With non-believers, how we communicate is as important as what we communicate. Many of us need to hear this counsel and heed it. We should attempt to speak truth in love to the lost around us. Yet it also seems inevitable that the church and its people will be judged for taking firm stands against sin. Jesus judged sin, and so did his followers, and they were killed for their stances. Even if we are friendly and loving, I wonder if Christians can easily avoid this label.
Bottom Line of Message: Jesus did not come to be our Judge, but our Savior. As followers of Christ, we must follow his example.
• The two greatest perceptions of Christians by young outsiders today are that we are judgmental and anti-homosexual. Interestingly, these are the same perceptions that young churchgoers have of Christians as well.
• Why do people perceive Christians this way?
— Is it our stance toward legislation—we’re known more for what we are against (and therefore judge) than what we are for?
— Is it because we suggest to people that they have to change their sinful behavior before God will love them and accept them?
— Is it because we say that we hate the sin and not the sinner when people that are homosexuals see their behavior as an aspect of their identity (and so what they hear is that we hate the sinner)?
• Are we really following Christ’s own example when we judge the sinful behaviors of others?
• During Jesus’ own ministry, he was often put in the position of judge.
— The rich, young ruler wanted Jesus to “judge” him as someone who was good and would inherit eternal life (Lk 18:18-23).
— Martha wanted Jesus to “judge” Mary as not having done the right thing (Lk 10:38-42).
— The man who wanted Jesus to tell his brother to split the inheritance with him (Lk 12:13-15). Consider Jesus’ response: “Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
• But did Jesus accept this role of “Judge”? Let’s look at a defining passage. Biblical Text: John 7:53—8:11
• Be sure to give qualification about how this text isn’t in the oldest manuscripts, but we have no good reason to think it wasn’t an authentic story.
• The scene looks like a courtroom with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees as prosecutors, the woman as the defendant, the crowds as the jury, and Jesus positioned as the judge.
• The religious leaders think they have trapped Jesus. Under Jewish Law, it appears the woman should be executed because of her sin. But the Romans wouldn’t allow Jews to execute people—that was only Rome’s prerogative. So how will Jesus respond?
• In verse 7, Jesus implies that if he is to take the role of judge, then everyone will stand guilty—no one is without sin in their lives.
• Everyone leaves; no one is left to judge or condemn her except Jesus.
• Then Jesus says something incredible: “Neither do I condemn you.” He does acknowledge her sin and call on her to change her ways, but he doesn’t condemn or judge her.
• Refer to John 3:17-18. Jesus did not come to condemn or judge and if someone stands condemned or judged before God, that is not our responsibility. Our responsibility, like Jesus’, is to offer love and grace without condemnation.
• What if we applied this truth as followers of Jesus?
• Isn’t this how we want to be treated? None of us is without sin in our lives; all of us are in need of God’s grace and we are so thankful that Jesus loves us and accepts us in spite of our sin.
• Like the woman caught in adultery, our sinful ways and lives will only change when we have first received, accepted, and experienced the unconditional love of Jesus. If that’s true, then shouldn’t we be people who are focused only on showing unconditional love and grace, and not judgment and condemnation toward others?
• What if Christians and local churches became places known for their grace and love and not for their judgment? Do you think that would be attractive?
• Who have you judged in your life and what can you do to change your posture, and consequently, begin to change the perceptions?
• We have a new and different starting point for our attitudes and actions: love and grace. Why? Because “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Are we willing to follow his example?
1. If judgmentalism means you marginalize someone, describe a time when you have been judgmental towards someone else (whether regarding homosexuality or some other behavior you considered sinful). Compare that to a time when you were judged by another Christian who seemed wrongly motivated to find fault.
2. What is your reaction to 1 Corinthians 5, especially verse 12? Paul informs the Christian community that they have no responsibility to judge outsiders, but he says, “It certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”
3. How can Christian communities learn the proper balance between what it means to be gracious and effective with “outsiders,” while being very clear on not accepting sin among churchgoers? Keep in mind that its complex because many people who visit churches are actually “outsiders.” How should church discipline function when the community is invited in every Sunday?
4. Have you ever heard the statement, “Hate the sin but love the sinner”? Have you ever used that phrase? Is that really possible? How does this approach help or hurt your ability to unconditionally accept outsiders?
Negative Stereotype: Non‐Christians believe we are judgmental. (Condemnation)
Treating non‐believers as “sinners”/or “more” sinful than us, acting morally superior. Criticizing other’s beliefs, choices, or conduct, when they don’t reflect our beliefs, choices, or conduct.
Making decisions ABOUT someone without really knowing or caring to know about them.
What’s your definition of being judgmental?
A Story to Make It Real:
“My grandmother always tried to make me feel bad that my mom didn’t take my brothers and I to church. She would tell me that my mom was a bad person. Fortunately I was only around my grandmother for a few weeks each summer and on Thanksgiving or Christmas. My mom however was raised constantly being told that she was a bad person whenever she did something ‘ungodly.’ I’ve seen the emotional scars it left on my mother.”
Examples: (Do you have any stories to share here? What’s the impact of our judgment?)
1. How we treat or talk about divorced couples.
2. How we treat or talk about a woman who has an abortion.
3. How we look at and talk about people who have lots of tattoos, or piercings in “not‐so‐typical” places.
4. Disowning friends or family for choosing a different religion, choosing not to be religious at all, or choosing to be atheist.
5. How we treat/talk about an unmarried couple living together or who is having a child.
6. How we treat a referee/umpire that presumably makes a “bad call”.
7. How we talk about the “unacceptable” people others spend time with. (Acts 11:1‐3)
8. Any other examples you can think of?
What God Say About It (The Bible): God speaks to us about Judgment on two fronts:
1) Judgment of people outside the church, 2) Judgment of people within the church
• John 8:7, 11 (NIV)
7 If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.
• 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height (the future King David’s taller and more handsome brothers), for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
• John 3:17-18 (NIV)
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
• 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 (NIV)
4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
• Psalms 50:4-6 (NIV)
4 He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: 5 “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” 6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge.
• Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)
1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
• Romans 2:1-3 (NIV)
1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
• 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NIV)
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
• Verses for further study: Psalms 75:7, Isaiah 3:13-14, John 5:22, 1 Corinthians 5:1-3, 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, Acts 11:1-3, Matthew 13:36-43, Matthew 13:47-50, Romans 2:12-16, Romans 14:10-13
Closing Thoughts on Judgment: (imagine visiting a judge for a speeding ticket)
To judge rightly, you need the authority to pass down judgment, the power to enforce your judgment, a comprehensive understanding of the rules, laws, or guidelines that determine right from wrong, the discernment to identify the truth from all perspectives, and the wisdom to exercise mercy and forgiveness or wrath and punishment at the appropriate time, for the greatest good.
• Who alone can rightly judge?
• Can you give up judging others and trust that God will judge rightly?
1) In the coming weeks, raise your awareness of how you might unintentionally be judgmental through your thoughts and words, and take notice of similar judgment from others.
2) Study these Bible verses for greater depth and meaning.
3) When tempted to judge someone, pray and trust God to judge for you according to His perfect will. Then for bonus points , go out of your way to show love to them instead.