The deafeningly loud question that now demands an answer is,
Why our propensity to do what Jesus expressly told us not to do? Namely, “Do not judge others”?
The cause, believe it or not, lies in our faulty 4-point theology:
1. We tell people, Just pray a “Jesus Prayer,” or what is sometimes called “the Sinner’s Prayer,”and you’re in.
When we ask someone to tell us their testimony, what are we asking? When/where did you pray the “sinner’s prayer”? We have come to believe that becoming a Christian is all about “asking Jesus into your heart.” IOW, praying a Jesus prayer.
2. We then give them a birthday (You know how Jesus described our new relationship with Him as “being born again”?) a new-birth birthday present: a Bible. Which I’ll remind is called (in Hebrews 4) “a double-edged sword.”
Now that’s quite a metaphor, as you’ll see in mere moments. A double-edged sword.
3. We then teach them that they are competent to use it.
We buttress this claim of competency with verses like John 16:13, which is so typically yanked out of its context and twisted to mean something totally different than the biblical writer intended for it to mean:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
There it is, we tell our newly-born convert. Just pick up your Bible and read it. And as you read it, the Holy Spirit will personally teach you what the Bible says, what the Bible means, how the Bible should be applied not only to our lives, but to the lives of everyone around us.
I mean, this gets downright frightening! Because we put this doubled-edged sword into the hands of babes whose only claim to fame is that they prayed a prayer.
What, do tell, is the context of John 16:13? The basis of the claim of competency of brand new baby Christians to wield their swords? Listen to what Jesus actually said IN CONTEXT:
There is so much more I want to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you (Who’s the you? Who was in the Upper Room with Jesus when He said this?) into all the truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you what is yet to come.
Not to get too theological on you here. But John 16:13 is NOT what we call an Illumination verse. John 16:13 is a Revelation verse. This passage that has nothing to do with the faulty notion that you and I just pick up our Bibles and read them. And the Holy Spirit will personally teach us what the Bible says, what it means, and how it should be applied not only to our lives, but to the lives of everyone around us.
If it did, why do we need teachers? Why listen to sermons? Why read commentaries? Why study the languages–vocabulary/grammar? Why understand the culture? Why learn the geography? Why learn the history? Why learn archaeology?
John 16:13 has nothing to do with us. Jesus made this promise to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. This verse has everything to do with the apostles writing the New Testament!
OK, so, pray a prayer and you’re in. Here’s your double-edged sword. You are competent to use it.
4. We then teach them — if you can imagine this — we teach them that the highest virtue of Christian living is to take their Bibles — their double-edged swords, lethal weapons, placed in the hands of these, what Peter called in 1 Peter 2:2, “newborn babies” — and to wield these swords at each other.
How? By “Holding.People.Accountable.” Like some self-appointed judge or Krino.)
Krinos who just LOVE to spot something not quite kosher in your life or mine, wag a finger of judgment at us, spew a memory verse or two, and then smugly walk away thinking that sure did serve Jesus today by taking a stand for His truth.
***And We Wonder Why So Many Sincere Christ-Followers Get Devastated By “Christians” In Church???***
We say that Christians are notorious for shooting their wounded, Yes? I’d suggest that — to use the biblical metaphor — “Christians,” not Christ-followers (You know by now how often I make that subtle-yet-significant distinction) — “Christians” are notorious for stabbing, slashing, and decapitating their wounded.
“Christians” do that. Christ-followers don’t. Why? Because by definition, Christ-followers follow Jesus. They seek to put into practice what Jesus said. They seek to do what Jesus did. And what Jesus said, and what Jesus did was this:
Do not judge others.
“Christians” judge others. They make a sport of judging others. Christ-followers do not.
So one final question to consider: How should you and I respond to those “Christians” who do judge others? We’ll answer that question tomorrow. And the answer to that question will astound you.
But just in case you cannot wait that long, you can hear the entire discussion by clicking here:
And what has the church, and so many of the “Christians” who attend them, become in the process?
We ended our discussion in the previous blog post by making the observation that Matthew 18 is the “go-to” passage when it comes to judging others “holding others accountable.” It has become fashionable today in our evangelical church to suggest that it is a noble thing to hold others accountable, even to the point of remove sinning members from their local churches, all based on Matthew 18.
A noble thing because every time leaders begin the “process of Matthew 18” on a “sinning” church member, they can then make the bold (and sometimes boastful) claim that they are “protecting the purity of the body,” especially when they kick the sinners out.
Doesn’t that sound noble? “Protecting the purity of the body.” Would someone please tell me what that means? I mean, that’s like doctors protecting the health of a hospital by kicking the sick people out. And BTW how’s that for leaders “lording it over” the people? Deciding who’s in and who’s out?
What in God’s name have we become?
Would someone tell me please what local church is in fact pure? It’s the old story. If you find a local church that is indeed pure, please don’t join it. If you do, there goes its purity. “There’s sin in the church,” someone will cry. Yes! You bet there is sin in the church. There was sin in every church that I have ever attended. Know why? Precisely because I was attending it, not to mention everyone else who attended it! Who do we think we are? Paragons of virtue? Pictures of purity?
If Matthew 18 was meant by Jesus to be the process of confronting sinners about their sins, perhaps even to the point of kicking some sinners out of church, where do we start?
May I humbly suggest that this is a common misinterpretation and gross misapplication of Matthew 18 that completely ignores the fact that — Are you ready? — when Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 18, the church wasn’t even in existence yet. Oops.
Ekklesia, translated “church” in Matthew 18, is a general term that means “community.” In our context, for want of a better word, in a “religious” context, an ekklesia refers to a person’s family of faith. A loving redemptive family of faith that gathers together to worship God.
It might just interest you to note that in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the word that Jesus used in Matthew 18, ekklesia, occurs 80 times. Jesus’ use of that word was anything but new, novel, or unique.
Ironically, ekklesia does not biblically refer to nonprofit corporations with by-laws, budgets, buildings, business meetings; personnel, payrolls, politics, power-plays, and all of the resultant problems there-to. Ekklesias, as Jesus invoked the term, were never meant to be run like clubs with crosses on them.
Trust me. Neither Jesus nor His disciples were thinking about tax-exempt religious institutions where a person’s membership can, and sometimes should, be revoked. SMH <sigh>
The 3 interpretive keys that unlock this Matthew 18 passage are its context, the word “sins,” and Jesus quoting of Deuteronomy 19:16.
Listen to what Matthew 18 actually says (not what we have been taught is says, not what we want it to say) in its context, sandwiched as it is in between Jesus saying this:
If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? Matthew 18:12
This clearly refers to someone who is tragically teetering on the precipice of losing his or her faith. How do I know that? Because right before that, Jesus warns “anyone (who) causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble…”
We’re talking here about someone whose faith is faltering. Do you really think that Jesus was instructing leaders of churches that at the time did not exist to identify those whose faith is faltering, start a process of Matthew 18 on them, and if need be, kick them out of church? I could cry!
And then this (the other half of the sandwich) immediately following the “Church (that doesn’t even exist) Discipline” part of Matthew 18:
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22)
Now watch! Matthew 18 is NOT a “Church Discipline” passage. Nor is it a let’s-hold-sinners accountable passage. Matthew 18 is a redemption passage, a restoration passage. An all-about-leaving-the ninety-nine-sheep-and-going-after-the-one-whose-faith-is-faltering passage. Not to kick that sinning brother or sister out of their family of faith, their ekklesia. They have already left it.
Matthew 18 is all about bringing that precious little lamb back into the fold.
Don’t believe me? Then read it, IN CONTEXT, Matthew18:15-17:
Moreover if your brother sins against you…
Sins: a clear violation of a biblical absolute. In this context, a clear violation of Torah Law. We are not talking here about a violation of someone else’s personal preferences. This has NOTHING to do with someone not approving of someone else’s music preferences, body art, piercings, or any other of the myriad of things for which people get judged nowadays.
Now watch! If the context of this passage, and the character of Jesus means anything, this is clearly, to use Jesus’ own words, a sheep that wanders away from their faith situation, where a beloved member of a faith family wanders away from their faith-family and is in danger of losing his or her faith.
Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
No gossip here, which is indeed a sin, one of the worst in fact, one that causes division to the unity of any church and untold damage to the subject of the gossip, but one for which anyone is rarely kicked out of church. Hmmm…
LOOK, Matthew 18 is clearly a Galatians 6 situation:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens.
No judging here; no “lording it over” here, no (remember the word from our previous blog post?) krino here!
This is clearly a James 5:19 situation:
My friends, if any followers have wandered away from the truth, you should try to (What? Confront them, and if need be, kick them out of their faith family?) lead them back.
If that person listens, you have won back a follower.
Do you see it? This is clearly referring to a wanderer who returns home to his or her ekklesia, their loving, redeeming, forgiving faith-family.
But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
Here Jesus quoted the Torah, Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, was teaching Jews about what to do when someone in their faith-family wanders away from the teachings of the Torah.
Matthew 18 has nothing to do with Christian Church Discipline, specifically when and how to start process to kick someone out of the institution that we have come to call a church. Again I will respectfully remind you that at time Jesus said this, there were no churches.
Jesus took what was already the practice, established at the very beginnings of the history of Israel, quoted from Deuteronomy, the Torah, that dealt with those who wandered away from Torah teaching. And Jesus carefully/purposefully/mercifully inserted it between two passages about restoration, redemption, and forgiveness.
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the Ekklesia.
IOW, to again invoke Jesus’ words, his or her family of faith who will then go looking for their wandering little lamb.
Now here’s the kick-them-out-of-the-church part:
But if he refuses even to hear the church (Ekklesia), let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
Striking, isn’t it, that Jesus did NOT say to kick him out of the church! The clear implication, as determined by the context of the passage, is that this wondering little lamb has already left it!
What does this mean, Matthew 18:17 (CEV)?
Anyone who refuses to listen to the church must be treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector.
QUESTION: How did Jesus treat unbelievers and tax collectors? Are you ready for an “Ah-ha” moment of monumental significance? Jesus ATE with them. Jesus loved them. Jesus pursued them. Jesus sought to lovingly return them to fold.
For crying out loud, Matthew who wrote Matthew 18 was a tax collector! What if Jesus had kicked Matthew out of his ekklesia? No! Jesus pursued him! Jesus left the 99 sheep and went after the one who wandered away.
And Jesus told us do same!
How did Jesus treat a member of a family of faith who wandered away? Judge him? Kick him out of family? Hear Jesus’ own answer, Jesus’ own selfie of what this looks like: An all-to-familiar story, the story of the so-called Prodigal Son, someone who did indeed lose his faith and left his family:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him (looking, praying, hoping, expecting his return!), was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Umm, excuse me. But that doesn’t sound like judging, krinoing, kicking him out of the family to me. This son had already left the family!!! That’s the point! It’s all about coming home!
The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned (same word as Matthew 18) against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.
I am no longer worthy to be in your family. How should an ekklesia act toward its wandering family members who abandon their faith to choose a lifestyle of sin? Krino them? Kick them out of the church? Shun them?
But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Now, I need to ask, Is there ever a time to remove someone from a family of faith? Yes. Paul did. Once. Coincidentally, in my 40 years of ministry, I have been involved in what was clearly a remove someone from the church process only once. (And BTW, the church blinked, didn’t remove him, subsequently split, and is today a dying ministry, a church whose lampstand God has extinguished. But I digress…)
Again, this only happened in my 40 years of ministry once!
In all of his 13 letters, Paul called for what we typically call “Church Discipline” only once.
Remember the story? 1 Corinthians 5? A guy involved in ongoing, public, present-tense sins so extreme that Paul described them as something that even pagans don’t do. Yet, the church ethos was such that this scandalous individual felt comfortable in his scandalous behavior, even to the point where the church bragged about how progressive they had become!
Corinth as a faith-community had become an uber-sinful ekklesia. And isn’t it fascinating that Paul rebuked the church, not the individual. Once in 13 letters did Paul call for the removal of a sinning member. And even then Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians for the church to restore this repentant sinner to his ekklesia.
Back to the rule, not the exception to the rule. What we have come to call “Church Discipline” I would prefer to call an Ekklesian Celebration of Restoration.
Yes, indeed! Matthew 18 is in every sense of the words a Celebration of Restoration.
So how did we get to this place of judging others? “Holding others accountable”? Even to the point of considering it a noble practice to kick others out of their churches? Why has it become fashionable to krino others to their everlasting hurt and destruction? You’ll discover the answer in tomorrow’s post. And the answer will amaze you.
But in case you can’t wait, you can hear it all explained by clicking on this podcast player:
Jesus made this remarkable statement in Matthew 7:1-6 (NLT):
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.
In response to which I can only say, “Welcome to one of the most ignored or blatantly disobeyed passages in all of Bible.” Ignored or blatantly disobeyed to the needless and unspeakable hurt of so many of us.
May I, in this brief five-part blog, bare my soul as Jesus bared His in Matthew 7?
Believe it or not, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed what was then, and what is today, one of the most common spiritual practices — one that I will be bold enough to identify for what it is: an unconscionable spiritual abuse — that was taking place in so many of the synagogues of Jesus’ day, and is taking place in so many of our evangelical churches today.
And trust me: I don’t use those words, Spiritual Abuse, lightly.
Honestly, if people would simply take Jesus’ words to heart, as He expressed them in Matthew 7, they would absolutely transform our Christian experiences #ForTheBetter, because #ThisIsHuge.
Let’s talk about this!
For the life of me, I do not understand Why.Oh.Why so many “Christians” either do not understand Jesus’ words here in the Sermon on the Mount. Or if they do understand them, deliberately choose to reject them.
Jesus categorically states, “Do not judge others.” How much clearer could He be.
Four times in the first two verses of Matthew 7, Jesus invokes that word “judge.” And He even goes so far as to identify those who do judge others as “Hypocrites.”
Would someone tell me please (he asks rhetorically) what in the world is so hard to understand about that phrase, “Do not judge others”?
And please note that Jesus did not qualify that phrase. He did not say, Do not judge others unless…; Do not judge others if…; Do not judge others when… He simply and pointedly said, “Do not judge others.”
And why not? What’s the basis of this prohibition? We are never to judge others because — Are you ready? — we are each equally sinful. It’s all about a speck and log.
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite!
Do you see it? The speck and log are the same sin, different perspective. You hold a speck at arm’s length, as if to place it in someone else’s eye, it looks like a speck. Bring it right up to your own eye, and the speck now looks like a log. Same sin, different perspective.
Jesus’ point? How dare we judge someone else when we are equally sinful!
The operative word, “Judge,” krino, is a courtroom term. Krino in this context refers to someone who exalts him or herself over another by assuming the position of a “judge” who renders a verdict on another’s behavior. That definition bears repeating:
Krino in this context refers someone who exalts him or herself over another by assuming the position of a judge who renders a verdict on another’s behavior.
In Matthew 7, a krino is a “judge” who assumes the authority to question and/or confront someone else’s behavior or character. Jesus used the word “judge” as a pejorative since it carries with it an implied arrogance on part of an individual who would dare to set him or herself up above another as their self-appointed “judge.” Someone who takes it upon him or herself to rebuke another, to confront another, to correct another for the way he or she lives.
In short, if I may be blunt, Krino as Jesus used the term refers to someone who refuses to mind their own business by placing him or herself in the position of God. Yes, you read that right. Someone who refuses to mind their own business by placing him or herself in the position of God. God, who is our only judge.
This is nothing less that spiritual pride run amok. All done under guise of “holding others accountable.”
An important phrase, that, about which I will have much more to say in this blog space tomorrow. But simply for now, judging others, exalting oneself over another as their self-appointed krino, is nothing less that spiritual pride run amok. All done under guise of “holding others accountable.” Thus giving themselves license to freely condemn others for the way they live their lives. A most important thought, one that I will develop much more fully tomorrow in Part 2 of this blog.
This whole, entire “judging” thing finds its justification in one insidious, all-too-common, non-biblical phrase: “holding others accountable.”
You think on that. And we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.
Or if you simply cannot wait, you can hear the entire message — voice inflections, pregnant pauses, et al — by clicking here:
Spiritual Abuse is a much-neglected, but all-too-common condition in our Christian circles. So let the conversation begin!
What Spiritual Abuse is, why it happens, and how we can guard ourselves and our friends from its devastation. I don’t often beg. But I am begging you now: PLEASE Listen, and then PLEASE “Share” this message with your friends.
“How do I as a parent begin to explain to my teenagers that their older cousin whom they’ve looked up to all their lives has decided that he may have been born a boy, but he feels more like a girl? That he is now taking female hormones, beginning to dress as a female, and is looking at legally changing his name from that of a guy to a girl? That he is now living with his lesbian girlfriend? I am at such a loss here. I didn’t see this coming AT ALL. So many questions… How do I still love my nephew, but not approve of his choices? Do we have holiday dinners as usual? Do I choose as a parent that he isn’t a good influence on my kids and therefore can no longer have them around each other? I am so lost here.”
It’s not just campers at Christian camps who ask questions; adults ask them too, daily. Questions that come to me via email, snail mail, and social media of all sorts. Questions that they would ask God if given the opportunity and with the assurance that He would give them an honest answer.
As I’ve made clear, repeatedly and emphatically, I am not God. I hesitate to speak for God. To the best of my ability, I can only attempt to offer an answer from the Word of God. And I do so with fear and trembling in my passionate pursuit of respecting the Truth and getting the answer right.
Now, having offered all of those disclaimers, I’ll give it a shot, answering these questions exactly as I would as if we were at camp together.
Believe it or not, you have just been handed a golden opportunity to share a teachable moment with your children. As teenagers, they are old enough to be told the unvarnished truth about their cousin, and about your personal struggles with his lifestyle choices. Your struggles mentally and emotionally are what they are, and are perfectly legitimate. It’s OK for them to see you struggle.
As you let them into your soul, they will see as never before in real time, right before their eyes, how you as a committed Christ-follower, as a parent, as an uncle or aunt, are attempting to respond biblically to this new information about your nephew.
Without in any way minimizing your shock, pain, and confusion, let me ask you to consider a couple of questions as you try to process all of this new information. (Trust me, I am processing this right along with you. So if my thoughts seem to be developing as I write this, they are!)
Would you be asking the same questions — about holidays, contact with their cousins, etc. — if your nephew was heterosexual and living with his girlfriend? Or living at home but sleeping with his girlfriend? Or was into Internet porn?
What if instead of something sexual, you discovered that he has cheated on tests at school? Or gossips? Or abuses alcohol? Or uses illegal drugs? Or has been caught telling lies? Or is disrespectful to his parents? Or acts or talks proudly or arrogantly? Or has anger-management issues? Or uses profanity? Or was married and subsequently divorced?
What I am getting at is this: Is the fact that his behavior falls in the category homosexuality or lesbianism the thing that drives your discomfort, and generates these questions?
I find it intriguing that God explicitly states,
There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family (Proverbs 6:16-19).
I cite this passage to suggest that if we are consistent, then we would be asking all of your same questions about any family member (or friend) involved in any of the issues that God explicitly states that He hates — including the telling of lies, or having proud-looking eyes!
Point is, we all do things that God hates. This being the case, how should we be treated with regard to holiday meals or contact with teenage family members?
“Consistency, thou art a rare jewel.” Thus my question, asked in all sincerity, is this: How do we respond with consistency when we are talking about LGBT issues?
I will not presume to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do.
I, too, have a nephew whom I love and respect. If he were to confide to me some lifestyle choices with which I personally disagree, it would make absolutely no differencein how I treated him, or how I would respond to him.
Because you know what? It’s not up to me to agree or disagree with his or anyone else’s lifestyle. Who am I to sit in judgment of another’s lifestyle choices? (And in the interests of full disclosure, truth be told, I, too, have made some choices with which I disagree! No one, including me — especially me — can claim a monopoly on perfection.)
Did not Jesus say to us, “Do not judge others”? Yes, He did — Matthew 7:1. Did not Jesus say to us, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (the her being a woman caught in the act of adultery)? Yes, He did — John 8:7.
There is one (and only one) exception to my it-would-make-absolutely-no-difference statement: If anyone in my life, be it family or friend, was a clear and present danger to my family, that would be a game-changer. By clear and present danger I mean this: It’s one thing for someone to use illegal drugs; it’s quite another to entice my children into using drugs. It’s one thing to be sexually active outside of marriage; it’s quite another thing to display predatory sexual behavior toward my children. It’s one thing to have anger-management issues; it’s quite another thing to threaten bodily harm to my children.
See the difference?
Back on point, my nephew is not accountable to me for his choices. How he chooses to live his life is between him and God. My love for him is unconditional. I cannot think of anything that would change that. His lifestyle is, quite frankly, none of my business.
So were I to receive the exact same bombshell revelation that you just received, I would be surprised, shocked, taken aback. But at the end of the day, in terms of my relationship with and love for my nephew, it would change nothing.
That’s where I currently sit on this issue (emphasis upon the word “currently”). But as I continue to process this, I would LOVE to hear from you. Tell me what you think (respectfully, please). We can certainly agree or disagree and remain friends. These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers. I am open to hearing your take on this subject.