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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You Be The Judge

If I were a gambling man, I would have put money down on getting at least one response to yesterday's post accusing me of judging others. Sure enough, the obligatory warning was given. If you missed yesterday's post and the comment to which I'm referring, you can check it out here.

For whatever reasons, for which I'm sure you already have theories, people get really touchy when you dare to take a stand about certain behaviors. You know what? I'm OK with that. There was a time when I was more concerned about everyone agreeing with me. Now I'm more concerned with having God's approval. When I shared the story of a group of people from a local church getting their drink on, I knew there was going to be an invisible line dividing those who disagree from those who share my feelings. The common go-to response to a post such as yesterday's is the "do not judge" refrain. The warning was taken from Matthew 7, also referring to the well-used "speck" and "plank" in the eye.

To those who fall back on such an argument, I want to point out that we judge practically every day. If you find yourself breaking out into a cold sweat at the mere mention of the word judge, let me translate it into the more comfortable Christianese word, discern. We are to exercise judgment all the time. That doesn't mean you are to look down your nose with a pious heart at someone else. But we have to use discernment. Proverbs 3:21-23 says we must hold tightly to wisdom and discretion. You have to understand the difference between this and judging one's salvation, or criticizing someone else while justifying your own sin. I know it's the same word in English, but different meanings in different contexts.

If you're a single female and someone knocks on your door after dark, do you just fling the door open without even looking through the peep hole? Are there certain parts of town you avoid late at night? Do you have any particular standards when deciding whether or not you want to go out on a date with someone, and what activities to which you'll agree?

I hope the answer to these questions is "yes". If so, you are exercising wisdom and discretion. If you see people participating in an activity which would damage your character and reputation as a Christian, you are wise to separate yourself from them.

It is true we are not to criticize others if we do not hold ourselves to at least the same standard. We do become hypocrites if we criticize others for their sin when we've got a truckload of our own that we're ignoring. Yesterday's post clearly makes this disctinction.

If you read yesterday's post and your instinctive reaction was to defend yourself by dismissing the message and turning it around on the messenger, you need to allow yourself to be held accountable. You better believe I've got a lot of qualified people in my life who I respect who are free to get in my face if my actions are inconsistent with the beliefs I profess. My stable of close friends has a variety of people in it. No matter their age, gender or background, they share one distinctive characteristic. They each have qualities I admire and want to have in my own life.   

To close, I want to say something to two types of people. 

First, if you know where your weaknesses lie, (we all know where we are vulnerable), and you find yourself with a person or group of people who dismiss its sin value, find a different set of friends. It's that simple. You need to be around people who elevate your game.

Second, if you know a person or group whose activities and practices are inconsistent with the principles of an authentic Christian life, study and put into practice Galatians 6:1-7. We are to hold one another accountable. We are expected to bear one another's burdens. 

Finally, don't be afraid of whether or not people will approve. Instead, strive to please God.

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
 10Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:6-10