Archive | May 2013

Love Rather than Judge (November 25, 2009)

I talk to a lot of people – huge surprise, I know – Christians who attend church, those who do not, as well as people who do not believe in God at all. In fact, I just had a conversation with a friend who grew up in a Baptist church, but no longer attends any church with her family. Her rational was exactly the same issue I hear from most people who are not actively participating in their faith, especially Christians. It is simply a fear of judgment from the members of the church. This fear may or may not be legitimate, as Satan is the father of lies, and thus tries to pass on self-doubt to individuals. He hopes that this will prevent people from living the lives God has designed for them. However, I believe that a person’s fear of judgment within a church body can be rational. Sometimes people who have grown from certain sins want to help other people going through similar events, and this may come across as judgmental – although it’s likely never the intention of the more mature believer.

Simply put, our job as Christians is to love other people. This doesn’t only apply to lovable people. We should love sinners and less mature Christians, just as Christ loves us, even though it may not always be comfortable for us to do so. We should love others, especially other believers, without judgment or condemnation. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1).” Even if we have spent our entire lives as Christians, and have no major skeletons from our own past, we still fall extremely short of Jesus’ perfection. Jesus died on the cross for everyone, not just us. We need to reach people and share God’s love without any strings attached. We should love others where they are, and encourage their spiritual growth without coming across as if we believe we are better than them.

God is responsible for judging everyone and will hold us accountable for our actions here on Earth. Christians passing judgment on other Christians is essentially saying that God cannot accomplish His will without our help. It is not our place to articulate all of the sins of every person we come in contact with. Believers should establish accountability partners to help facilitate their Christian growth, with people they trust and respect. This way, if you start to engage in inappropriate behavior, there is always a gentle voice to guide you back along the path to righteousness. Any spiritual correction that is necessary should always be given in a humble, loving, private manner. It should be accompanied with understanding and support, rather than judgment and superiority.

In general, we should always remember the words of Matthew 7:3 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” This is an exhortation to believers, and reminds us that we will be judged according to the manner we judge others. Trust in the fact that God can and will change believers into the person He desires them to be. Once a nonbeliever truly accepts Christ into their heart, they will be personally convicted by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works differently in everyone’s life. Sin problems are not all tackled immediately when someone becomes a Christian. God is gentle, loving, and will guide people through their Christian growth. We should nurture this growth as sisters in Christ. Paul sums this up perfectly in Romans 14:1-4:

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

God is in control and will accomplish His will regardless of how much we help Him ‘fix’ other people. This holiday season, may we all live out the words of Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Help make the church a safe place for all people, no matter what their past, present, or future sins may be. Through love, not judgment, we can show others how incredibly fortunate we are to have such a merciful God.

Failure of Modern Religion

I have noticed an extreme polarization in the beliefs in our country over the past few years, with people strongly embracing individual differences, including political affiliation, social issues, and especially views regarding religion.  On one end of the spectrum, moral relativism encourages us that there are unlimited ways to reach heaven as long as we are sincere; but, at the same time, Christians vocally disagree over the gray areas, which are ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  The modern Christian faith finds itself at the center of a great deal of negativity because of this type of spiritual snobbery.  The result is that we may be scaring people away from Christ instead of loving them.

Religion is a man-made attempt to get closer to God.  I’m not sure where I first heard that quote, but I’ve been saying it for years.  In fact, this premise had been a major force in the love/hate relationship I have had with the modern church throughout my lifetime.  The church is full of humans, and humans are very far from perfect, so churches (on a local or larger scale) are therefore fallible, and prone to have problems.  The church is a realistic portrayal of our corporate need for Jesus, but we also can allow it to become an idol and thus we take our eyes off of Jesus.

I know so many people who refuse to give Christ a chance because of negative effects of the church.  I started writing this back in December when a colleague shared with me that she does not attend church because Christians are too judgmental and there are too many man made rules.  I have heard numerous iterations of this statement my entire life.  Examples include, but are not limited to: not allowing a child to be baptized because the mother was unwed, restricting church membership to those who appear to have it all together, and having “certain” sins count as being more horrific than others, when sin is sin is God’s eye and He hates all of it.

Jesus never rejected anyone because they were too bad of a sinner.  He never showed hatred towards someone who grew up with a lifestyle that seemed bizarre to Him.  Jesus pursued relationships with all people; He opened doors and encouraged others to engage.  Jesus spoke to people whom society looked down upon with mercy and love.  Consider the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus began a conversation with her, asking her to give Him a drink, even though Jews were not supposed to associate with Samaritans. Jesus was upfront with her about her sin, but did not condemn her.

Jesus never compromised His beliefs, but He also didn’t shove them down anyone’s throat.  Think about it…  Jesus did not chase after people to share the gospel; he let them come to Him.  He may have preached in public areas, but He never forced His beliefs on others.  When the rich, young ruler asked Jesus about how he could attain eternal life, Jesus answered his question honestly.  However, when the price was too high for this man, and he walked away, Jesus let him go.

The bottom line is this… As Christians, we need to come together on the basic tenets of our faith, those foundations which define our salvation, and we need to stop the internal finger pointing and end-fighting.  Until we do, we are a stumbling block to the lost, those who desperately need the grace and mercy that only comes from Jesus. As Christians, we should focus on loving God and loving people, helping others understand that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and that by believing in Him, we can all enjoy eternal life!

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:34-40).”