Friday, October 21, 2011

Today's Unpardonable Sin

Even a Christ-hating, atheist, mocking, scoffing, secularist, media personality will know one scripture reference, and leverage it frequently: Judge not, that you be not judged.[1] The unpardonable sin of today’s secular culture is judgmentalism.

Unfortunately, there has been significant seepage from the secular culture into the minds and practices of leaders in the Lord’s church. It has reached the point where “judge not” means: turn off all faculties of discernment between good and evil, light and darkness, life and death. Any evaluation of a doctrine, practice, or behavior is considered being unduly “critical” or “judgmental”—allegedly something Christians are not supposed to do.

It has reached the point among us that to have any regard for character, holiness, purity, or death/life is considered a failure to understand the grace of God. I am a new covenant, radical grace of God guy in every way: theologically, practically, spiritually, and subjectively. In fact, I am often criticized for being just that. However, the grace that is really God’s grace is both empowering and instructive. Someone who is experiencing God’s grace in the power of the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Christ, will be empowered to stop ungodliness.[2] They will not habitually practice sin absent of conviction.[3]

As a mentor of leaders around the world, I see (on a regular, and widespread basis) the excusing of the rankest, foulest, clearest sin possible in the body of Christ by the wave of the magic wand of being judgmental or religious for bringing the topic up. I have seen fornication, adultery, the love of money, drunkenness, witchcraft, sedition, slander, rebellion, idolatry, and other practices, all tolerated—by supposedly mature Christian leaders—because to deal with these practices is considered being judgmental by those who hold local church authority in their hands.

As is so commonly done from pulpit, street corner, and TV studio, the Matthew passage is quoted out of context, and in disregard for other “red-letter” admonitions from the Lord. If proof-texting is all we need, how can the same holy lips that forbid judging in Matthew’s gospel, turn around in John’s gospel and tell His hearers to engage in judgment, only doing so righteously, not according to appearances?[4]

Of course, propping up the “judge not” cultural virtue with a biblical proof-text cannot withstand close biblical scrutiny. For example:

Jesus was “judgmental” when He:

■Insulted people – Matthew 12:34 et. al.[5]
■Called them names – John 8:44
■Threatened them – Luke 13:3
■Whipped them – John 2:15
Paul was judgmental when he:

■Threatened people with curses – 1 Cor. 16:22[6]; Gal. 1:8-9
■Confronted their hypocrisy, judging their behavior – Gal 2:13-14
■Committed them to divine discipline – 1 Tim. 1:20; 1 Cor. 5:5
The Jesus we have created in our cultural, conservative, “Christian” religion is an idolatrous fantasy, a pure figment of religiously sentimental minds. However, that Jesus is a necessity to keep the church growing and the finances flowing. Often an unsanctified or over-expressed pastoral or evangelistic gift defined by cultural values of success and what it means to be a “good pastor” facilitates the “don’t judge” spirit. The lack of the expression of other equally valuable gifts and graces results in a very warped and utterly unbiblical expression of the pastoral grace.

What is the difference between prohibited judgments encouraged judgments?

The context of Matthew 7 is hypocrisy, not evaluation between good and evil. Jesus is dealing with those who want to “speak from behind the mask,” those who present themselves as something other than what they are, and measure and condemn others for the same sins they secretly engage in word, thought, or deed. Discernment is not being prohibited in Matthew 7.

Assuming we can agree that being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is the divine purpose for all humanity,[7] we cannot go wrong being like Jesus. The judgment we are to engage is the kind the Messiah engaged in. He did not judge by what He saw with the eyes and ears. He looked beyond the surface. He confronted concentrations of power in all forms: religious, political, institutional, financial, spiritual, and based His judgments on behalf of the poor.[8]

The judgments we are prohibited from engaging in are those that are inconsistent with His Word and Spirit. We are forbidden from condemnation (of ourselves and others!): the issuance of a final decree on a matter, a judicial “sentence” of finality. There is only One who is qualified to make those kinds of judgments, because only He knows the hearts of humanity fully. We cannot know the depth, breadth, and scope of His redemption concerning others. We see through a window, darkly.

If all judgment/discernment is prohibited by the Lord, then the general discernment belonging to all believers (as sharing in the Spirit of Christ) and the specific gift of discerning of spirits, are both unnecessary—there is nothing to judge. I suggest that many of the problems experienced in individual lives, relationships, and in local faith communities result from precisely this failure to exercise the most basic elements of discernment: a failure to righteously judge.[9]

Not all judgments are negative! In our culture the word “judgment” has such a negative connotation, it is hard for us to understand that it is possible to make positive judgments! Acquitted! Son not slave! Free! Forgiven! These, and many others, are all positive judgments!

We are to make evaluative judgments from the new creation nature, based on the Word and Spirit of God. Our evaluations are to be full of grace and truth: truthfully gracious and graciously truthful,[10] and severe when necessary[11] . . . remembering our frames are but dust. We must always remember the mire we have been rescued from, and extend the same long-suffering graciousness to others. The measure with which we measure others, we will be measured by. Our judgment is in hope, and in mercy triumphing, not rejoicing in another’s weakness or failure.

Never the less, judge (discern/evaluate) we must . . . starting with our own hearts and the beams in our own eyes.


[1] Matthew 7:1

[2] Titus 2:11-15

[3] 1 John 3:9

[4] John 7:24

[5] Semitic people believed that snakes reproduced asexually, without a father. To call someone the “children of snakes,” was the same in our culture as calling someone a bastard: fatherless. There was no greater insult possible toward a Jewish person. Their entire identity and “place in God” depended on their tracing fatherhood to Abraham and ultimately, God through Adam.

[6] And pronounce a grace-based blessing in the same verse!

[7] 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:11

[8] Isaiah 11:3-4.

[9] Gift expression is healthy only in a fully expressive community of diverse gifts. All gift expressions are divinely designed to be in divine tension and counterbalance one with another. Truly, only the outworking of the inwrought cross and a very present ministry of the Holy Spirit can keep the whole body functioning beautifully.

[10] John 1:17

[11] Romans 11:22

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