This is the second week of our series called That’s Just Wrong! And this series has already been a lot of fun. In this series, we’re talking about some things that most of us just assume to be true. We think these things are right. We think they’re Biblical. But in reality, they’re not.
Last week, we talked about this one: God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. For a lot of us, this shifted our paradigm. I had conversations with people who said, “I would have bet money that this was in the Bible!” But as we saw last week, it’s not.
This week, we’re moving on to another fun one. Christians shouldn’t judge. Oh yeah. It’s going to be all kinds of tense in here today. This is going to be fun. Let me pray for us and we’ll jump in.
If I were to ask you, “What is the most well-known, most often quoted verse in the Bible?” what would you say?
Most of us would say, “John 3:16.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
If we were talking about the most quoted verse among Christians, that may be true. But that is absolutely not the most quoted, most well-known verse in the Bible today.
That distinction belongs to Matthew 7:1. “Judge not…” (Matthew 7:1a, KJV)
Almost everyone you meet can quote that. They may not be able to tell you where it’s found in the Bible. All they know is that somewhere in that big old thick Bible, it says, “Judge not.”
They don’t realize who said this. (By the way, it’s Jesus. Jesus said this.) And they don’t realize that they are pulling this one statement way out of context. All they know is this is in the Bible, and they are lightning fast to pull this out anytime they hear the “s” word.
The “s” word I’m talking about probably isn’t the “s” word that you’re thinking of. In this context, the “s” word I’m talking about is “sin.” Anytime the word “sin” comes up, there are a ton of people who are Quick Draw McGraw. They are lightning quick to pull this verse out of their holster and fire away.
And because it’s in the Bible…because Jesus Himself said it…a lot of us have come to agree with them. We’ve come to believe that Christians shouldn’t judge.
But here’s what we’re going to discover today…that’s a lie.
“But wait a minute, pastor! You just admitted that Jesus said this Himself!”
You’re right. Jesus did say this. But He didn’t say only this. He didn’t just say this and then pack up and go home. It wasn’t just, “Judge not, and now I’m going to call it a day.” Jesus kept teaching, so we’ve got to keep reading.
And that’s something we’ve always got to remember when someone pulls one statement out of the Bible. I had a professor in college who always used to say, “Context is king.” It’s true.
You can pull isolated statements out of the Bible and pretty much make them say anything you want. And people do that all the time. But if we want to know what God actually says in Scripture, we’ve got to read it in context.
So let’s read what Jesus said in Matthew 7. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
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? 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?
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.” (Matthew 7:1-5, NIV)
There are some crucial truths that we need to see in these words of Jesus.
First of all, sin exists. When Jesus talked about planks and sawdust in our eyes, he was referring to sin that is present in our lives. And when He talked about removing this lumber from our eyes, it was a call to remove sin from our lives.
When you look at this and many, many other things that Jesus taught, there is no ambiguity. There is no confusion. It’s very, very clear that Jesus believed and taught that sin exists.
But we live in a culture that believes the exact opposite. Sin does not exist. Right and wrong do not exist. It’s all opinion and perspective. If it’s right for you, then it’s right.
In our culture, it’s referred to as tolerance. Tolerance is held out as the highest possible ideal to govern our lives. If there was a mountain of morality, tolerance is the peak of Mt.Everest. It’s what we should all aspire to. It’s the principle that should govern our lives.
The problem is that tolerance has been redefined. Tolerance used to mean showing respect for a person who has different beliefs than you, even though you don’t share those beliefs.
That’s not the deal anymore. Now, tolerance has come to mean that every single individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle, and truth claims are all equal.
Did you see the change? It’s no longer about respect. Now, it’s all about acceptance. The old tolerance said, “Even though I disagree with your beliefs and lifestyle, I still respect you.”
The new tolerance says, “I fully accept and celebrate your beliefs and your lifestyle as valid and true and good.”
And people who preach the new tolerance gospel will often hold out Jesus’ words to solidify their claim. “Judge not!”
You can’t judge, because all beliefs and values and lifestyles are all equal.
Larry Osborne wrote, “In the spiritual and moral realms, two diametrically opposing viewpoints or standards can both be true at the same time.
Yet this is an idea that is accepted nowhere else. Only in the moral and spiritual realm do we buy such nonsense.
Imagine an engineering student arguing that his calculations don’t matter as long as they work for him. Not many of us would drive over a bridge that he designed. Or imagine your doctor giving you a handful of pills and telling you to take whichever ones ‘feel right.’
In every area of life where we can test outcomes, we know that some things work and some don’t. Some answers are correct and some aren’t. The belief that the spiritual and moral realms operate differently is an unsupported leap in logic.”
Yet it’s a leap that ¾ of people in our country make every day. It’s estimated that less than 25% of Americans believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. ¾ of people in our country believe that there is no way to determine right and wrong. If it’s right for you, then it’s right.
Another study, and this one is really scary, said that 6% of American teens believe that there are moral absolutes. Just 6%. But what about Christian teens? Surely that number would go up if the survey was of Christ-following teenagers. It does go up…a little. 9% of Christian teens believe that there are moral absolutes.
Think about what that means. If this study is accurate, it means that 91% of Christian teenagers say that, when it comes to morality, there is no such thing as absolute truth. 91% of Christian students now believe that it is impossible to tell right from wrong. They believe that when it comes to a person’s morality and lifestyle, nothing is objective. Nothing is absolute. If it’s right for them, then it’s right.
But the problem is that the teachings of Scripture don’t line up with that kind of thinking. Jesus Himself taught clearly and consistently that there is right and there is wrong. Sin actually does exist. And to recognize sin REQUIRES judgment. Judgment is a prerequisite to calling sin, sin.
That’s the first thing we have to understand. But Jesus teaches something else that we absolutely have to own.
Judgment starts with me. If you’ve been thinking, “Amen!” and “Preach it pastor!” up to this point, you’ll probably stop now, because it’s going to get really uncomfortable in here.
Go back and look at what Jesus said. “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? 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?
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.” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV)
Sin exists. And calling a sin, a sin requires judgment. But that judgment starts with me. It starts with an honest evaluation of my life. It starts with me taking stock of what is actually going on in me.
Jesus didn’t tell us to ignore the specks in the eyes of others. But He did tell us to take the log out of our own eye, first. Judgment starts with me.
That means that as long as I am losing the battle over a specific sin in my own life, I have no right to say anything. If there is a sin that is dominating my life, I’d better keep my own flipping mouth shut.
This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect. None of us will ever life a perfect, sinless life. But there’s a difference between that and when a sin has you by the throat.
One of the most famous instances in my generation was Jimmy Swaggart. Those of you who are old enough will absolutely remember that.
Jimmy Swaggart was a hellfire and brimstone televangelist back in the ‘80s. And he preached particularly hard against sexual sin. That was his hot button, and he would stand before TV cameras and rail and shout and condemn these abominable sins.
Until it came out that he had been cavorting with a prostitute.
Isn’t it interesting that, a lot of times, we will rail the hardest against things that we ourselves struggle with the most? And in doing so, according to Jesus, we are condemning ourselves.
If something like sexual sin has a stranglehold on you, then you have absolutely no business jumping into the fray. You have no business condemning homosexuality if you’re having sex outside of marriage. You have no business condemning adultery if you’re hooked on porn. And on and on and on.
And sexual sin is just one example. Jesus gives a very stern warning about judging sin in others when sin has a stranglehold on us. He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV)
Judgment starts with me. Before I open my mouth to say anything to anybody regarding their sin, I’d better do some serious self-evaluation. If I don’t, all I’m doing is condemning myself.
This is more important now than it has ever been, because we now live in the age of social media. When a thought pops into our head, it can be online for the world to see in a matter of seconds.
If every Christian would apply Jesus’ words to their Facebook page and their Twitter feed, there would be a lot less posts and tweets, wouldn’t there?
This is the nasty truth about judgment. It starts with me. And if I’m honestly judging myself, I’m going to unearth some really, really nasty stuff. But as long as I live with a plank in my own eye, I’ll never be able to help anyone remove the speck from their eye.
Now, it doesn’t mean that we never get around to the speck. It just means that we deal with our own junk first. But once we deal with our own junk, Jesus calls us to help other believers.
This is going to sound crazy to a lot of us at first, but this is the truth. Healthy judgment among believers is loving.
This sounds so wrong to us because we’ve been conditioned to believe that Christians shouldn’t judge. Judgment is wrong. Judgment is bad. Judgment is the opposite of loving.
Not if it is healthy judgment that has love and restoration as its motive.
Here’s what James says in his New Testament book. “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20, NIV)
This is a clear call to judgment among believers. It’s addressed to brothers and sisters. In other words, Christians. Those of us within the church.
And James said that if any of us wanders from the truth, there has to be another believer who cares enough about us to intervene. To call out the sin and to call us back to repentance. And in doing so, we are saved from death.
Sin has consequences. And when sin goes unchecked in our lives, the consequences grow even more severe. There are consequences in our lives. There are consequences in the lives of those around us. There will be consequences in eternity.
Now, if I see the sin in your life…if I can see the consequences that are coming…yet I keep my mouth shut and say nothing, is that a loving thing to do? No, it’s not.
Several years ago, my whole family spent Thanksgiving at a cabin in Tennessee. Mom, dad, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews…everyone was together at this huge cabin.
One night, everyone kind of went their separate ways for a while. You’ve got to do that when the whole family is together to save your sanity, don’t you?
Nicki and I were the first ones back to our cabin. I was out on the balcony, enjoying the cool night air, when I heard something walking down on the ground below. The balcony was on the second floor, pretty far off the ground. I grabbed a flashlight and tried to find the animal. I could hear it, but never was able to see it. But there’s only one thing it could have been. With the amount of noise it was making, it had to be a bear.
Then, I saw some headlights driving up to the cabin. Some more of my family were returning. And to get into the cabin, they had to walk in very close proximity to where the sound was coming from.
So, what do you think was the loving thing for me to do? Keep my mouth shut or speak up?
Or course the loving thing to do was speak up! I yelled down to them and warned them that there was a bear close by. This is my family. I don’t want them to be mauled by a bear. And if I know that danger is present, I have to do something about it. I have to speak up. After all, this is my family.
Here in the church, we are family. And when someone is in danger, the only loving thing we can do is speak up. That means judging a sin by calling it out. But it’s done so they can be rescued. Restored. Healed. Set free.
Now, let me ask the hard question. Would you be okay with that? Would you be okay with someone here at church coming to you in love and calling out a sin in your life?
On the flip side, would you be okay stepping up and confronting someone in love? Would you be okay taking the risk to call out their sin in the hope that they can be rescued?
On both sides of the coin, this takes incredible humility. That’s probably why it doesn’t happen very often.
It takes incredible humility to be on the receiving end of this rebuke. But it’s the only way you can be healed.
Listen to these words from Proverbs 12. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1, NIV)
Hard to miss the point there, isn’t it? According to Scripture, if you’re not willing to receive correction that is given in love, you’re stupid.
It is stupid to allow pride to stand in the way. It is stupid to question the motives of the other person. It is stupid to justify and pass the buck. It is stupid to basically act like a 5-year-old who says, “I know you are but what am I?”
But there is another option. We see that in Proverbs 15. “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” (Proverbs 15:31, NIV)
Someone who is wise will listen, even welcome, correction when it is given in love. The wise person knows that, even if it hurts…this person has their best interests at heart. But that takes humility.
And it takes humility to be the one that confronts the situation. It’s a risk. What if they don’t take it well? What if they get angry? What if this severs the relationship? What if I lose a friend over this? What if they leave the church over this?
Those are big questions. Those are hard questions. But love is willing to take the risk. Love will risk offending, and even losing, a friend. Because love sees the danger ahead, and love simply must do something about it.
That’s the kind of relationships that are supposed to exist within the church. But it is a completely different story when we’re talking about those outside the church. This is absolutely NOT the approach we take in our relationships with unbelievers.
Here’s what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5. “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 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.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, NIV)
A lot of Christians get this so unbelievably wrong. They isolate themselves from the world. And then they take shots at the people in the world.
That’s not what Paul said AT ALL. He didn’t tell us not to associate with sinful people in our world. He said the exact opposite. He said, “If you don’t want to associate with sinful people in this world, you would have to leave this world.”
He never called us to distance ourselves from people who don’t know Jesus. Just the opposite. He called us to engage with them. To get involved in their lives. To meet them where they are.
That’s not what we see a lot of the time today, is it? Instead, it seems like most Christians believe that they are called to completely isolate themselves from the world. That’s why we have this Christian subculture in America. Christians have their own music, their own TV and radio stations, their own stores, their own t-shirts, their own _______________.
I’m not saying that any of these are inherently bad, but they become instantly bad if they cause us to retreat from the very people that we’re called to reach.
Paul said, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 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.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10, NIV)
But then he shifts his focus to believers inside the church.
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5:11, NIV)
Paul is draws an obvious line of distinction between believers and unbelievers. The expectations are completely different. And the way we interact is completely different.
There is a different standard that we can expect from people who profess to know Jesus and love Jesus and follow Jesus. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but it does mean that we are different.
And then Paul nails it when he finishes up the passage. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, NIV)
What business it is of mine to judge those outside the church? As a person who follows Jesus, it is absolutely none of my business to judge people who don’t know Jesus. It doesn’t mean that we go soft on the truth. It doesn’t mean that we don’t hold the line that sin exists, that there is such a thing as right and wrong.
But what it does mean is that it is beyond stupid to expect a non-Christian to live by Christian standards. It’s absolutely asinine.
I’m about to get somebody all riled up. Especially when this hits the internet.
Here we go. Christian boycotts are really dumb. Remember when the Southern Baptists boycotted Disney back in the ‘90s because of their support for the homosexual agenda. Boy, that really worked, didn’t it?
And now, the latest is a call to boycott Girl Scout cookies because of some supposed ties that the Girls Scouts have with the abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Look, if you don’t want to support Disney, then don’t. And if you don’t want to buy Thin Mints this year, don’t. But here’s the problem with these boycotts. You are expecting non-Christian corporations and groups to operate according to Christian standards. That’s foolish.
And the same thing goes for individual people that we interact with in our lives. You know that single guy in your neighborhood who sleeps around? The girl at work who parties too much? The couple down the street who is drowning in debt because they worship their stuff? They don’t know Jesus, so…surprise, surprise…they are living like people who don’t know Jesus! Shocker!
And here’s what the Apostle Paul tells us…it’s none of our business to judge them. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t holding the line on the truth. It means that something more important is at stake.
You know what’s more important than the sin that’s got you all wound up? The fact that they don’t know Jesus.
In his book called 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe, Larry Osborne wrote, “Judging non-Christians by Christian standards puts the cart before the horse. Even if we successfully convince non-Christians to live by Christian standards (or successfully legislate it), without bringing people into relationship with Christ, all we’ve done is populate hell with nicer and more moral people.”
Here at Connect, our very first core value is it’s all about Jesus and it’s not about us. And this is why. Because if it’s all about us…if all we’re concerned about is people living according to the right standard so they don’t make us uncomfortable…if that’s what we’re about, then a ton of people are going to go to hell.
The reason we’re all about Jesus is because He is the one that can change that. We’re not after behavior modification. We want to see the love of Jesus change lives. And so when we’re talking with unbelievers, that’s what they’ve got to hear from us. Love. Pure, undiluted love.
Judgment is reserved for those of us who already know Jesus, because we’re supposed to have the spiritual maturity to receive it. But it’s ridiculous to expect the same from a person that doesn’t know Jesus at all.
We’ve been called to shine a light into a dark world, not shake a fist at it. People who don’t know Jesus are NOT the enemy. They are victims of the enemy. And we had better stop declaring war on them.
Think about that before you post that next Facebook rant. You know, the one where all your Christian friends will “like.” The one where all your Christian friends will comment, “Yeah! That’s right! Preach it!”
And the one where your non-Christian friends will just shake their head and say, “You Christians are all alike.”
We have to decide what we’re out to accomplish. Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference? Do you want to win an argument or do you want to win a person?
The American church has made a lot of points. And it’s attempted to win a lot of arguments. And a lot of people are going to hell because of it.
Here at Connect, we are determined to go back to what Jesus laid out for His church in Scripture. Among those of us who love and follow Jesus, we will be accountable to one another. We will love each other enough to have hard conversations. And we will be humble enough to receive them in love.
But if you’re not following Jesus yet, we will love you. Now, we’ll tell you the truth. It’s not loving to lie to you. But we will not judge you. We will not condemn you. We will accept you as you are because that’s how Jesus accepted us. And that’s how Jesus will accept you.
Jesus meets us right where we are. Now, He doesn’t leave us there, but He does meet us there. And nothing…not one single thing…matters more than all of us beginning a relationship with Him.
Jesus went through hell so you wouldn’t have to. He gave up His life so you could have life. When He died on the cross, He paid the price for all of your sin. It was a price that you could never pay, so He paid it for you. And then three days later, He rose to life again. And His new life gives us the promise of a new life. It takes all the pain and hurt and baggage that comes with our sin and it wipes it out. We get a clean slate, a complete and total second chance. And we also receive the promise of life for all eternity in the presence of God.
That’s what our church is all about. And if you keep coming to Connect, that’s what you’re going to hear every week. You’re going to hear Jesus, and Jesus, and more Jesus. But as you wrestle with your doubts and your questions and your trepidation and even your anger…we will love you. We’re going to keep telling you about Jesus, but we’re also going to love you on every step your journey back to Him.