“You’re Not Supposed To Judge Me”- The Difference Between Judging and Rebuking


By Rev. Renee

JUDGE:       To form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises; to hold an opinion; to form an estimate or evaluation of

REBUKE:     v. to criticize sharply, reprimand; to turn back or keep down, check.  n. an expression of strong disapproval

Source:  Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary

          Have you ever told someone they’ve hurt you, and instead of apologizing, they tell you you’re not supposed to be judging them?  It seems to be a popular defense for an offender to try and use a Christian’s faith against her.  Besides being under the misconception that you must forgive them, even if they are unrepentant and unremorseful, many abusers will tell you that you can’t “judge” them when they have behaved offensively or wickedly.  They will answer your rebuke by telling you that “the Bible tells us we are not to judge others”.  Or they will tell you “only God” can judge them.  They seem to think that this gives them free rein to carry on their unacceptable behavior just as before, without ever having to answer for it, or stop it either, for that matter, until God himself judges them and sends them to hell!

          What they are choosing to misunderstand is the difference between judging and rebuking.  The distinction is that rebuking seeks to CORRECT the offender rather than CONDEMN her.  Unfortunately, many offenders take issue at being corrected and prefer to turn it around and accuse the rebuker (or victim) of wrongdoing rather than admit they were wrong and change their own behavior.  Although the Bible does tell us not to judge one another, it also instructs us very clearly to rebuke those who do evil, as well as those who hurt us.

Another way of looking at rebuking vs. judging is that rebuking involves facts, while judging involves assumptions. Here is an example:  when you disapprove of/protest/confront an abuser for behaving in ways that hurt other people (fact), and he responds by accusing you of not being a good Christian (assumption) (because you are confronting him, not honoring him, or for whatever reason), then you are rebuking him, but he is judging you.

          The best known scripture concerning not judging others is Matthew 7:1-5, in which Jesus tells us, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eyeand then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (KJV)

          Perhaps you have judged someone by the way they look, their job, the clothes they wear, or the car they drive.  Maybe you have gossiped about a woman who had a child out of wedlock, or parents who don’t discipline their children.  Maybe you have formed an opinion about (judged) a gay neighbor, a couple who got divorced, or a husband who had a new girlfriend before his divorce was final.  These are examples of what this scripture refers to- forming an opinion about someone who, whether they are right or wrong, has nothing to do with you or your loved ones.  Barring dangerous or criminal actions, if their looks, behavior, etc., doesn’t affect you personally, Jesus is basically telling you to mind your own business, because you’re not perfect either!

          On the other hand, in Luke 17:3, Jesus instructs us “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”(KJV)  Jesus does not tell us to keep silent about being offended, hurt, or abused. He tells us to reprimand and express strong disapproval to (rebuke) those who do something hurtful or offensive to us.


          In Matthew 18: 15-17, Jesus gives us a Biblical model for rebuking: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.  But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (NKJV)  Heathens (KJV) and tax collectors were considered serious sinners and were to be shunned (Luke 18:11-13, Luke 5:30, Luke 7:34, Luke 15:1, Matthew 9:11, Matthew 11:19, Mark 2:16, Ps 9:5, 15, Ps 78:55, Ps 80:8, Ezekiel 9: 22).  Notice also that Jesus does not say if your brother ‘cannot hear your’ or ‘does not hear you’- he says if your brother WILL NOT hear you and if your brother REFUSES TO hear the others.  Jesus is telling us that your brother not getting your point is not accidental- it is a willful act.



          In Titus 3:10, we are told, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with him.”

          In Leviticus 19:17, we are told to confront one who sins against us directly rather than holding resentment in our heart: “Do not hate your brother in your heart.  Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.” (NIV) In Proverbs 28:23, we are told “He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.” (NIV).

          Fools, mockers, and the wicked do not listen to rebuke, but the wise and the righteous will learn from rebuke and love you for it (Proverbs 9:7-9, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 18:2).  We may not know if someone is wise or a fool until we have rebuked him and his behavior gives him away. “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright”… Proverbs 14:9 (NIV).  Fools just never learn- “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly”…Proverbs 26:11.  That is why we are instructed to rebuke a wrongdoer only two or three times, and then have nothing to do with him.

          So there is a very big difference between judging others, which we are admonished not to do, and rebuking wrongdoers, which we are Biblically ordained and instructed very clearly to do.  Sister, don’t allow one who has sinned against you to confuse the issue.  When the Lord has taught you what to do and how to handle a hurtful situation, do not get sidetracked by a foolish sinner.  Telling you that you’re not supposed to judge is not an acceptable defense when an apology and repentance is what is called for.





***For more on this subject, please read the articles in the sections on Setting & Enforcing Limits & BoundariesRebukingRepenting & ApologiesForgiveness, and Reprobates & Cutting Ties .

For more details on rebuking, see the article Rebuke-It’s For Their Own Good