I confess, I can be a judgmental person. I never used to think so. Perhaps because I grew up in a judgmental church and, subsequently, a judgmental family. We were the “good Christians”. You know the ones. Go to church every Sunday. Sunday school. Vacation Bible School. Parents worked and paid bills. Kids behaved and did well in school. It was okay for us to judge since we had it so together, right?
And, it’s not like we went out of our way to publicly judge people or tell them to their face they were bad or doing things wrong. Nope, we sat around the table on Sunday after church and gossiped about another family’s behavior. Trust me, you’ve experienced it before…it goes like this. “Did you hear about the Johnson’s son, Lucas?…Well, it turns out he was busted for drugs last week. Sad story. We should pray for him….well, you know it’s probably because that Father of his is never home. Working so much to keep that mother satisfied with that big fancy house….Oh, yes, I had heard Mr. Johnson bought that fancy boat. Maybe he should spend more time and money on his children and they wouldn’t get into trouble…yep, we definitely need to pray for them.”
The Bible says that we are not to judge (Luke 6:37), but that doesn’t mean we are not supposed to evaluate others (Galatians 6:1). We do need to recognize sin and call others out, but we must realize the difference between judging and evaluating. So what is the difference.
Judging is holding yourself above others, condemning others, and creating your own earthly standards. When we judge others, we cast ourselves in the role of God, a compassionless and unforgiving God. Acting as judge will separate us from others and creates deep spiritual wounds.
Evaluating recognizes that we are all fellow sinners, does not condemn others, and bows to God’s standards. Evaluating is necessary in the Christian faith for discipline and correction. We can never know how we are living in rebellion to God if we never evaluate our lives and behaviors. But, evaluation is different in judging in that it leaves God in his role as the divine Creator and Christ in his role as the divine Redeemer. Evaluation is what allows us to speak the truth in love, to show compassion and understanding for the most broken.
I have seen first-hand the results of both judgment and evaluation in my own life and the life of others. In my own life, judgment from others led me to live a life trying to earn my own redemption through good works and achievement. I have seen alcoholics walk away from a potential life-saving understanding of Christ, because someone tried to shame them into needing God through judgment. On the other hand, I have experienced humble testimony of another using God’s evaluation that led me to see my own sin and waywardness and seek repentance. God sets the rules. We are to evaluate, not judge. Evaluation sparks growth and connection. Judgment sparks death and separation.
Contributed by Liz Hunt
Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2004). How people grow: What the Bible reveals about personal growth. Zondervan