Time for Rest
A Culture of Honor

Judging vs Discerning: What's the Difference?

Ann here! Compass

Today I want to chew over a question we discussed in last week's Zoom session on the Book of James: What is the difference between 'Judging' and 'Discerning' when it comes to other people?

Have you wrestled with that one at all? 

Perhaps we can all think of times we've been faced with a Christian who's behaving in a way we wouldn't, or saying things that are harmful. Perhaps you feel they are saying things that are untrue, for example. And then you think, "Why are they saying that?" Before you know it, you're kinda judging them ...

Well, I've been there, anyway.

There are circumstances that call for discernment. For example, I've had a couple of Christians in my extended family whose words have not been right, and those words affected me. To keep my own faith on track, I had to try to discern what was going on -- With them, with me.

This is hard stuff.

If we walk round trying to be 'discerning' it can be faulty if we're not walking closely with God. Some people are downright suspicious of everything, thinking they're discerning, but suspicion and discernment are not the same thing. Any of us can also be wrong when discerning, and it's possible to be judging someone under the guise of 'discerning'. Gulp!

However, discernment is critical and valid in the Body of Christ. So, how do we figure it out? Perhaps the first step is that love must be our motive.

James says:

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy. Who are you to judge another? (James 4:11-12, NKJV).

And Jesus says:

Judge not that you be not judged, for with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Matthew 7:1-2, NKJV).

Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (v. 5).

We start from a place of humility. Laid on the floor we say "Lord, help me see this right."

The Bible does speak of discernment as important, and we certainly see the Apostle Paul and Jesus calling people out for things that are wrong. Here are a couple of things about discernment:

(1) Sometimes God gives you the ability to discern the spirit behind something (1 Corinthians 12:10).  Namely, he will show you whether the Holy Spirit is guiding this person's words/actions, or if there is some other demonic spirit or simply their broken flesh.

The purpose of showing you that is so that you yourself can stay your course, and possibly also pray for the person. You have to know his voice to walk in this, and usually it's not to be spoken out to others. Use it instead for your prayer time, between you and God.

(2) We learn to discern good and evil, naturally, as we mature as Christians and go through various situations.

Hebrews 5:13-14 talks about mature Christians who "by reason of use have had their senses exercised to discern both good and evil". From walking with God and going through various difficult situations we get used to analyzing good vs evil, truth vs lies, and then we can look at a given situation that comes up and be discerning.

One of our SUMites, Roselind, said something helpful on last week's Zoom call. She said (I'm paraphrasing), "Judging is where you align with the accuser and start accusing the other person, whereas discernment is often used to pray for the person."

That was a great comment. Judging does not have love at its core, but discernment should, keeping the Body of Christ in truth and safety.

It is still hard to work out, but perhaps some of the above ideas can help us navigate this tricky one. And above all, we must watch those thoughts and words of ours so that everything we speak builds up the Body of Christ.

I'll continue in my next post with one more thing that we need to remember. But for now, here's a question:

Have you been in a situation where you've been tempted to judge, and/or have found yourself discerning?

Looking forward to chatting more.


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