Politics bug me. And right now, politics are everywhere. Unavoidable. They fill up my Facebook newsfeed. A nation entrenched behind party lines. And while the “sides” agree on nothing, they actually agree on one thing pretty much across the board. That they’re right. The Democrats are right. The Republicans are right. The independent revolutionaries are right. And they are right with no room for new ideas or opening their minds to new ways of thinking.
And being convinced of “rightness” is sadly not a limp that is limited to politics. I have observed a sad trend of the same nature within the Christian community. Now before anyone thinks I am advocating for some kind of New Age doctrine where there is no absolute truth, let me explain. I believe that the bible is the truth. I believe that there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. But where the tricky part comes in boils down to a word that is thrown about often within our circles and it means different things to different people: Judgment.
Merriam-Webster defines judgment as –
an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought
the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought : the act of judging something or someone
the ability to make good decisions about what should be done
I see a recent trend among my Christian brothers and sisters that can be summarized as a split among doctrines. And it resembles the split between political parties in both content and spirit. On the far left are the Christians who believe anything goes. They feel that their responsibility is to live their lives according to their interpretation of right and wrong and leave everyone else to live theirs in the same spirit. Their job is to have no opinions about what activities constitute sin and what behaviors fall into the categories of permissible or profitable (1 Corinthians 10:23). No one has the right to judge them either, because all things ARE permissible. And they often exercise their “rights” to the exclusion of anyone who might stumble over their lifestyle or choices. You do you, they’ll do them. They believe God tells us not to judge anyone, but have fallen into the trap that the admonition not to judge means that they should not HAVE judgment. Which is a far cry from the truth.
On the far right are the Christians who believe that we are to strive to be as close to perfect as is humanly possible. They believe the way to win unbelievers to Jesus is by being blunt about what sin is and what one must do about it. Speak boldly and powerfully about those who are in sin. Of course offer them a picture of grace, but make sure they have no doubt about the black and white of right and wrong found in the bible. They don’t go so far as to call it “judgment” but speaking out against sin is a big foundational principle in this camp. Many in this group still do talk about our responsibility to love one another and the unbeliever, but love the unbeliever from a distance. Do not associate yourself closely with them or invest your heart with the unbeliever lest you fall away into the same sin. Do not show the world your weaknesses and struggles because that is not a good example to the world. This camp is entrenched in “truth,” but like the far left, they have also missed a big section of truth.
I recently read an article written by Pastor Carey Nieuwhof entitled “5 Stupid Things The Church Needs to Stop Doing to Make Progress.” He talks about the concept of judgment as a part of the legal system, specifically referencing an interaction he had with his criminal law professor in law school. The picture painted is perhaps the most accurate scriptural portrait of biblical “judgment” I have ever seen. He asked, as a lawyer, what he was supposed to do if he was called upon to represent a client he knew was guilty, even though the client would deny his guilt. The answer? “You’re not the judge. You’re his lawyer. Your job is —ethically, morally and legally—to give him the best day he can possibly have in court. The judge will decide whether he’s guilty or not.”
Read that again. Let it really sink in. The truth about our stance on sin is somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in between the far left and the far right of Christian dogmas. Are we called to seek out truth? To understand what God calls sin in His word and to understand as much as possible what is okay and what is sin? Absolutely. Being familiar with the law is always a good idea. But are we called to pass judgment on whether or not a “sinner” is guilty or not guilty? Nope. No way. No how. Is it okay to have an opinion? Sure. Is it okay to shove that opinion of guilt or innocence into the face of the person we are loving to Jesus in hopes that it makes them “turn or burn?” NO.
So back to the definition of judgment. Judgment is an opinion. Formed after careful thought and consideration. The judgment of sin in others is frankly above my pay grade. I would not want the responsibility of deciding where another person will spend eternity. No way, no thanks. I have my hands full with my own willful heart. And therein lies our call in this hour of history.
Go deeper. Deeper into your heart to really investigate the things that are hiding there. Be honest in your pursuit of intimacy with God. Tell Him when you’re mad, even at Him. Pour out your grief and sadness at His feet. Ask for Him to show you His heart in the matters of sin and judgment and winning others for Jesus. Then listen, and check what you hear against the Scriptures He has given us to bring us to places of growth and discovery and depth.
Romans 2:4 (AMP) – “Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]?”
1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) – “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”
Points to consider:
-If it is HIS kindness that leads us to repentance, how much more should it be OUR kindness that leads others on the same path. HIS character is always good. Ours. . .not-so-much. So kindness is essential.
-I doubt someone is going to ask me about my Christian hope if I have no relationship with them because they are a “lowly sinner.” The only difference between me and them is that I have accepted a gift they may not even have an inkling about. My job is to show them love and kindness and humility. Allow them to see my struggle and then allow them to see my hope. If I don’t associate with the person who does not follow Jesus, how on earth will they know enough to WANT to ask?
-It’s all about balance. And balance is typically found at the center of God’s heart. So if I’m not pressing in and tuned in to His heart? I’m going to miss it. And I cannot know the heart of God outside of a constantly deepening relationship with Him. I honestly believe that if every Christian was so completely focused on building a deeper relationship with our Abba, our effectiveness would increase 10-fold, because we would exude HIS charisma and goodness and love. And people are drawn to His character. Read about the life of Christ. The man could never get away to be alone because people were drawn to Him. They didn’t completely understand why, but they were driven to be near Him in the hopes of finding out. And those who pressed in to Him with open hearts were changed.
So my admonition to us as a church is this: Be authentic in your struggle. Let those around you see the depth of your inner darkness so that they can see the light of the hope that you have. Associate with those who have not yet accepted the free gift of salvation, but press in to Him so that His character shows in you without the need to perform/act. Show more kindness than dogma, and never speak the truth without love and grace in equal measure.
God is calling us as a church to a new level of authenticity and transparency before the world. He is calling us to press in to know His heart as never before, so that His face can be seen through the way we love people. Broken people. Sad people. Angry people. Ugly people. People just like you and me. So let’s find the middle ground, you and I. Let’s trudge forward into the muck and the mire of suffering. Because I truly believe that only there will the depth of His love be known.