“The truth hurts” is a pretty familiar phrase to most of us. But we do the truth a disservice when we say that. The truth may hurt for a season, but ultimately, the truth heals.
A regular part of life as Christians is having the truth of our shortcomings brought to the surface for us to deal with. This is essential to our lives being shaped to look like Jesus. But we can be incredibly resistant to it. We tend to want to be the potters of our own clay.
One of the most beautiful but possibly one of the most abused parts of being a part of the Body of Christ is when others are called in by God to help with that shaping.
There is a word that has been terribly misunderstood. It’s a word that has many negative connotations and almost immediately makes people feel uneasy or defensive. Yet, the embracing of the Biblical meaning of this word brings unity and holiness to the Church.
We love to judge others, and usually not in healthy ways. But we hate it when others judge us.
If Christians can be resistant to Scripture itself shaping us, Lord have mercy when a person comes at us wielding Scripture.
However, done right, this is an essential part of the process of being made like Christ. It is not only my responsibility to confront the sin that a brother or sister chooses to do, it is my responsibility to be approachable as other brothers and sisters confront me when I choose to sin (Matthew 18:15).
Before the Great Wall of China goes up (also known as your defenses), I recognize that this is a terrifying thought to so many Christians. It is terrifying because we have miserably failed in this area so often. Horror stories abound of the abuse of brothers and sisters in Christ at the hands of other brothers and sisters in Christ, done in the name of “calling out sin.”
One of the biggest concerns that accompany this is recognizing who I am supposed to approach. Should I approach someone I have no relationship with, that I believe to be in sin and call them to repentance? No. I should only call to repentance those in the body around me, and I should be called to repentance by the body around me, as well.
Relationship is the proper context. We do each other a disservice when we ignore the sin in the lives of the people we love who are Christians.
There are two questions that have to be answered as we think about what it means to judge other Christians’ actions. What is a Christian’s role in judging other Christians? And what is a Christian’s response to being judged by other Christians? You can’t have one without the other.
What is a Christian’s role in judging other Christians?
In Matthew 7, Jesus seems to answer this question easily with “don’t judge unless you want to be judged” (7:1). However, further down in the same chapter, Jesus says we “will know them by their fruit” (7:20), meaning that we will look at the actions of others and see what they are. It seems like a bit of a contradiction.
Jesus was about the heart. And He’s not only concerned with the actions of a lost world—a thing that Christians tend to focus on so narrowly. For Believers, Jesus is still about the heart. His heart yearn for the hearts of people who know Him to be regenerated. He recognizes that our motives must be aligned with His in order to achieve heaven coming to earth.
When I am asked to remove the log from my eye before I remove the speck from my brother’s eye (7:5), my motives are being purified. I am still called to remove that speck, but only after my reason for doing it is clear. The only acceptable reason is that judgment is restorative.
Matthew 18:15-17 lays out how I am supposed to confront someone that chooses sin. This can only be accomplished if my end game is to call that person to repentance and restore them to proper standing in the Church. If I come to someone simply to point out their wrongdoing because of some twisted sense of justice, I am the one who is wrong. Justice does not fight against love.
Christians should call other Christians to repentance from sin, as long as they have a relationship with each other and the goal is to restore, not condemn.
What is a Christian’s response to being judged by other Christians?
Part of the reason judging has been so thoroughly mishandled is because we have focused heavily on giving and not receiving. What does it mean to correctly receive a call from another person to repentance and restoration when I sin?
The massive qualifier in this is that no one on the planet wants to be told that what they are doing is wrong. Even if we know it’s wrong, we generally are not skipping through fields while picking daisies at the thought of being confronted. It’s humiliating and/or infuriating.
Don’t judge me has become the battle cry for many Christians who have no desire to be confronted about the things they know are wrong. As often as confrontation is abused, it is also avoided to embrace a feeling that needs to be put under control.
There is a key word in Matthew 18:15 that we have to give some attention. That word is listen. We do not need to be immediately defensive when someone tells us we are wrong.
We live in a time where to disagree means to hate. This can’t be assumed. It takes guts to confront, and many do it with good intentions. Even if we don’t listen in the sense that we agree with what’s being said, we should listen in the sense of entertaining the ideas and then weigh what is said against Scripture.
Scripture says no one is perfect. We say we are not perfect. If these statements are true, at least entertaining the fact that we can be wrong and need to repent is a reality that has to be on our radar at all times. Humility must be embraced. Humility is the key to accepting a call to repentance.
Carl is the husband of a beautiful wife, daddy to two great kids and owner of a dog named Perry. He loves on young adults as a pastor at The Freedom Center in Fenton, Mich. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter or Wordpress.