This post has been on my heart and mind for quite some time, and I am finally ready to write it out. I have truly put off this post for more than two months, as I have been searching scripture, seeking in prayer, and examining my own heart. The last thing that I want is for my opinion to be placed over the truth of scripture. I’m not going to lie. Examining my heart is not a pretty thing sometimes. It often brings about conviction and the Holy Spirit sometimes has to lead me to a place of brokenness before I can see clearly. The last two months have not been pretty at times, but I know that the Lord has grown me.
*Disclaimer: This post was not written to or about any one specific person or situation! This has been on my heart for a long time, due to what I believe is a cultural norm.
I have been bothered by the fact that many professing Christians are quick to be defensive when approached with the truth of scripture, by fellow well-meaning Christians. Remarks and statements such as, “Don’t judge me.”, “God is my judge, not you.”, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”, “You are so judgmental!”, and “Christians(or people from church) are so judgmental!” are quick to roll off of the tongues of many. Scriptures are pulled out of context and thrown into the faces of Christians; “Judge not, that you not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) is a very popular scripture that I have seen and heard used by believers to ward off any other person that might be speaking out about the standards set forth in scripture. Now, I’m sure that there have been many Christians who have been less than kind and gentle when approaching someone and I’ll talk about that in a second, but first, I really want to look at this scripture in Matthew and break it down a bit in context.
“Judge not, that you not be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
Jesus says, don’t judge unless you are prepared to be held to the same standard that you are holding someone else to. If you aren’t prepared to have someone turn a critical eye to you, then don’t do it. Don’t dish it if you can’t take it. Don’t be a hypocrite! Don’t overlook sin in your own life to focus on sin in a different person’s life. Practice what you preach and hold yourself to the same standard that you hold others to. I like the visual that Jesus gives us. Let’s pretend that we are being literal for a second. Can you see me walking around with a massive log in my eye? In my eye! Would it make any sense for me to examine a speck (think piece of sawdust) in my friend’s eye and try to remove it? How could I see clearly, to be effective at removing it? However, once I get the log out of my eye, I can adequately see to help remove the piece of sawdust from my friend’s eye. Makes sense, right? I also want to point out that Jesus says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”. He doesn’t say to let your brother continue with a bothersome speck in his eye. Would it make sense to let your friend walk around with a physical issue and not help? No, and I think that we would be quick to help our friend if he or she were struggling physically. We accept physical help, but we shun spiritual accountability and encouragement. It doesn’t make much sense, and when we look at this passage of scripture in Matthew, we see that Jesus is not telling us to just walk on by and let our friend continue on a destructive path. If a speck remains in your eye for too long, infection may eventually follow and the healing process is far more arduous than simply removing the speck before it is a big issue(hello, LOG). Shouldn’t we long for that encouragement and accountability to keep our path from destruction?
Here are some great scriptures to keep in mind when we are approached in love by a fellow believer in Christ:
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” -Proverbs 12:1
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” -Proverbs 1:7
“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” -Proverbs 29:1
(Check out the entire book of Proverbs for more scripture that pertains to this. It is chock full of warnings and promises. Take heed…It can go both ways!)
I know that I will also hear from many of you that there has been, in fact, someone who approached you in a less than loving manner. I think about the church groups that picket at funerals and spout words of hatred every chance they get. I have seen videos surfacing of young children singing songs about “homos” in church. It is sad. The love of Christ is not in them. It is sad to me that these people are not living the gospel and are leading others down a path filled with hate, anger, and cruelty. It doesn’t matter what has been done to offend someone, hate is not the answer. Jesus, himself, called the least loved to follow Him and be made new.
I think about the story of the adulterous woman in John chapter 8. Jesus did not condemn her, but he granted her forgiveness and then called her to a new life, a life without sin. She was changed! I think that sometimes we miss this…Jesus never granted someone forgiveness and then told them to do what they want and to live however makes them happy. He had a higher calling for them to follow Him! Sin should be a heavy burden on us that only can be removed by the cross of Jesus. We are designed for fellowship with God, and with sin as a barrier, we cannot have that fellowship. We should long for the missing fellowship. I think that the woman in John chapter 8 was longing to be free of her sin. She needed the love of Jesus. She needed forgiveness. She needed a change of heart. Jesus provided all of that for her. He provided her with freedom! This is the greatest example of ministering to people where they are. We, as followers of Christ, should stoop down, lift up the broken, and share with them the amazing freedom that is found through the cross! We cannot and should not ever expect a person who is not a Christian, to behave like a Christian. We have no grounds for addressing any spiritual issue with them, other than the fact that they need the saving grace of Jesus.
We should, however, be prepared to defend our faith in gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16). We should share the truth of the gospel, without watering it down. When I look at the example of Jesus in scripture, He never diluted the truth. He called people to follow Him, but made sure that they knew what it might require of them; that is to abandon all that they know, simply to follow Him. I think about the story of the rich young ruler who was not willing to leave his earthly treasures behind. He walked away from Jesus with a heavy heart and the burden of sin still in tact. That passage makes me sad, because he was given the opportunity to follow Jesus, yet he chose the things of this world instead. As a Christian, I have to be prepared for those people. The ones that really don’t care about the gospel. It makes me sad because I WANT them to know Christ and to experience the joy of becoming a new creation! It breaks my heart that there are many people who are presented with the truth of Jesus, yet choose the pleasures of this life over knowing the greatest love that they could possibly know.
There are also many people that will take the truth of God’s word and say that it really isn’t truth. This makes me sad also. If we disregard one portion of the Bible to make ourselves feel better, then we might as well disregard all of it. If one part cannot be trusted, then what makes any of it trusted? For many, it is easier to accuse Christians of being judgmental or being bigots, rather than to take the word of God as truth. Scripture is what scripture is. Why should we side-step the hard truths just to keep ourselves from having to face the truth of our sin? We shouldn’t. If you were driving down a road in the dark and the road ended abruptly at a deep canyon just a little further on, would you want warning signs? Of course! We would want to know if we were in immediate danger so that we could alter our path and find the road that leads to our desired destination, not one of death. Many are on a road that leads to destruction and death, but since the risk of offending someone seems too uncomfortable, we keep silent and do not address the fact that they are being lied to. They are told that it is all a big party and that there are no consequences for their decisions. Are we judging someone when we try to point them in the direction of the right path that leads to life?
Romans 12:2 urges us to not be conformed to the ways of the world, but to be transformed. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us to preach the word of God and to be ready in all seasons to rebuke, reprove and exhort, with patience and teaching. 2 Timothy also warns that there will be those that will seek out teachers that will suit their own passions, and will not listen to the truth, but instead will turn to lies. 2 Timothy chapter 2 warns that a servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, or take part in foolish controversies. We are instructed to be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting our opponents with gentleness so that perhaps they will come to repentance and know the truth! So, we must not act or look like the world, but we must be gentle and kind, while still teaching the truth of God’s word. We are never instructed to shy away from sharing or speaking the truth, but we are definitely instructed (in numerous places!) to not provoke or take part in arguments or quarrels. We must be wise in our conduct and conversation.
I know that this is a very long post, and if you have made it this far, I thank you for hanging in there! To summarize, here is my point: If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to examine your own heart and life, before holding your brothers and sisters in Christ accountable to the standards set forth in scripture. We are called to encourage and rebuke one another with scripture. We are called to be humble in our approach and in being approached by others. We are called to love the unlovable and to speak the freeing power of Jesus’ love into their lives. We are called to minister to the broken-hearted and to disciple new believers. We are called to preach the word of God. We are called to defend our faith and to not sit silently by. We are called to do all of this in love, with gentleness, respect, and kindness.
We are not here to condemn or point fingers. We are here to love and to lead people into the saving grace of Jesus, so that HE can do a wonderful work in their lives! Will you join me in loving people and sharing the amazing truth of the gospel with them? Let us lead with our lives and words, so that we cannot be accused of being anything other than loving followers of Christ. And if that is so bad? Then let them say so, but we will continue to follow. 🙂