BIBLE Q & A, 11 : Homosexuality. What about “judging” others?
Judges 7:1, Judge not, lest you be judged.
So, pastor, you show up at your appointed place on Sunday morning, look out over your fine flock, and there they are: Mr. and Mr. Jones. Or Mrs. and Mrs. Smith. Holding hands, no less. Very obvious. Dressed well. No ordinary sinners, these. They look quite respectable. And they’ve come to your church because your church has a history of being friendly, open, seeker-sensitive. They know they will be accepted here.
What do you do? Or to ask the age-old question made popular decades ago with books and bracelets: What would Jesus do?
To answer that, one only needs to come up with different scenarios in the life and ministry of Jesus. To my mind right away comes John 6. The feeding of 5,000, and a suddenly seeker-friendly crowd. They were seeking Jesus now, but for all the wrong reasons. Jesus identified those reasons, and seemed not to care that it would offend them: “You’re in church because I fed you yesterday, and you’re hoping for more today,” He implied. What pastor would dare such a statement in our soft climate today?
Later in the chapter, He seems to get even more harsh, using an illustration about eating His very flesh and drinking His very blood, a practice that – literally – you will not find in the subsequent book of Acts, nor will this literal definition be dealt with by any of the apostles’ writings. But there it is in John: “Eat My flesh, drink My blood, or you have no life in you, period!” says the Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.
A simple explanation would have saved the day. Actually, in one sense, He gave it, but they didn’t get it. He said He would be giving His flesh and blood for the life of the world. And that is what He did shortly thereafter at a place called Golgotha. But He didn’t mention Calvary here. He let the illustration remain as a wall for them to climb, and frankly they were not that interested.
The crowd walked away. Even when His well-meaning disciples, crowd-conscious as we are, let Him know that He had offended most of His Church members, there is no effort on Jesus’ part to call them back and “apologize”, as mealy-mouthed preachers of our day are prone to do. He let them go. They are not the ones, He knew, whom the Father had given Him from the foundation of the world. Let them go. If a little confusion sends them away, let them go. If they care not, as do my real disciples, enough to ask questions, let them go!
That’s what Jesus did when falseness showed up. Sometimes the very holiness of His person, His reputation as a straight-shooter spoke to a man like Zacchaeus to repent on the spot. Repentance or rejection of Jesus were the only two options.
The rich young ruler. Why not string him along awhile until we can show how friendly we are, Jesus, and eventually he’ll be brought in to fullness of discipleship? Meanwhile, though, the church around him gets the message that his worldliness is a part of who we are, and they are offended and led astray by this leader type. No, from the beginning, though Jesus loved him, the truth had to be told: “You love your money and your stuff more than Me. Sell it all if you want to follow Me. Good-bye, sad rich young ruler.
Compassion on that woman about to be stoned – rightfully so – for adultery? You bet, and total forgiveness! Then, “Stop your sinning!”
Healing for the man at the Pool, oh yes, then, “No more sin, or it will get worse, Sir.”
“Lord, we’ll follow you, but first…” Sorry, Jesus said, in essence. Your heart is not right, I can tell from the beginning. You want someone to follow, but you don’t know Me and understand Who I am. It won’t work.
The woman at the well. What a chance to add to the numbers. And He did. A whole town. But not before He had exposed this woman as an adulteress.
Warm long-term acceptance of known sinfulness was never a part of the early church under Jesus, or under the apostles. Repent was the first message of that bunch.
Peter preached it to 3,000 on Pentecost, and to many thereafter. Their response was the same. Conviction, desperation, salvation.
Sin was not tolerated. Behold Ananias and Sapphira, descendants from Achan of old. A little sneaky, a little greedy, and killed by the Holy Spirit who wants a Holy Church. Allow sin to fester in your congregation, and you will face God’s judgment, one day or another.
I know of a Chicago pastor who was aware of a regular attender at his church, whose mom had been hoping for some time that her daughter would show up at church with her. Then she did. Such joy. But as the weeks passed it was clear that the church’s acceptance of her had been misinterpreted by her to mean that she was OK and could continue to live in her sinful life-style.
One morning the pastor shattered her comfort zone. It was communion day. He, gently but firmly, let the people know that if there was a person present who had been living in any known sin, such as sleeping with someone that was not their marriage partner, that person would not be allowed to take communion.
The girl got the message. She never returned to that church.
Unloving? Judgmental? No. This was Jesus’ response. To leave someone in his sin is the most unloving act one can commit. To send someone to Hell because you were afraid of – “lovingly” or in the fire of the Holy Spirit – offending that person by pointing out God’s law to him, that is being judgmental in the worst way!
The regular cautions must apply here, and this is what Matthew 7 is about. If we “condemn” others and have sin in our own life, we have missed the mark. If we have a mean attitude of superiority, Pharisee-like, in our conveying of truth to others, we have missed it again. If we refuse to stand before our holy God and judge ourselves humbly, we have no right to suggest to anyone, anything about sin.
But a holy church – and I do not mean a self-righteous one – will convict most sinners without much being said. Holy churches are hard to come by in the West. Men in our churches, like men in the world, love their sins, and want to excuse them. In most church groups we visit in our day, sin has become so much a part of the landscape, and compromise the order of the day, that preachers are quick to accept the ruling from the government as God’s message to them, too. Hey, let people alone. Look at yourself, and don’t “judge” the poor homosexuals (for example) as though they were any different.
So the water gets hotter and hotter, as in the proverbial frog in the pan story, but the church by and large doesn’t get it. How shocked we were when certain denominations allowed gay leadership. No shock any longer. Now we hear that a major brand of “Christians” will be allowing those leaders, or any leaders in the church, to perform gay weddings. How sweet. No persecution in that place! No rejection by the world in that place. They will be safe, politically correct…
Those who have looked to the government, a secular godless government, to feed them church doctrine and practice, will forever be yielding their positions until there are none to yield, and the church will become nothing more than a tool of that government, as it is in in Communist nations.
The true church will continue on an opposite path. Welcoming sinners, for sure, then preaching repentance to them at the earliest opportunity. Look for these churches to dwindle in number and size. As Jesus’ group went to 12 eventually. Then 11. At the cross, zero. They all forsook Him and fled.
Standing for the right when the wrong is popular has never been easy, but has always been required of Christ-followers. This easily helps us understand why a world church, and not a revival, is prophesied for the end times, which we could well have entered.
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