Tuesday, May 22, 2012
TO LOVE OR JUDGE?
A friend recently engaged me in an online discussion about what it means to judge others, and specifically how we as Christians should respond to the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage. He especially wanted to know how we could possibly evangelize people if we don’t point out their sin first.
Here’s my response to my friend, with a few additional thoughts thrown in for good measure.
What do you think Jesus means by saying we should love others and not judge them? Do you think it's possible to condemn people with the truth rather than love them and point them to the Truth?
I try to think of how I came to know Jesus. Your experience might be different, but I know that as a 9 year old boy I was mainly overwhelmed with my need for God. I couldn't have told you the first thing about sin or repentance or any of that. I just knew I needed Jesus desperately.
A friend of mine once told me that before he came to Jesus he already knew he was a sinner. No one needed to point that out to him. He got that. What he didn't know was what to do about it.
So, that's why I think our evangelism should be more about loving people first (and that can only be done in relationship), sharing our own testimony (we're sinners who are desperate for Jesus and actively learning to know and to love the God who created the Universe - again, relationship), and pointing them to Jesus so they can know Him.
I think God will convict people of their sins just fine without us - because that's what He said He would do – and He specifically told us that it is not our place to convict people of their sins.
If we love people we make room for the grace of God to touch their hearts. (The kindness of God leads to repentance). But if we judge people, our condemnation becomes a barrier to those people and they cannot see the love of Jesus in us...and where else are they supposed to see it?
As I already said, I don't think we need to point out people's sins. I think the Holy Spirit will do that if we will introduce them to Jesus. Another example I can share is a couple we met at the motel about 5 years ago. We continued to serve them and love them in practical ways as they had need. They eventually started joining us in our house church, and then we started reading through the Gospel of John with them. Suddenly they both realized that they were sinners and that they needed to make some changes in their life. That was the Holy Spirit, not us, and they are continuing to read the Word of God and to allow Him to change their hearts. We never once had to say anything to them about their sin.
If we want to talk about sinfulness we have to start with our own. We must freely admit that we are sinners in need of Christ. Our message can't be, "You're a filthy sinner and you need Jesus" it should be, "I'm a filthy sinner and I need Jesus" and our invitation should be to follow Jesus daily, not to escape hell. If the emphasis is placed where Jesus put it - on following Him daily and surrendering our will to His - then the rest will follow (i.e. repentance, sanctification, justification, salvation, etc.).
We don't know who is or isn't saved, and acting as a judge isn't our job.
I'm not sure I see a correlation between voting and judging others really. But, I will address the question of how we speak to same-sex marriage.
In Luke, chapter 6, Jesus contrasts Love and Judgment as two opposite actions. We can't do one if we're busy doing the other. If our job - our mandate - from Jesus is to love like God does, then we can’t waste our time judging the hearts of others. Simply put, we can't love and judge at the same time.
In Romans 2:1, Paul says that when we judge others we're actually passing judgment on ourselves. James chapter 4 tells us that when we judge others we're putting ourselves in God’s place.
Paul even draws a distinction between correcting sinful behavior of those within the Church (1 Cor 5:12) with the right to judge those outside the church.
So, according to the New Testament, followers of Jesus have no business trying to condemn the morality of the culture at large. Paul never did it. Peter never did it. Jesus never did it.
Why do we feel the responsibility to change our culture to behave the way we want them to? It doesn't make any sense – especially if our primary way of affecting change is supposed to be preaching the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. We can only teach people to obey all that Jesus commanded if they are willing disciples. But if they're not disciples of Jesus, why do we think that we can change their hearts or influence their behavior with a law or a policy? It's foolish, and it's not the Kingdom.
We should be more concerned that Kingdom people actually live out the Gospel in their daily lives. That’s actually what Paul’s main point about judging those within the Body is all about in 1 Corinthians 5. We’re expected to keep our own people on the straight and narrow, not those outside the Church. God will judge them without our help.
If we major on following Jesus ourselves, and teaching others within the Church to do the same, then we can offer the culture an alternative lifestyle that is direct contrast to the sinful ways of men.
Yes, I understand that Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more" but then again, Jesus was the only person left standing who didn't have any sins to confess. The whole point of that passage is that those men who brought the woman to Jesus were in no position to judge her. That's why they dropped their stones and walked away. They understood that they were also sinners. Just like you and me.
At least, that's how I see it.