As you will hear in this PODCAST, I would not be overstating the case to suggest that if it wasn’t for this individual, there would be no Church History.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for him, all twelve apostles would have been executed, summarily stoned to death on the spot.
Hear it for yourself in Acts 5:33, “When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill the apostles.”
And they surely Would.Have.Killed the apostles—all of the apostles—if it wasn’t for this one man. This one man who wasn’t even a believer in Jesus. This one man who stood as a buffer between the High Priest and the Apostles.
His name was Gamaliel. And whether you have heard of him before or not, he factors prominently in the development of the New Testament Church in multiple ways.
Gamaliel, a man who certainly lived up to the meaning of his legendary name: “The Reward of God.” For God surely rewarded the faithful obedience of the twelve apostles by sovereignly superintending Gamaliel to be an honorable member of the dishonorable High Council.
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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.
Really? Did Jesus really say that? Did Jesus really mean that? Did Jesus really command us to do that?
Yes, He did.
So I’ve got to ask: In this context of Matthew 7:1-6, who are the people who are unholy? Who are the pigs (ceremonially unclean animals)? Wanna take a guess?
According to the context of the passage, people who krino others, who “judge” others, are the objects of Jesus’ command, those whom He referred to as “unholy” and “pigs.”
It ought to give us pause. Jesus compared those who “judge” others to unholy and unclean “attackers.”
According to Jesus, what should be our response to those who do judge others/krino us? What should be our response to someone whom Jesus proclaims as unholy and unclean?
This will indeed sound harsh. It needs to be harsh. Harsh words for those of us on the receiving end of such harsh judgmental treatment. Because nothing less than your soul and mine is at stake here. And let me respectfully remind you that Jesus said this, not me! What should be our responses to those who do “judge” us or “judge” others? To Spiritual Abusers? Ready?
Have nothing to do with them.
What should be our responses to those who do appoint themselves as our judges? Who mask their judgment by invoking the culturally Christian mantra, “I’m holding you accountable”?
Have nothing to do with them.
Don’t try to reason with them. Don’t get into an argument with them. Don’t try to correct them. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t debate them. Or in Jesus’ words, Don’t cast your pearls before those who cast stones either in your direction or in the direction of others.
Have nothing to do with them.
Our souls are simply too precious and too fragile to be crushed under heavy loads of guilt heaped upon us courtesy of finger-wagging, verse-spewing, “Christians.”
We are under absolutely under no biblical obligation to tolerate Spiritual Abuse at the hands of another. If that is the price that we must pay to have a relationship with these individuals, then the cost of these relationships is far too much to pay.
Have nothing to do with them.
Jesus taught, and our life experiences confirm, that dialoging with judgers is fruitless, damaging, and too often lethal to our souls. This because judgers will twist the Bible — wield their double-edged swords (Remember that metaphor from our previous discussion? — and use their swords to stab, slash, and decapitate us, decapitate you!
Or in Jesus’ own words, use their Bibles to “turn and attack us.”
Which is exactly what they do. Your soul and mine is too precious to expose ourselves to that kind of judgmental, soul-crushing, spirit-killing treatment.
Hear me: As individual Christ-followers, we are about loving, forgiving, pursuing, redeeming, returning, and welcoming home those who wander away from their ekklesias. We do so because that is what Jesus told His followers to do. The same Jesus who told His followers,
Do not judge others!
The same Jesus who told His followers that when others judge us,
Have nothing to do with them.
If you want to hear the entire discussion, click on the podcast player and get ready to be refreshed.
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:
I ended yesterday’s blog post by making this rather novel assertion:
This whole, entire “judging” thing finds its justification in one insidious, all-too-common, non-biblical phrase: “holding others accountable.”
Ouch! OK, so what gives here?
Well, let me first make one thing crystal clear. We are not talking here about you or me going to a trusted friend or loved one — someone we respect, someone who has earned the privilege, someone we are absolutely certain loves and cares deeply about us — and asking him or her to hold us accountable. THAT is, of course, perfectly appropriate. Someone who holds us accountable by our invitation.
The focus of this blog post are those who appoint themselves as those who hold us accountable, not by our invitation, but by their instigation. People who believe that it is their God-given, biblical mandate to scrutinize our lives, put us under their magnifying glasses, and call us to account whenever they see something that doesn’t look quite kosher to them. Oi Vey!!!
Did you know that the word “accountable” appears a grand total of (Are you ready?) three times in the New Testament. Only three times.
I will now share with you each of these three occurrences. As I do, you tell me if you can get from any of this trio of occurrences the faulty, deadly, prideful notion that we have biblical mandate to hold anyone accountable.
Romans 3:19 (NIV), Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
Who holds people accountable? Say it with me: God!
Hebrews 4:13(NLT), Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked&exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable.
Who is the one to whom we are accountable? Say it with me: God!
Hebrews 13:17 (NLT), Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow.
Leaders, watch over the people. Is that not a clear mandate for pastors to hold their people accountable? Hang on to that thought. But first, according to Hebrews 13:17, to whom are your spiritual leaders (AKA pastors) accountable? Say it with me: God!
And yet, how ironic that the writer specifically tells the people to let their pastors do their work with joy and not sorrow. Sorrow caused by whom? I hear it from pastors every single week. Sorrow caused by church members who set themselves up as self-appointed judges, krinos, to hold their leaders accountable, making their ministries a living Hell in the process.
For sake of pastors everywhere, of whom 1700/month left the ministry last year (Note I said not “their ministries,” as if they went from one to another; they left “the ministry!”), #This.Has.Got.To.Stop!
God holds pastors accountable, not church members. If someone reading this blog post cannot abide by their pastor, QUIETLY leave the church. Do NOT take anyone with you. And for crying out loud, when you leave the church (Notice I said “the” church, not “your” church. It’s NOT your church; it’s Christ’s church), when you leave the church, leave your pastor alone. IOW, quit criticizing him, either to his face or to someone else’s face.
On the other hand, pastors, who holds church members accountable? Say it withe me: God! God does! Not us.
As pastors, we dare not abuse our spiritual calling by abusing the people we are called upon to serve, excusing the abusing as “holding them accountable.”
Don’t take my word for it; take Pastor Peter’s word for it:
1 Peter 5, As a fellow elder, I appeal to you to care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it…
(Ah Ha! some pastors will gleefully read. Watching over the flock. There it is. “Holding them accountable!” Really? Really?
Question, Reverend Petros. How does a pastor watch over the flock? Verse 3:
Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.
BTW, Who does the assigning? God does. They are not your people! They are God’s people. Paid for not by your shed blood, but paid for by the shed blood of His Son!
What does a faithful pastor do? Every week we show up to teach the next passage, and allow the clear teaching of God’s Word to do what 2 Timothy 3:16 says it will do:
All of Scripture useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.
Then add to that, we lead these precious people by example, not by “lording it over” anyone. Which means what, exactly? Great question.
“Lording it over” someone means exactly what it sounds like it means: We are not their lords. We are not God sitting in judgment over them.
Pastors feed the flock and lead by example. Pastors do not lead as self-appointed lords over the people. Pastors are not krinos; we are not the peoples’ judges. I mean, you want to talk about spiritual pride? Who do we think we are?
As a practical matter, you tell me what’s more effective? For someone to be held accountable by a self-appointed krino named Pastor Dewey? (Though I do prefer Bishop. Don’t judge me. That was a joke!) Or for someone to be held accountable by an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God?
What in name of Christ have we done to His people?
OK! Look! I know, I know. Somebody reading this post will now commence to shouting, “But what about Matthew 18? What about Matthew 18?” You know Matthew 18, the go-to passage to justify our judging each other within the cozy confines of the church? Well, I’ll address that subject in this blog post tomorrow.
But just in case you can’t wait until tomorrow, you can hear the entire discussion by clicking on this nifty little 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.