Disclaimer: I admit that as I sit at my computer writing this, I am fighting massive waves of frustration. I am praying fervently that this post doesn’t fall into something that is overly critical, eccentrically sarcastic, and unfairly belittling to God’s beloved church.
The reason for my frustration is because the church today is in a real pickle. We are facing a real dilemma along the lines of ethical bankruptcy, logical thinking, and biblical leadership. Our ethics and standards are upside down…our thinking is less than clear and reasonable…and I know there are a lot of good leaders out there but biblical leaders are rare. Too harsh? Ok, I’ll try to tone it down. Deep breath, count to ten, pray. Let me start again…
The recent marriage issues in our country and around the world have been instrumental in exposing a deeper issue for the church. As the church has attempted to wade through the issue and all of the opinions surrounding it, it has led to a backlash from society which accuses the church of being hateful and judgmental. Furthermore, it seems these accusations have been rather successful in sidelining the church into self-evaluating whether or not we really are being too judgmental by taking a stand against gay marriage. This has served the purposes of the enemy in a big way by successfully creating a diversion away from the real issue. In short, the church, for the most part, finds herself distracted by a false argument – the argument of being judgmental.
What I find even more shocking is how many followers of Jesus Christ (who is the Truth by the way) capitulating on this issue out of fear of actually being what those accusers say we are guilty of. Therefore, you find confused, bible-believing Christians giving their support for those in the bondage of the sin of homosexuality because they have been told by the world that they are too judgmental. So we avoid confrontation and standing for truth. All of this is then packaged to be called “love” because we have bought into the lie that to disagree with those living in sin is somehow “unloving.” More on this later.
I have read many articles and listened to several discussions in the past few years as the gay rights agenda has gained momentum and influence in our culture. Almost always, as someone voices a concern or argument against the trajectory of this movement, it inevitably is accompanied by the criticisms of hatred and cries of judgmentalism. Ironically, doesn’t this standard in and of itself make those who scream “Judgmental!” guilty of the same crime they are accusing others of? More on this later as well.
So I see a great need for clarity and teaching in the church concerning these accusations that taking a stand for truth is synonymous to hatefully judging those who disagree with truth. This is false. It’s time to wake up.
Nothing New Under the Sun
Solomon wrote it well in Ecclesiastes when he said,
“That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB95)
This is true in many areas but especially in the area of which we are discussing. Those who have stood for God’s truth down through history have consistently been accused of being judgmental. Two examples shall suffice.
First, let’s go clear back to the book of Genesis and the time period of Abraham. Scholars and historians would tell us this would be about 4000 years ago. A very good place for us to start making our case.
Abraham and his nephew Lot had been so blessed by the Lord in their resources that the bible says the land could not sustain their herds and flocks so they decided to split up. Lot chose the land of Sodom. Fast forward and we find three strangers visiting Abraham on their way to Sodom to see for themselves whether the cry of wickedness in the land was actually as bad as it was reported. Two of the strangers (who are actually angels) enter the city. Upon meeting Lot, they are persuaded by him to spend the night at his house. As news of these strangers passes through the city, the men of the city decide to take a closer look and that’s when things turn sick and sleazy.
“Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.’ But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly.” Genesis 19:4-7 (NASB95)
As the men of the city surround Lot’s house demanding he bring the strangers out to them for intercourse, he appeals to them as brothers, politely appealing to them that they not act wickedly. The men of Sodom’s response is classic and eerily familiar.
“But they said, ‘Stand aside.’ Furthermore, they said, ‘This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge…'” Genesis 19:8 (NASB95)
Even though the context of Lot’s address implies that he was gracious and polite as he tried desperately to correct their behavior, he was accused of being an overbearing judge casting judgment on them and their intentions. In other words, who are you to judge us?
A second example from scripture gives us even more insight at history’s track record of the truth being usurped by the accusation of judgmentalism. This example comes to us from Exodus during the time of Moses, again thousands of years ago.
“Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?'” Exodus 2:11-13 (NASB95)
Once again we find a situation in which an individual attempts to step in and correct sinful behavior. Although the messenger himself is not without sin, we find his intentions are right. But, once again, we find a response that mirrors the one made by the men of Sodom and is profoundly similar to our culture’s response today. The man replied to Moses saying,
“‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?'” Exodus 2:14a (NASB95)
Once again, this sounds very familiar…who made you a judge over us?
Furthermore, the Hebrew manipulates Moses by turning the focus back on him by drawing attention to his sin from the day before. This is nothing more than a classic bait and switch tactic that is so prevalent today. We hear it all too often, “You can’t judge me, you’re a sinner too!”
All too often I see people fall into this well reasoned yet false trap because we don’t fully grasp the full forgiveness we have in Christ, who has forgiven us past, present, and future. Because of this truth, even the devil himself can attempt to accuse us of our sins, but those accusations fall short because we have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony that Jesus is Lord. When the enemy declares to the Father, “Did you see what they did? Did you see their sin?” The Father responds, “Did you see what my Son did? Did you see His righteousness?” Of course this truth should lead us in humility as we confront and correct sinful behavior, but we should never let it distract us from our mission.
There are two types of sinners, those who have been forgiven and those who have not. Those who have been forgiven eternally, have nothing to fear when standing for God’s truth, no matter how colorful your past may be. You have now been given the label “forgiven” and have the freedom to act as such. On the other hand, if your sins have not been forgiven by God, then yes, hypocritical accusations are an issue because the very truth you are trying to employ stands as a witness against you. But even then, truth is still truth no matter who the messenger is.
In our story with Moses, the fear that is stirred up within him by this Hebrew man’s bait and switch eventually causes him to run away to Midian as it says,
“Then Moses was afraid…” Exodus 2:14b (NASB95)
None of today’s tactics used in our fallen society against the battle for truth is new. All of these that were employed in the Old Testament by the inhabitants of Sodom and the Hebrew man in Egypt are still being used today. Truth that corrects is often usurped by the shrieking outcry of judgmentalism accompanied by the accusation of unworthiness of the messenger to even suggest correction is needed.
Judging and Correcting are Not the Same Thing
The church has been duped by the world into thinking that anything that is corrective, rebuking, or reproving is somehow judgmental and should be avoided because it is unloving. But we need to understand that correction is not the same thing as judging. The only way correction becomes judging is when an individual refuses to listen to reason and change their behavior according to God’s word thereby forfeiting the opportunity to avoid the final judgment by the hand of God.
The bible talks about the word of God being used as an instrument of correction in many different terms. Three of these are found in 2 Timothy.
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2 (NASB95)
- Reprove – (Gr. ελεγχω) – to scrutinize or examine carefully
- Rebuke – (Gr. επιτιμαω) – to express strong disapproval
- Exhort – (Gr. παρακαλεω) – to urge strongly
While these three words have very strong definitions and connotations, they are used in the context of patience and instruction. On the other hand, judgment is a word that speaks of finality. Once one is truly judged (in an unfavorable way) by the Almighty Maker of the universe, there is no turning back.
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:26-27 (NASB95)
Biblical Guidelines for Correction
The bandwagon that everyone seems to be riding on these days, including unbelievers, is the command of love. This is a great command. The Old Testament commands it, the New Testament commands it, Paul commands it, Peter commands it, Jesus commands it….actually, let’s take a closer look at what Jesus said.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was constantly challenged by the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They tested Him often to try to find fault in Him and His teachings. One day, one of the Pharisees, who also happened to be a lawyer, came to Him with a question.
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'” Matthew 22:36 (NASB95)
Jesus responded by saying,
“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment.'” Matthew 22:37-38 (NASB95)
Great answer and a great challenge. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on to say,
“‘The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:39 (NASB95)
This is the verse that is used to argue the premise that all we need to do is love, love, love everybody and everything will be all right. But what does that look like? Does it actually mean as the riders of the bandwagon affirm that any criticism of lifestyle or rebuke of behavior is unloving?
Often this passage from Leviticus that Jesus quoted as being the second greatest command is used to shore up the wall of their position. But, if an individual is willing to take the time and actually read the quote from Leviticus, they may be surprised to find that their wall of argument is not as strong as they thought as it crumbles down before them. Let’s read it.
“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:15-18 (NASB95)
Ok, so this should be clear enough just by reading it, but let’s break it down to be sure. In this passage that Jesus referenced, during the time when the LORD spoke to Moses and the Israelites making it part of the moral law that still applies today, there are several commands given – some stating what to do, some stating what not to do. Lets make a list.
First, those things commanded concerning neighbors.
- You are to judge your neighbor fairly
- You may surely reprove your neighbor
- You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Next, those things to avoid.
- You shall do no injustice in judgment
- You shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great
- You shall not go about as a slanderer
- You are not to act against the life of your neighbor
- You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart
- You shall not incur sin because of him
- You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people
What we find here is a very clear list of statements regarding how to love our neighbors within the context of correction. We should first note the commands to judge, reprove, and love our neighbors…they are all three tied together. Love and correction is not an either/or proposition. It is a both/and mandate.
I wonder if Jesus knew this when He quoted it? Or maybe He was short-sighted when He said it was the second greatest commandment? I think not.
Secondly, I believe the clear warning is that these three can be abused by our fallen nature and turned into something sinful. We are commanded in our corrections to avoid injustice, partiality, slander, murder, hatred, sin, vengeance, and grudges. Point being that if our judging, reproving, and loving is not done with a heart of compassion, humility, and an abundance of fruit from the Spirit, then our flesh is going to turn it into something sinful. Therefore, we are given the mandate by Paul that if anyone is caught in sin, those of you who are spiritual go and restore such a person through gentle correction, taking care that you don’t fall into the same temptation.
I will attempt to write more concerning proper attitudes, including hypocrisy, as well as our specific responsibility towards others regarding truthful exhortations in Part 2 of this post.
Many would argue the points made in this article with me, no matter how sound the biblical evidence or how plain the godly logic behind it. They would argue that churches need to present a seeker sensitive image which avoids anything that is offensive. They forget that whole crowds of people as well as individuals left Jesus when He explained that to enter the kingdom, it would require them to forfeit everything so they could grasp Him as everything. They would say that those who take a stand against sin by boldly proclaiming the truth of the bible will drive a wedge between us and the world. My response…no duh! It’s supposed to!
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.” Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB95)
Even though in these last days men will gnaw their tongues in pain, torment, and hatred against the truth of Jesus Christ (Revelation 16:10-11), we the truly redeemed of God will never stop reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with great patience and instruction. To fail in this would truly be unloving.
I am a preacher of the gospel. The gospel is good news and is worthy of being preached. I am not a motivational speaker explaining how to have a nice life. I am not a psychologist touting a form of self-help. I am a preacher and I preach life. What’s so judgmental about that?
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
John 3:18-21 (NASB95)