By Catherine Segars, Crosswalk.com
Being under the scrutiny of a fellow believer is a painful place to be. It has happened to all of us. And not to be the bearer of bad news… but it’s probably going to happen again.
While another Christian’s judgment can be humbling, uncomfortable, and at times downright painful, it can provide a valuable learning experience if we respond in a godly way.
I recently addressed the issue of judging in a four-part series on CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD, a podcast that tackles tough topics for parents. It is hard enough when we are judged as adults, but when our kids are judged, that can bring a whole new level of pain and difficulty.
The information in this series is valuable for anyone who has been injured by the judgments of others.
As I established in episode 39 as well as in a recent article, not all judging is wrong. Jesus tells us to consider the fruit produced in the lives of fellow believers (Matthew 7:15-20), and the Apostle Paul tells leaders at the church in Corinth that “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12)
Since judging is necessary within the body of Christ, we need to know how to respond. But before we can determine what a godly response is, we must know what a godly judgment is.
Three essential elements of a godly judgment.
This list is not exhaustive, but these elements should be part of any righteous judgment.
1. A godly judgment should judge an action, not a motive.
In other words, a godly judgment does not draw a conclusion about a person’s character or heart. We like to think that we are capable of peering into another person’s conscience and knowing what motivates them, but we aren’t.
In Scripture, God identifies certain motivations as being sinful, like envy and greed. The tenth commandment condemns coveting, and throughout Scripture God condemns greed. But God never institutes a specific punishment for envy and greed.
Have you ever wondered why?
After all, we do see specific punishments for the sins of lying, adultery, idolatry, and murder. Why not envy and greed?
Because envy and greed are sins of the heart, and judging the heart is above our paygrade. Only God can do that, and so can Scripture.
Hebrews 4:12-13 says that God’s Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”
God and his Word can judge our thoughts and attitudes, but as mere humans, we need to stick with actions. We need to stick with what we can witness with our eyes, not what we can’t.
2. A godly judgment should be given in love with the goal of helping someone to become more like Christ.
We’ve probably all encountered a judgment that was given in a spirit of self-righteousness with the goal of elevating the person who judged, not helping the person who might have erred. Those kinds of judgments rarely have a positive outcome. They can often result in distancing someone from God, not encouraging someone’s sanctification.
A godly judgment should be humble. It should be filled with grace, love, and hope.
Christ gave the perfect example of a loving, grace-filled judgment with the woman caught in adultery. When she was judged by the religious leaders of her day, who were self-righteously elevating themselves, Christ pointed out their hypocrisy saying, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7)
The men dropped their weapons and left, one by one.
Meanwhile, the woman, who was so ashamed, hovered in the dirt. With her face downcast waiting for the first stone to strike, Jesus asks, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
Looking up, she realized that they were gone. “No, Lord,” she replied.
Then Jesus lovingly whispered, “Neither do I.” Grace dripped from every word.
But Jesus didn’t stop there because leaving her in sin would further harm the daughter he longed to save. So, he gave this instruction, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:9-10)
A righteous judgment lovingly convicts. It pushes someone into the arms of Jesus.
3. A godly judgment should be accurate.
For a judgment to be godly, it needs to be true.
A person can judge an action in love and with the hope of helping you to become like Christ, but they just might be wrong. It happens. A person may mean well and be sincerely mistaken.
In fact, a judgment may fail on any one of these counts or all of them together. Even still, there is value in a godly response to an ungodly or semi-godly judgment.
With the criteria for a Godly judgment nailed down, here are three practical steps that you can take when you or your kids are judged. The first step is the hardest:
How to respond to a godly judgment.
1. Ask yourself: Is there any truth in the judgment?
This step is for grown-ups.
Lean in close here. I know this is tough… but even if the judgment doesn’t meet the three criteria for a godly judgment, you still need to ask the Lord if there is any truth in what this person said. Because even if someone judges your heart and even if they aren’t judging you in love with the hopes of helping you grow, there could still be some truth in what they said. There might be. And you would be wise to consider that possibility.
Seriously and honestly considering a word of judgment helps us to stay humble and to mature.
And here’s the thing… sometimes, a person may be giving us a godly judgment, they’ve met all the criteria, but we’re too proud to admit it.
We don’t want to be resistant to constructive criticism. And we want to grow to the place where we can benefit from a righteous judgment, or even a semi-righteous judgment—one that misses the mark but still might have some truth to it.
So how does this look in real-time?
When someone judges me, I try… eventually, after I get over my initial disorientation… to ask this question:
“Ok God, is there any truth in what this person has said? Anything at all?”
And I have to sit there quietly for a while and listen to what the Lord says. Ask that question the next time someone judges you. Then let God speak to your heart. Here is a great verse to pray when someone has judged you:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
If God brings something to mind while you are praying about what this person said, if he shows you some area where you need to grow, you can pray these verses:
“Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12
I love the way the Good News Translation puts that last phrase. It says, “And make me willing to obey you.”
Sometimes we are judged rightly by others and sometimes we aren’t. But regardless of how someone judged us, if we want to be a grown-up, we need to ask ourselves if there is any truth in what the person said. Because God can use their observation—even if it's not a perfect one—to help us grow.
At the very least, we can respond by reacting rightly even if the person judged us wrongly.
2. Determine if this is a godly judgment.
After we have allowed God to examine our hearts, we’re in a much better place to assess the merits of the judgment itself because the righteous and perfect judge has already spoken on this matter with us. And he is always right.
At this point, we can see more clearly whether the judgment from this person meets the criteria of a godly judgment. We can see where it succeeded and where it failed.
You might be wondering why we even need to assess whether a judgment is godly or not. Well, Proverbs 27:6 tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” A godly judgment may leave a wound, but it is a faithful wound that will heal if we receive it properly. It will do us a lot of good. It will help us grow, and it will show us someone who is a true friend. It is hard to find a true friend who will lovingly correct us.
On the other hand, ungodly judgments are harder to get over. They can leave a pretty big scar.
So here’s the point of assessing the judgment: knowing that the judgment is on target helps us to know who is a true and trusted friend. On the flip side, knowing that the judgment was off base can help in the healing process—if we keep going through these steps. It helps us to know what to do next. This brings us to step 3.
3. We should respond to the judgment.
How we respond depends on what kind of judgment it is.
If it is a godly judgment, if the person judged an action in love and it was accurate, it’s pretty simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. We need to humble ourselves, thank our friend, and ask God to help us change. And then listen to what the Lord says. We must follow his direction.
Again, that is not easy, but a humble response to a godly judgment will help us to grow to a place of maturity in Christ.
(To see a Biblical rebuke from one believer to another that is a godly judgment, check out Galatians 2:11-21.)
If it was an ungodly judgment in some way but there was truth mixed in there, we need to humbly respond to the truth that God has revealed. We need to follow the Lord’s direction.
And if it was an ungodly judgment all around, remember that Jesus Himself was judged in very ungodly ways. You stand in good company when someone judges you unrighteously. When this happens, you need to release that person to the Lord and forgive them. That is easier said than done, but ask the Lord to help you.
Remember what Jesus said on the cross… “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, podcaster, blogger, and motherhood apologist. This homeschooling mama of five has a master’s degree in communications and is earning a master’s degree in Christian apologetics. As host of CHRISTIAN PARENT/CRAZY WORLD, named the 2022 Best Kids and Family Podcast by Spark Media, Catherine helps parents navigate through dangerous secular landmines to establish a sound Biblical foundation for their kids. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on Facebook.