In response to numerous recent inquiries about the difference between judging people and discerning sin.
The warning against judgment should never cripple a church or ministry leader’s ability to teach the fullness of God’s Word. However, judgment occurs when we take a “hard truth” and only apply it toward certain persons – usually minority sinners, or people who sin in ways we do not.
Paul confronts this reality in Romans 2:1-4 after giving quite a comprehensive review of the MANY ways that humans fall short of God’s glory and even twist His glory into our right to sin. He covers us all, but he knows the religious heart: we tend to only notice people who do things we do not do. To this, Paul makes the dramatic claim that we “do the same things.” What same things?
When many well-meaning evangelicals try to level the playing field that we too are sinners, we tend to admit to sins such as lying, stealing, gossip, gluttony, greed, etc. While these truly are common sins, they are sins that distinguish us from those who do really bad sexual sins (in our subconscious way of comparing).
When Paul says that we “do the same things,” he is hitting much closer to home. Like, for example, the rampant use of internet pornography among born-again evangelical identified males. Ah! We too might be minimizing or overlooking sexual sin. After all, pornography has become “every man’s battle.” This slogan has slowly become one way we accommodate immorality.
Everyone’s doing it! We can’t help ourselves.
One pastor recently wrote to Lead Them Home saying: “I wish you would not talk so much about pornography. It might make men in your audience give up on God’s love and forgiveness.” Ah! This is an excellent point: now we are getting closer to understanding how many LGBT+ folks feel. After years of being bullied and rejected, how does it feel when a really hard, heavy truth is targeted at you?
Strange that those of us who are born again and have God’s power and assurance of salvation try to diminish and hide from conviction for our sexual sins – and at the very same time, we use the hammer on gay people all too quickly.
This is why Paul shifts from Romans 1 to Romans 2 saying primarily to religious people: “So when you a mere man pass judgment on them and yet do the SAME things, do you think you will escape the judgment of God?” This is nearly an identical parallel back to Jesus’ Matthew 7:1-2. Jesus put it this way: “With the measure you use, it WILL BE measured unto you.”
How should we understand this? One hard way to understand it is this: if in your view there is no such thing as a gay Christian, then there is absolutely no such thing as a porn-using evangelical born-again male Christian. That is a sobering thought — and doctrinal reality.
Where is the grace, you ask? It is here in Paul’s next words: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of God’s patience, tolerance and kindness not realizing that it is God’s kindness that is intended to lead you TOWARD repentance.” Toward implies a journey. A spiritual journey. One that may take years to fully unfold. God, in His kindness, invites us to come into His grace no matter what we’ve done behaviorally. Do you believe this?
In light of these realizations, the warning against judgment stands firm – God is warning those of us who are saved ONLY by His Amazing Grace to refrain from our temptation to freely partake of a “big-G” Grace while simultaneously using a “big-T” Truth against others.
Judgment, then, occurs any time we squash rather than nurture faith identity in Christ. With regard to gay people, we have for decades been really good at squashing their faith identity. No wonder they find such deep value in sexual identity. Think about that: those of us who might tend to think there is no such thing as sexual identity actually fuel such identity when we reject, exclude and judge others.
We must be very sensitive about not falling into “discernment about truth” that too easily twists into judgment against people whom Christ is seeking. This is an offense to God. This sensitivity does not cripple any church leader’s ability to teach the fullness of God’s Word and clearly speak about what is moral or immoral.
However, when we discuss sins that involve the few, we better get the comparatives right when considering the sins of the majority. In other words, we better remove the “us and them” aspect of how we teach and apply God’s Word. We must teach in a manner that flattens the ground at the foot of the Cross so that all are addressed equally…and so that all can have an opportunity to hear God’s great invitation: “Come to me ALL who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest for your soul.”
To receive Jesus’ spiritual rest, all of us must repent and surrender our whole heart, soul, strength and mind to God. In this we lose our life for sure, but we also GAIN true life: deep intimacy with and assurance from our Living Lord. This invitation is for everyone, but many wounded persons can miss hearing HIS invitation when they are targeted using the harder truths of scripture.
Let the hardest truths fall upon those of us who are born again. And the hardest truth that is needed to be believed by the evangelical community today is that there is no true power of the Holy Spirit or true intimacy with Jesus where there is a porn epidemic. Many people want homosexuality to be more directly confronted in our churches today because of widespread and growing acceptance of gay marriage, but would it not be more appropriate for the much more rampant acceptance of pornography use to be confronted?
This is how Lead Them Home processes the distinction between refraining from judging people while not losing right judgments or biblical discernment about what is or is not sinful.
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