“Who am I to judge?” “If that makes them happy who am I to say it’s wrong?” “Let me live my life.” “Don’t judge.”
This is our cultures attitude toward judging of any kind. Telling others they are in the wrong is simply out of the question. It limits our self-expression.
Let’s look at some verses in scripture to see what they say about judging others.
Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”
1 Thessalonians 5:14 “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle…”
Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
So we see in scripture that we do judge, but in a very different way than most people think about judging. Mark Dever says, “the judging we should do is that which discerns immorality and hypocrisy and which lovingly confronts it.”[i]
Dever goes on to say three ways we do not judge. Let’s look at each of them
- We don’t judge/criticize based on our authority
When speaking to someone about sin it is not our opinion that matters, but the Bible. If we are out of step with the Bible then it is warranted to speak to someone about his or her sin.
2. We don’t judge/criticize things we can’t see
We shouldn’t judge people based on the fact that “I don’t know…I just feel like they don’t like me.” We can’t know someone’s heart so we should stick to focusing on behavior. When someone says or does something out of step with the Bible we can talk to them about it. If you suspect someone is guilty of some sin of the heart you can pray for them and maybe ask them if that is a struggle, but even that should be done carefully so we don’t offend by assuming sin in their life.
3. We don’t judge/criticize ultimately
Jesus one day will come again to judge finally. 1 Cor 4:5 says, “Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” We shouldn’t judge ultimately because Christ is the ultimate judge. He will judge justly. If he didn’t judge all sin then he wouldn’t be just. We don’t pronounce any final judgment on anyone. Anyone living is never beyond hope at being forgiven by trusting in Christ. Also, our criticism is open for criticism unlike Christ’s final judgment.
How to be a Nathan (Thoughts on giving others criticism in love)
We should never come to someone angry when confronting them. Our posture should always be one sinner telling another sinner where to find grace.
Rooted in scripture
We should always root our complaint about their actions in scripture to reiterate that this is not our opinion.
Use a specific example. This will help clarify what they did wrong or clear it up if it was a mistake. Also, by thinking of specific examples it will help you respond to only legitimate causes for reproof instead of your perception of a situation, which can be misguided by feelings.
What specifically should they do or say different in the future? This gives them a course of action to take. Scripture would be helpful here as well.
Clear and concise
Don’t go on and on. Get to the point quick. Rehearse saying all of this and keep it one minute or less.
(This layout on how to give someone feedback is adapted from the Appendix A in Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott)
We need Nathan’s in our lives and we need to be Nathan’s. If you don’t have a Nathan then ask someone to be one in your life. Make sure that person loves Christ, and knows the Bible.
Ultimately we have a friend in Jesus. He came full of grace and truth. He will never shy away from speaking the truth to us even if it hurts and his grace is always greater than our sin.
[i] Mark Dever, “Can’t I Just Follow the Golden Rule?” August 6, 2017. Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.