Some years ago a comedy program used to scan their audience during applause and segment transitions. They would stop on a random individual and superimpose an absurd comment below their image on the screen. It was quite funny, and my favorite adage was “who are you to judge this man?”
Our society has certainly grown timid when it comes to judging the (mis)behavior of people. It seems you can’t make any observations about others without having some misguided soul—too dimwitted to understand they’re guilty of the very thing they condemn—declaring that you shouldn’t judge others.
Actually, the Scriptures repeatedly tell Christians they are supposed to judge the difference between good and evil (actions and people). Jesus asks the crowds on a number of occasions, most notably in response to his parable about the Good Samaritan, which of the choices were right and which were wrong.
Followers of God are not only enjoined to do good. They are also directed to avoid doing what is wrong. Psalm 36 describes the disposition of the wicked: “He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.”
C.S. Lewis provides an insightful juxtaposition of good and evil. “If we find a man giving pleasure it is for us to prove (if we criticise him) that his action is wrong. But if we find a man inflicting pain it is for him to prove that his action is right. If he cannot, he is a wicked man.”
The Church has a responsibility to call sin “sin.” And to influence people to choose better paths which will lead to healing and wholeness. Helping people make choices which lead to life rather than death is the essence of the Great Commission. So, far from being something we should avoid—discerning or judging is an activity central to Christian life.
The key is remembering that our judgments should always be given in love. Genuine compassion for the victims of sin (which include the perpetrators themselves) is a hallmark of Christ-like judgment.