Thursday, January 04, 2007

Judgment or Accountability?

One of the most biting insults in today's society is to be called a judger. In severity, it approaches calling someone a racist, possessing the ability to utterly humiliate, disempower, and destroy a person and her/his career. The insult implies that one is closed-minded, arrogant, hypocritical, and unbiblical. How often do we hear Jesus's words, "Judge not lest ye be judged," and the accompanying phrase concerning the removal of one's own log before speaking of another's speck. The world certainly loves to assault the church with these verses, as do segments of the church who find other segments to be too judgemental.

This term "judgement" popped up in Tuesday's discussion about Dwayne Jarrett, the junior wide receiver for the Univesity of Southern California. I will cease to refer to football again in this post, as I think the discussion supercedes the superficiality of a game. That discussion spurred some questions in my mind about this concept of judgment though, so that's where I'm headed today.

The question that emerges for me is where does Jesus draw the line between judgement and love. Yes, Christ is very clear that we should not judge others. But neither does he permit us to ignore sin or shrug it off like it's a headcold or a mosquito in our ear.

Josiah read the Law to the Israelite people, condemning their sin and moving them towards uncontrollable weeping. Nehemiah replicates this scene with a later generation. The prophets consistently "judge" Israel for their sin. Jesus pulls a Mussburger on the religious leaders of the day because of their unrepentant sin, only with much harsher language. Even in a moment of unspeakable compassion and grace, Jesus tells the unexecuted prostitue to go and sin no more. Jesus's words even prescribe a process in which we bring to light the sin of a fellow believer. Paul's letters contain rebukes to the churches and yes, individuals, whose sin is separating them from the kingdom. In the last book of the Bible, Jesus shows seven contemporary churches where they can remove sin from their midst.

We are not to judge but we certainly are not to condone sin either. So where does that leave us?

Is it a matter of the heart where rebuking in love is good whereas rebuking in pride is not? Is it a matter of spiritual condition where calling out a sin in a believer is different from one who does not claim Christ? Is it a matter of location where we should wait to acknowledge sin inside the walls of the church? Is it a matter of relationship where with friends it is our place but with acquaintances it is not? I think a biblical case can be made for each of these and all of these and more.

One of the ideas at stake in this discussion is the importance of sin. The wages of sin are death. Sin kills. I've seen very recently how unacknowledged and unrepentent sin has poisoned Christian communities from marriage to apartments to small groups to churches. Sin is a big deal. Jesus acknowledges this with his words on it, using the extreme language of eye gauging and member mutilation when speaking of sin. It has destructive consequences in the here and now, consequences that could help to be avoided by rebuke from fellow believers.

Above all though, the fear for me in all of this is that in our fear of being labeled a judger we forget just how terrible sin is.

And consequently, just how great grace is.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

can't argue with you on those points.

All actions should be tempered with love.

Sometimes the loving thing is to call a person to move away from their sin. Sometimes the loving thing is to hold your tongue in hope for an effective time to share the "judgment".