Judge the Sin, Not the Sinner

Did you know that it's not really possible to judge the sin without judging the sinner? This 1-minute devotion explains.

Is this popular saying true?

Actually, it's not only untrue; it's impossible. 

We can hate the sin and love the sinner, but we cannot judge the sin without judging the sinner.

Why?
Because the sinner is responsible for the sin. Sin doesn’t just happen to us, we choose it. 

We don't have to read very far in Scripture to dispel this notion. Look at Paul's judgment of sinners in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as one of many examples.

Scripture commands:
1. Formal Church Judgment of Sinners (1 Corinthians 5:5-8; Matthew 18:15-17)
2. Personal Judgment of Sinners (1Corinthians 5:9-12
    A. To protect ourselves (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). 
    B. To warn the sinner (Ephesians 4:11-15; Matthew 18:15; James 5:19-20)

Our culture is offended by judgment, not by sin. But we have a responsibility to be salt and light,* and proper judgment of sinners (with mercy and without slander or hypocrisy) is part of that responsibility.

* Matthew 5:13-16
You might also like to read Do Not Judge.
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Did you know that it's not really possible to judge the sin without judging the sinner? This 1-minute devotion explains.


Did you know that it's not really possible to judge the sin without judging the sinner? This 1-minute devotion explains.

28 comments:

  1. Excellent thoughts, as Christians we have a fine line to hold to, proper judgment and showing the love of Christ.

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  2. Such a truthful post Gail, thanks so much for sharing it with us.

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  3. Thank you for this reminder. Sometimes the "sin" keeps us from loving and accepting the sinner.

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  4. Do you suppose if we called it "discernment" rather than judgement, it would be received better? It's a difficult road to walk because so often the sinner has offended us with the sin, so we naturally don't like the sinner or the sin. Very thought provoking, Gail.

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    1. Perhaps "discernment" would gain the same negative connotation if used for the same purpose. But it is a better word choice in some ways.

      When I wrote this, I had in more in mind our tendency to accept sin and sinners in a general way...our fear to label something a sin and someone a sinner because our culture demands tolerance of everyone and everything. In that respect, I feel we've weakened the Gospel message and the commands of God so we can fit in better with our culture.

      But it does have applications on the personal level and with those who've offended us. And then the real challenge is to make our judgment fair and without bitterness.

      Thanks for your comments, Carol.



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    2. But God loved us even though we we sinners. Christ died for the ungodly.rom5v6 While we were still sinners, Christ died for us Rom5v8 All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Romans3v23. Bleesed are the merciful,For they shall obtain mercy Mathw5v7 I cant help but have compassion toward the ungodly, because God loved me first before I loved Him.

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  5. Thank you for clearing this misconception.

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  6. Thanks Gail for delivering a great post again!! Have a wonderfully blessed day!!

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  7. But then it also says: "Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:1-2 I believe we are not supposed to hate the people that commit the sin but hate the sin itself because we are believers. I have not come across anybody that does not sin including myself so I find this post very confusing.

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    1. I encourage you to look up each of the verses linked to this devotion, Amber and read the context. I think it will clear up your confusion. Thanks, Gail

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    2. I apologize I should have read those first :) I am trying to learn God's will and word the best thing to do is to continue a relationship with Christ. Ask forgiveness of your transgressions and sins and he will give you wisdom, discernment and understanding.

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  8. These 1 Minute Love Notes are a must read for every believer! Am so enjoying them! Thank you!

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  9. I've been searching out this topic myself as well. I don't know if I agree with your statement at the end that part of our responsibility is 'the proper judgement of sinners." if your definition of a sinner is one outside of the faith in Jesus. Verse 12 of Chapter 5 in 1st Cor. (which you referenced) says:

    12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”[d]

    I am finding in scripture that we are called to judge those in the body (who claim to be brothers and sisters in the faith), but not those outside the faith- God will judge them, as is referenced above. I like to remember it is not even 'us' who are judging those within the faith- but it is the Truth that acts as the judge, and we as bearers of light, when we show forth truth to the one sinning it is that truth that brings the judgement (and conviction, I might add).

    Anyhow, I so appreciate you tackling some tough subjects, Gail and dispelling myths in the church on many issues, of this is just one. As I wrote, I'm searching the scriptures on this one myself and value Godly dialog on the topic as I continue in my study.
    Blessings!

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    1. I appreciate and agree with your insights. 1 Cor. 5 talks about formal/"legal" judgment, and the church is not meant to judge unbelievers in that way unless they are representing themselves as believers (Matthew 7:15-23).

      The type of judging Christians do of non-Christians is simply agreeing with the judgment of sin and sinners set forth in Scripture.

      It's a necessary part of evangelism to help the unbeliever see he/she is a sinner in need of a Savior.

      But the error we sometimes make is trying to convince the unbeliever of his sin apart from explaining his need for salvation.

      Thanks again for adding your comments.

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  10. My niece is a lesbian and got married to another woman. I didn’t attend the wedding and now my sister in law won’t have anything to do with us. I told my brother I love my niece but what they have chosen to do. I feel I have judged the sin but, I may be wrong. What do you think Gail? Love you

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    1. Hi Inquisitive,

      No, I don't think you were wrong. As I say in this devotion, we can hate the sin and love the sinner, but we can't actually judge the sin without judging the sinner.

      I have a lesbian family member. She knows what we believe but we have maintained a decent relationship with her, showing her love and concern without accepting her choice of lifestyle. She has not married, but we would not attend if she was married her partner. We feel like we would be condoning something that God says is damaging to her soul. But we make a point of staying in touch with her and showing an interest in her life.

      I also have a very close friend whose daughter is a lesbian, and she recently had to make the same decision you made, and she did not attend her daughter's wedding. Some Christians family members did attend, but she felt she couldn't. She continues to show her daughter love, but she didn't feel the Lord would want her at the wedding.

      I'm sorry your sister-in-law is upset with you. But I don't think you were wrong.





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  11. Did Jesus hate the woman caught in adultery? At whom the hypocrites wanted to cast stones?

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    1. Cuckoo,
      What does your question have to do with this devotion? The only time the word "hate" was used in this devotion was in this context: "We can hate the sin and love the sinner..."

      Did you read the devotion and the Scriptures linked to it? I encourage you to do that.

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    2. Sorry I meant to ask did Jesus judge the woman caught in adultery? Was he interested in judging her or reconciling her?
      The believers who are interested in judging others, be very careful and examine if you are without sin, and only then cast a stone at others who are sinning.

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    3. Hi Cuckoo,
      That passage is often used to claim that Jesus didn’t judge anyone, but He actually judged everyone in that situation.

      He judged the men who brought the woman:

      We’re told that those who brought the woman to Jesus were insincere hypocrites: “They were trying to trap [Jesus] into saying something they could use against him.” (verse 6)

      Knowing their hearts, he said that those without sin could cast the first stone.

      They were convicted of their sins and left.

      He judged the woman:

      He said He didn’t “condemn” her as they were condemning her to death for her sin. But He said “Go and sin no more.” (verse 11)

      He judged her, acknowledging that she had sinned and commanded her to stop sinning.

      This confirms the truth in Matthew 7:1-5: We are not supposed to judge others until we have first judged ourselves. Despite the frequent misuse of the phrase “Judge Not,” Matthew 7 doesn’t say we cannot judge. It tells us that we must judge fairly and honestly.

      Verse 5: “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

      If we were never supposed to judge anyone, then this last verse wouldn’t have been written. And the multiple passages in the devotion above would not have been written because they also confirm that there are times when Christians are commanded to judge others.

      God wouldn’t have given those commands to judge if we were never fit to judge others.

      Some people act as if Scripture says, “Only perfect people can judge others and since no one is perfect, no one can judge others.” But that’s a human belief. Scripture says that we must judge but we must do so fairly and honestly.

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    4. I’m sorry but you sound soo interested in calling out other people for their wrong doings... I hope you don’t drive people away from church in your attempt to follow “commands”

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    5. Cuckoo,
      Who started this conversation by "calling out" someone for writing something with which they disagreed?

      You did.


      Who responded to your accusations with Scripture and without a single personal accusation or rude remark against you?

      I did.

      Who responded with harsh judgmental words against my character simply because I don't agree with your views?

      You did.

      I find it very interesting that the most judgmental comments I get on my blog come from people claiming to be against judging others.

      Thank you for giving readers an example of the wrong way to judge others- i.e. Claiming you are against judging and judging those harshly who disagree with you. Matthew 7:1-5 addresses this type of judging.

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  12. I’m sorry I don’t agree that believers need to judge fellow believers left right and center. They have no idea what the person has gone through and what led to those actions. I suppose we could leave the judging part to God. He alone is worthy of that.
    However, if there happens to be a person in the church whose actions are causing others to go astray, then the elders of the church may speak privately to that person and counsel. Also the elders or responsible brethren who talk to the person sinning, they need to approach with godly love and fear lest they judge incorrectly and get judged themselves. They need to know the background of the person and allow the person to give an explanation. Also they should not target the sinning person during some bible study message using bible verses or commandments. That is condemnation.

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    1. Hi Cuckoo,
      This devotion offers multiple Scriptures that clearly command us to judge people in certain circumstances so that we can avoid bad companions and warn Christians who are involved in sinful practices. It also offers Scriptures that clearly tell the church to judge sinning believers and if they don’t repent to judge them in front of the whole church.
      However, in your comment, you state a set of rules that directly contradict certain aspects of these Scriptural commands and instructions.
      I'm going to trust Scripture.

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  13. What I’m trying to say is how can you be sure that a church member is not sinful , before he or she can judge someone else? There are many hypocrites and Pharisees in churches today who act holy but are quick to judge other believers based on scriptures you mentioned.

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    1. Cuckoo,
      We can't be 100% sure of things like that, so we do the best we can. And that's all that God expects of us.

      God knows better than we do about the hypocrites and liars in our churches, but that didn't stop Him from giving us these commands.

      All we can be completely responsible for are our own sins and our own obedience. If I see a Christian brother sinning and I say nothing to him, then I'm disobeying God. If I correct him about a sin which I am myself committing, then I'm disobeying God. So what do I do? I make sure I have confessed my sins and I am doing my best to let God's Spirit transform me and then I approach my brother.

      And I don't deny the clear commands in Scripture simply because I know that some people abuse those commands.


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