Thursday, September 30, 2010

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

When you preach against sin and for righteous living, there are many attacks one faces.  I have experienced it as I am sure many others have as well.  We are called judgmental and hypocritical among other things.  The lines usually used are "judge not lest ye be judged" or "take the plank out of your own eye."  Unfortunately, those verses are misinterpreted by those who want to continue to live in their sin.  They think that telling a teacher that they are not perfect excuses their own shortcomings before the Lord.  Today I want to address that passage in Scripture and hopefully share its proper interpretation. 
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Matthew 7:1-2 NKJV
This passage is not about judging actions, it is about condemning people.  Teaching against sin is not judging anyone, but judging actions that we are supposed to oppose as the church of Christ.  It is also not about judging a type of person.  If a teacher says "fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God.", that preacher is not judging anyone in particular but that teacher is sharing what is clearly stated in the Bible.  Fornicators judge themselves by practicing their sin in the face of God's Word.  We are called to call each other out on our sins.  We are called to preach against sin from Moses in Leviticus to the prophets to Jesus and John the Baptist in the Gospels and to Paul in the epistles.  It is absolutely 100% clear in Scripture by dictate and example that we are to preach against sin. 
'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him." Leviticus 19:17
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith Titus 1:12-13 NKJV
We are clearly called to preach against sin.  Even more, we are called to not accept sin in our midst as a church.  While we are to give a sinning brother or sister a chance for repentance and restoration, we are to remove that person from the church if they refuse that opportunity. 
I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner— not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."  1 Corinthians 5:9-13 NKJV
While we are not to condemn people, we are to condemn actions.  An unrepentant brother is not judged by us, but by himself when he refuses that opportunity to repent.  The sin we allow to continue in our church is the cancer that is killing our church.  We need to confront those living in sin in our midst and allow them to repent or cast them out.  That is not being judgmental, that is being obedient to the Word of God. 

Let's get back to what Jesus said in Matthew warning us about being judged to the same measure that we judge others.  This statement is also a positive.  Sometimes our actions do need to be judged by others.  I speak out against many kinds of sin in this blog, and if anyone sees any of that in my life I would hope that I would be reminded of what the Word of God says regarding my actions.  In the same measure that I speak out against the sins in the lives of others, I desire others to call me out for anything in my life that I may come to struggle with.  We should all have that desire.  We all need to be accountable to one another.  We all need to accept others calling out sin in our lives so that we may repent. 
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16 NKJV
Here we are called to confess our sins to one another.  This is not as a means to salvation of forgiveness already granted by God, but so that we can be held accountable to one another.  It is easier to sin secretly than it is when others call you out and question you about it. 
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."  1 Peter 5:5 NKJV
We need to be submissive and humble when we are confronted about our sins. All too often we become defensive (and sometimes even offensive) when confronted.  We need to be accountable to one another. 

Jesus continues in Matthew with the other saying that people like to use when confronted regarding their sin:
"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:3-5 NKJV
This is not saying not to confront anyone about their sin, it is saying to make sure you do so not as a hypocrite.  You can not go to someone and speak to them about being faithful to their wives while your mistress is hanging on your arm.  That is what Jesus is saying.  We are to examine ourselves and put away the sin in our own lives before confronting others about their sin.  It's not that we are not to help our brother with the speck in his eye, we are just to remove the plank in our own eye first.  We need to make sure we are not struggling with something that we are speaking out against. 

And so if we are called to be submissive to one another and confess our sins to one another and speak out against sin in the lives of each other, we see from Matthew 7:3-5 that we are to make sure we are living rightly.  Our obedience in keeping sin out of the body of Christ starts with us repenting of the sin in our own lives.  That brings me back to a point that I make time and time again on this site.  Righteous living is essential for living a victorious life in Christ and we all need to ask God to show us those areas He wants to work on and allow that work to happen.  It is essential for us as individual Christians and essential for the church as a whole.  If sin gets into your life and you are part of a church, you are bringing sin into the church.  And what happens when sin gets into the church?  God answers that through Paul when addressing the Corinthian church and how it was allowing sin to remain in their church.  Here is what the Word says:
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  1 Corinthians 5:6 NKJV
The sin we bring into the body of Christ infects the whole church.  And just like when an infection enters our physical bodies, our bodies need to react to it.  If there is no reaction to an infection in our physical bodies or in the spiritual body of Christ, that body will get sick and eventually that body may die.  Sin can kill a church. 

And so we need to ask God to deal with our sins, to remove them from us and from our church.  We are called to stand up against sin, but we can not if we are caught up in it.  We are called to hold each other to account, but we can not if we are caught up in sin.  We need to confront our bothers and sisters in the Lord if they are caught up in sin, but we can not if we are caught up ourselves.  And when someone comes to us about our own sin, we need to accept that humbly.  Lashing out about judging others or planks in their eyes has nothing to do with the sin in your life.  Even in that example I spoke of earlier where a man comes to you with a mistress on his arm to talk to you about your adultery, your place is not to use his sin to justify yours.  Your adultery is still sin regardless of the condition of the messenger.  In fact, just as he has to deal with the plank in his eye, you need to deal with the speck in yours to clearly see his plank.  In other words, responding to an accusation of sin in your own life with a charge of sin in the messenger's makes you just as guilty.  If you judge your accuser for sin when he is right in his accusation, you are judging yourself as well.  Humble yourself and allow God to work in you.  Humble yourself and God will raise you up.  Humble yourself, and you will find that grace and forgiveness you need. 
The ear that hears the rebukes of life Will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, And before honor is humility. Proverbs 15:31-33 NKJV 

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