March 08, 2011

STOP JUDGING!! ??

Last week, I was blessed to be involved in conversation with several people concerning certain teachings and teachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One of the topics that kept coming up was that some people feel we should not "judge"other Christians.  To do so is being divisive and sinful.  Let's take a look at this.

First, I would like to point out that the Gospel is owned by only one, the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is His.  We are stewards of it.  Every generation since Christ has held up teachers who claim to have figured out God's true intentions for the Gospel message, which everyone else has muddied or lost in the transmission of Christ's teachings.  This is historically factual and documented.  So when someone today claims to have insight that we need to hear that refutes the exclusivity of our Lord's Gospel, or refutes the spiritual absolutes contained in His own words, we need to be ready to DEFEND our Lord's Gospel.  Because it is His and no spin or adjustment to societal and cultural sensitivity is authorized in the stewardship of His Gospel.

Second, the judgment that Jesus and James warn about in Scripture is condemnation, being critical, self-righteousness, condescension, or having a measuring stick for “our” standards and ideas (Prov. 19:17; Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15). For a Christian to judge someone this way is unacceptable in God’s Kingdom. By judging, we are superimposing ourselves to His sovereign role with our extremely limited insights and lack of understanding, mercy, or the ability to chastise or judge righteously. The fact is that God allows things,even evil, to happen for His purposes.  When we condemn, we not only practice what we are unqualified to do as a fellow sinner, we suppose we understand what God wants and forget His ways are higher than ours.  It is His alone to allow and condemn. We are never to set ourselves up as something we are not called or gifted to do. The right way to help someone with faults is to go to them privately(at first), with constructive criticism in love and patience, offer gentle, humble criticism and instruction that will build them up (Matt. 10:12-15; Acts 13:42-46; Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26, 3:16-4:2).

There's a difference between judgment and discernment. Scripture ordains all believers to be discerning so that we are able to protect ourselves and each other (The Body of Christ) from harm, to be sensitive to spiritual warfare, and to prevent  the perversion of the Gospel( Galatians 1, 6:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2).
 We are also called to be discerning of what is morally and doctrinally right and wrong.  The Bible gives us clear absolutes.  The relativism and universalism that the world teaches is evil and wrong. We must clearly and lovingly proclaim moral and doctrinal standards that are biblical and unambiguous (Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 14:1-12; Gal. 3:1; 1 Thess. 5:21). This means that we are not to allow immorality and false teachings to come about, or allow such things to attack the church from the outside.  Notice that clear Godly teaching is unambiguous.  Please read my 3 part series on "Discerning what you hear."

This also applies to the exercise of church discipline (Matt. 7:1-6; John 7:24; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; Gal. 6:1; 1 John 4:1). We are commanded as stewards of God's Body, Bride, Church to judge (as in discernment) and evaluate the spiritual and moral attitude, conduct, and speech of others. However, we are not to judge one another’s beliefs in regard to non-essentials such as baptism or church order. Discernment and righteous judgment are always to be done in the character of the Fruit of the Spirit and with mercy, love, patience, and clear instruction. (Luke 6:36-37; Gal. 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2; James 2:13).  However, there must always be fidelity to God's standards, expectations and personal glory, before a "love" or desire to save others from humility or reproof.  Remember, the greatest commandment is to love God first with everything we are.  The second is like the first, but is not the same as the first and is not a priority over the first.  To love others does not mean to love God with any less fidelity and respect for any part of His revelation or, especially concerning the stewardship of His testimony and His Church.

With you for His glory