lord bless your union with Amy as you both continue to represent God’s ideal relationship with man. Really happy for you both!! …giving me a reason to believe in love again! Yay!!!!! 🙂

    • Hello!

      It is great to see you again, welcome back!

      Regardless of any negative experiences people have, or have had, regarding discussing sin with one another, sharing our own struggles is by far the most peaceful way to approach a conversation as it actively demonstrates vulnerability, compassion, and, if the struggles are related to the individual being shared with, empathy through personal experiences

      It is very difficult to watch when people just take a swing at others as an act of condemnation, whether in public or in private, as regardless of where we are with sin in our lives at a given moment, we have all been dead in sin at some point and had to work to get there–it is important to always be conscience and humble regarding what we have been forgiven of, and be eager to help others overcome things in the same way

      2 Peter 1:5-9
      For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins

      Thank you for the kind words about marrying Amy, she is an amazing person and our lives have continuously been changing as God works to mature us a couple in the ways he intended by bringing us together

      How has everything been in your life?

  • Hello Nathan,

    My husband and I is having some argument regarding his son (my step son) committing fornication and that he is doing it in our house. My husband and I don’t live in our house right now (for 1 year or so due to his job). His son is looking after the house but eventually had a girlfriend and decided to live together there. My husband kept this a secret from me because he knew my moral and spiritual values even before marrying me. Of course, I got angry when I found about it myself. My frustrations, anger and sadness came from different directions. Anger because he purposely didn’t tell me and yet still I am accused of judging them. Frustrated because I can’t do anything to stop the sin. Sadness because it is happening straight in our house and that I know there will be consequences to their sin. Thanksgiving is in two weeks time and we suppose to visit home but I decided to not come with my husband because I cannot see myself being there knowing of the sin going on inside our very house. Please give me an advice or email me.

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Harmony,

      Thank you for sharing, that is definitely a challenging situation

      To make sure I understand the full context, it sounds like your husband is not a Christian but you are?

      Also, you noted your husband is concerned over you being judgmental, how have you expressed your point of view on this situation, and has there been a history of moral misalignment that did not end or go well?

      Do you feel like your husband does, or did in the early stages of your relationship, anything you felt was not in line with your Christian morals?

      Sometimes it is hard for people to understand why we draw a line in the sand in the present when we were permissive about previous things

      Just a question, not an assumption

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