This thought hit me while reading for a school project. I must get my focus back, so let me clear this mind space and offer this thought.
Judgment is permissible in general and in faith communities.
judgment (n.): the process of forming an opinion or observation by discerning and comparing (Merriam-Webster)
In our broader society and in our smaller targeted culture, we have a rule about judgment. The primary rule is that only God can judge us, in which the secondary rule is implied. You — meaning other people — cannot judge us.
I have no argument to build, per se, but I do want to offer a few thoughts.
#1: INTIMATE CONNECTIONS CAN JUDGE US. The reference is beyond intimate relationships, of the romantic kind or long duration. Intimacy means nearness, closeness and the state of familiarity (Merriam-Webster). People who may not be close to us in a relationship but have close proximity to us become familiar with us and with our ways. They have access to us in personal ways. They are allowed to make judgments. Here is where we might resist this thought — because even if near enough to observe us and make conclusions, we deem some people unworthy to judge or comment on any facet of our lives.
#2: OTHER CHRISTIANS CAN JUDGE US. This issue gets more difficult than it should because we are ruthless — we get into who is really saved and judging intention rather than action, etc. What we know is that judgment is reciprocal; we receive what we give out AND tempering our desire to criticize does not turn off wisdom, discernment, discipline, and order (Luke 6:37, judgment referred to complaining and fault-finding). We also know that our judgment should be righteous and not according to appearance (John 7:24, after Jesus brought a man wholeness on the Sabbath).
#3: SITUATIONS (CONSEQUENCES) JUDGE US POSITIONALLY. Jesus uses the vine-vinedresser-fruit bearing metaphor in John 15:1-11. Bearing fruit or not bearing fruit depends on how we stay IN CHRIST. If we elect to abide in Christ, then bearing much fruit is our result. If we elect to not abide in Christ, then our actions judge us and sentence us to separation from God. That is stage one. Stage two adds the Word of God abiding in us as we abide in Christ. In this place, God gets the glory because fruit-bearing proves our discipleship. Read this passage again.
It may anger us that people more flawed than us (according to us) call us out on deficiencies of any kind. We may find ourselves agitated and aggravated because we hold our tongues concerning some people, yet they are free with their judgments concerning us. Well, why did they speak? Why did we not speak? I will give you this moment to consider motives.
If an intimate connection or another Christian judges us, and the intention of the person was malicious in any way, we still cannot discount the judgment as unrighteous or by appearance. If the judgment was retaliatory (after you shared in humility and truth), or meant to embarrass, we still cannot discount the content. If there is any truth in the judgment, then the judgment must be addressed. Internally. and in prayer, in a conversation with Holy Spirit.
Now, I can go back to my school work. (smile) I pray this helps us all walk in love with bravery and speak when given a good opportunity… not to win — not to prove a point — not to convert or convince — not to harm — but to share an observation that could hinder another in their faith journey.
Selah, and love to all.