Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Judging Believers More than Bombers

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13

The 2013 Boston bombings stirred up a lot of feelings for people. The fact that those bombings were once again committed by Islamic Jihadists upset many people. More than once I heard people lament that, in their opinion, moderate Muslims had not spoken up enough to condemn acts of violence committed in the name of their religion, that their alleged silence not only condoned these heinous acts but encouraged future atrocities. Whether those complaints had much merit or were simply voiced by people who hadn't listened to Muslim condemnations of the violence is a matter that could be debated at length, but the issue itself points to a problem within the Christian community, especially in America.

American society, and much of the American church has taken Jesus' and James' call to refrain from judging people and applied it everywhere but in the appropriate context. Why do I say this? Because of what Paul also has to say in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13: I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves (HCSB).

Jesus and Paul had two different contexts as Paul makes clear in the opening verses of this passage. We are not supposed to judge the people of this world, no matter how sinful their behavior appears. We cannot hold outsiders to the same standards to which we would hold ourselves. We are supposed to provide loving witnesses to those people so that nothing we do will keep them from coming to God. But for believers, the standard is entirely different. We are supposed to hold believers (or those who claim to be) to a higher standard. When we see them living in ways that are consistently opposed to the teachings of Christ we are to let everyone know that they don't represent us and to have nothing to do with them until they get their acts straight. Not because we are better than them or above them, but because condoning their sinful behavior with our silence and acceptance provides a very bad witness to the people we are trying to reach.

We are not supposed to judge sinners. We are supposed to love them. Sometimes that means loving them enough to condemn the actions of those who should know better so that the damage to the Church's witness is minimized. Remember, even Jesus judged the religious people of his day for their hypocrisy.

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