Saturday, June 17, 2006
Calling sin a sin: does a Christian have the right to judge another?
The golden rule has changed. It used to be "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is now "Judge not, that you be not judged." The new golden rule is the golden sword drawn to ward off those who dare to declare that someone else's belief, actions or lifestyle is morally amiss.
"Judge-not" is the most misunderstood and misused principle in Christian doctrine. When coupled with the numchucks of "intolerance", the bearer wields a formidable weapon that can do more than just silence dissenters--it can pulverize the solid-rock foundation of the Church into sand. It is an especially heinous weapon when wielded by those who call themselves Christians in order to protect themselves from the condemnation of the Church. When Christians claim we should not pass judgement on another believer's actions or lifestyle, they have it dead wrong. Discerning judgement is not only one of the underpinnings of Christianity, Jesus requires it of us.
In the same context in which Jesus admonished His followers against hypocrisy (the true meaning of "judge not" in Matt. 7:1), he also tells us to make judgements concerning the morality of others: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs...Watch out for false prophets." Paul commands the church to make discerning judgements about morality within the Christian body: "...you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you."
The basis for discerning judgement is the Word of God. If God has declared something a sin, we are not passing judgment, it is the Word of God that judges. If we find that a brother in Christ is sinning, we should reach out, according to Paul in Galations, to "restore him gently." Jesus gave an example of this with His story of the shepherd going after the lost sheep that was restored to the fold. But in the same context (Matt 18:15-17), Jesus also said that if the rebelling brother refuses to repent, then let him go--he is no longer to be considered a Christian.
Last week, during the attempt to vote on a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, a caller to Janet Parshall's America radio talk show identified himself as "gay and Christian." The conversation centered on how God defined marriage and Janet handled it superbly (you rock, Janet!). However, I would like to address the "gay Christian" oxymoron. Don't get me wrong--I have no problem with a non-Christian who chooses to be gay. I cannot judge them because I have no right to. But I have every right to discern the wrongness of a Christian who practices the gay lifestyle. God has unambiguously declared sex outside of marriage to be a sin (perhaps the reason for the push to legalize same-sex marriage?). If you practice sin--any sin--without regret, refusing to change your behavior, then by Jesus' own words, you are a pagan--not a Christian. Paul says you are to be expelled from the church body. Therefore, you can't define yourself as both "gay" and "Christian."
Jesus praised the church in Ephesus for not tolerating wicked men within their midst. You can do no less. God, in His Word, commands us to practice discerning judgement. This is in no small way for the protection of the Church, for as Jesus explained, a little yeast permeates the whole loaf. The message is clear: When confronted with sin within the Christian body, you are to measure your response to it by God's word. You must judge!
P.S. If there are people out there who identify themselves as "adulturous-and-Christian and proud of it," or "thieving Christian and proud of it," I apologise for the oversight. I would have been happy to include them also in my example of an oxymoron.