Thursday, March 10, 2011

To Judge Does Not Mean To Hate--a sermon

Judgment does not equal hate.  God loves everyone and He expects His children to do so also.

One reason I have been thinking about this recently is because I am realizing how delicate internet conversations are.  When we only see one dimension of a person it is easy to be a little more critical of them or misunderstand what they are trying to say.  It is not helped that we are not always careful in what we say and how we say it.  Often we use words that are not exactly what we mean.  Sometimes that is because we don't understand that we are using the wrong word.

Let me be more clear.   I have been involved in a few conversations in the last few months about sin.  The conversation is usually at some point shut down with the phrase "we should not judge."  Occasionally the conversation goes on about maybe we are to judge in certain situations, etc.  But the original question of "is this a sin" and if it is "what do we do" is buried in defending our right to judge sin at all.  Now I realize many Christians actually think we are not to judge, but before you judge me for judging, I promise to get into the scriptures on this later, but it is not my current point.  When someone shuts down a conversation with "we should not judge" I actually believe the intent of their comment is "we should love!"  Judgment is so closely associated with being hateful that even Christians use the words interchangeably.  "We should not hate" becomes "we should not judge" and "you are judging inappropriately here" becomes "you are showing hate."

As usual we put ourselves in two camps--those who believes it is okay to judge and those who think it is not okay--and we judge each other for being in their camp.  As usual the answer is a lot more complicated.  We cannot judge the heart.  Only One knows the heart (1 Corinthians 4:4-6).  We are not to judge the gray areas (Romans 14).  We are not to judge the world (I Corinthians 5:9-13) or at least not at this time (1 Corinthians 6:1-4).  Then there are many passages that just say: "Do not judge" (Matthew 7:1-3, Luke 6:36-38, and James 4:10-12).  So what does that leave us judging?  "Do you not judge those who are within the church?" 1 Corinthians 5.  

But again we get into trouble because we still define the word judge poorly.  Perhaps we really do believe it means hate or more kindly--criticize and find wanting.  But the Greek lexicon on the word judge in 1 Corinthians 5:12 says:
  1. to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
  2. to approve, esteem, to prefer
  3. to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
  4. to determine, resolve, decree
  5. to judge
  6. to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
  7. to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one's case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
  8. to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
  9. of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
  10. to rule, govern
  11. to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
  12. to contend together, of warriors and combatants
  13. to dispute
  14. in a forensic sense
  15. to go to law, have suit at law
15 different things.  Not one of them is hate, criticize, or find wanting.  But we are called to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong.  We are to read the Bible and determine what is sin (a whole lot more things than we usually "judge" others on).  If we see a brother or sister in Christ sinning, the Bible gives us nice clear instructions.  "Go and show him his fault in private" (Matthew 18:15-17).  "Do not regard him as an enemy" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).  Instead "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1-5). (For the really curious here are some more cross references.)

But is this what we see played out?  Sometimes, certainly.  But the church as a whole has a reputation for judging and a judging that means hating.  I am not just talking about the truly hateful acts like bombing abortion clinics, protesting funerals, and holding signs in public that say "God hates homosexuals" or "God hates anyone" for that matter.  There is also the gossip about the divorced mom, the refusal to shake a hand because he has a boyfriend, and the seeking out the better dressed or more attractive person after service.  These are played out in churches all across the country in main stream Christianity.  We sneer at the word "tolerance" but do we really want to be the "intolerant?"

Yesterday in my Bible Study a woman was talking about how she felt homosexual marriage was wrong and her friend had responded with "but God loves everyone."  Another woman immediately piped up with "that is a lie straight from the devil" and continued on with how we are to shake the dust off our feet like the apostles did. The first woman responded with "God does love everyone, but He does discipline sin."  My teacher clarified further so I think most of the group went away knowing that God does love everyone--even those who are far from Him and will never choose Him (not defining homosexuals as such, just saying EVERYONE (Romans 5:6-10)).  But I do not think this woman's attitude was unusual.  Often we say "hate the sin not the sinner" but act as if we hate the sinner.

As we get farther from Christ's resurrection and closer to His return, the world is only going to get further from the morality of the Bible (Romans 1:18-32).  It will be all that more important that we stand firm (Philippians 1:26-28) and shine as a light in the darkness (Romans 2:18-20).  Maybe your church is does this very well.  I actually feel happy to be a part of my church as we strive to love our community even given this lady's comment.  But I think the world as a whole is seeing churches as a place that condemns the world's sin and is really, really good at their sin of choice--hate.  God is love (1 John 4:7-8).  The original church in Acts grew because what they had was something others wanted.  Don't worry, they dealt with sin (Acts 5:1-11) but for the most part they just followed Paul's advice:
 "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
 Let all that you do be done in love."
                                                         1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Is this not a worthy goal for us all?


1 comment:

Ashley Sisk said...

I had to come over and find your message - you really laid it out there and I love how you wove scripture into your words. So beautifully said and you make some excellent points!