Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday Reading: On Judging Others

I like the hair salon I go to. The girls are very good at their work [no matter which one "works you in"] and they can usually get me in, even without an appointment. I called on Friday, though because, since it was a Friday, I thought I might be pushing my luck to just walk in and expect them to have an opening. Us girls know the closer you get to the weekend, the less likely you can just walk in and get scheduled within 15-30 minutes. Another thing us girls know is that stories get told in hair salons, just like stories get told [so I hear] at barbershops.

I liked what "Betsy" [fictitious name] had to say because I think she really struck at the heart of an issue that seems to face many Christians. The "sin stigma" that is assigned to homosexuals. I'd have to admit, I generally handle this issue with kid gloves, myself, because it can be a very touchy subject among Christians. [Oops, I guess I'm taking off the gloves.]

Betsy was complaining about a relative who had recently become a Christian.

Apparently, before the relative became a Christian she was close friends with a gay couple, and the gay couple had done a lot for Betsy's relative. Helping her with school tuition, among other things [and it sounded like a lengthy list]. You see, gay people can be nice people and do nice things, Christians simply do not have the market on nicety.

Anyway, back to the story. Betsy's relative felt because the couple is gay and living a sinful lifestyle she should just cut them out of her life and refuse to see them anymore.

Betsy was concerned that this is just the sort of action, on the part of a Christian, that gives all Christians a bad name. I agreed with her but, interjected that Betsy's relative would mature as a Christian, at some point, and come to realize the error of her thinking. And, that's when Betsy made a very important point. The pain and hurt to the gay couple that was caused by the attitude of the fledgling Christian, by her complete rejection of them as people, as no longer deserving of her love and gratitude after all they had done for her, was not going to just go away while the new Christian "matured."

Christians like the, some might call, platitude: "Hate the sin but love the sinner," whether you think it is a platitude or not, there is huge wisdom in the statement.

I've got a little tract. It's titled, "For the thinking mind INTELLIGENCE TEST." There are 8 questions, or riddles, on the test. Number 7 reads:

"A man once broke all of the Ten Commandments. He lied, stole (the value of the article is irrelevant), lusted -- which the Bible says is "to commit adultery in his heart," failed to love God above all else, failed to honor his parents as well as to keep the Sabbath holy. He hated (which God sees as murder), failed to honor God's name, and he also "coveted," which means to want other people's things. How could God, who is perfect and holy (and therefore by His very nature must punish transgression of His Law), forgive him freely, and yet justice still be done? How can the man avoid Hell and go to Heaven?"

And here's the answer, in part, from the back of the tract:

"...He (the man) needs God's mercy. When Jesus died on the cross, He took the punishment for our sins, satisfying eternal justice and at the same time demonstrating God's incredible love for sinful humanity. The moment the man repents and puts his faith in the Savior, God will forgive his sins and give him the gift of everlasting life. He then should read the Bible daily and obey what he reads, showing himself to be genuine in his faith...."

I think some Christians confuse the Bible's statement found in Matthew 7, verse 16, “You will know them by their fruits," as an excuse to judge other people but, what that scripture is saying, in context, is to beware of false prophets, and giving instruction on how to identify them, not giving Christians the go ahead to judge people who do not bear "good fruit" as unworthy of God's forgiveness. In fact, in the very same chapter of Matthew, we read in verses 1-5:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

Keeping it all in context, we must also look at verse 6, which says:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

Again, however, we need to consider carefully and prayerfully before we decide [judge?] who should be labeled as a dog, or who should be labeled as swine....

Still reading in Matthew chapter 7, we find "the golden rule," always one of my favorites. It's found in verse 12:

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. "

Meditate on these things:

Romans 3:9-10 says:

"9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE...."

Ephesians 2:8-10 and 12-14 says:

"8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ..., and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace...."

I think I'm right, I think this young Christian will grow in her walk with Christ, she will mature but, there may be people hurt in the process. That is why older, more mature Christians must offer direction to new, immature Christians. [And I and other, now more "mature" Christians, may have hurt people in the process of maturing in Christ, as well.]

I also think Betsy is exactly right. All Christians, whether each individual Christian is judgmental themselves or not, will be judged by non-Christians based on the actions of the most immature Christians they come into contact with, and based, sometimes, on the actions of those who claim to be Christians but, who may not, in reality, be true Christians [and whether those claiming to be Christians are true Christians or not is for God to judge, not me].

We, as Christians, have no business playing like we have the authority to judge others and the hearts of others. That authority belongs to God alone. How dare we, any of us, represent God as an unforgiving God, an unloving God! If Christians are, and I believe we are because that is what the Bible tells me, "...His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them," and if God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son to pay our sin debt for us, then we should be demonstrating the love of God as His representatives.

We truly can observe Christ-likeness and hate sin while demonstrating the love of Christ to people, for we are all sinners and yet, there are people we love, regardless of the sin in their lives, right? That is what Jesus came to do. That is what being "Christlike," at its core, should be. Jesus loved, forgave, and gave eternal life to prostitutes, eunuchs, tax collectors [who were hated in Bible times as thieves] and sinners. He hated the sin of depraved sexual activity of all kinds, including fornication, adultery and homosexuality but, He demonstrated His love for a world full of sinners when He died on the cross and rose again to prepare a place for believers in heaven.

By the way, just as an aside, I do believe there is one person the scripture calls each Christian to judge. Our own selves.

2 Corinthians 13:5:

"Keep examining yourselves to see whether you are continuing in the faith. Test yourselves! You know, don’t you, that Jesus the Messiah lives in you? Could it be that you are failing the test?"

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Bible theology or interpretation of scripture. I am just a saved sinner like all the rest of the Christians in the world. If you are a Christian and you disagree with my interpretation of scripture regarding this issue, feel free to hash it out in the comment section. I promise to try not to judge you, and we might even learn something from each other along the way. ;)

Scripture source: ""

Tract source:


Jack said...

In teaching, we often ask "what does that look like?" This is asked when a new idea is presented and we want to see concrete examples of how that new idea works out in practice. Rubber meat road.

Christians are great to quote "Hate sin not the sinner" but what we never get are examples of what that quote looks like. How does one do this in practice?

1. Your brother comes to Christmas with his new boyfriend. How do you "hate the sin, not the sinner" in this circumstance?

2. A new neighbor moves in. He and his wife are traditional Muslims (wearing the typical garb and praying x-number of times a day). They are nice people and invite you over for a traditional dinner. How do you "hate the sin and not the sinner" in that circumstance?

3. What if that family asks you to join hands and pray before dinner. He leads the prayer and thanks Allah for all he's provided. "How do you hate the sin, not the sinner?"

4. Your state is voting on a "Gays cannot marry, adopt children, get health care of any kind, or buy property" constitutional amendment. How do you "hate the sin, not the sinner?" What if that action means you have to keep people from having the same rights as you? Aren't you now violating the Golden Rule quoted above? How do you hate the sin and not also punish (hate) the sinner at the same time?

I have my own ideas about this and I'm sure you have yours. I wonder if we will find that whole "don't judge" go right out the window for most Christians (not just the new ones).

By the way, the new converts would not likely make such a judgmental and hateful decision if Christianity (in general) did not promote and support such action in the first place. Most churches would say she did the right thing by ridding those sinners from her life. My guess is that some preacher has counseled her on that very subject. Otherwise, where would she have gotten that idea?

Jackie Melton said...

All very good examples of where the "rubber might meet the road," Jack.

It's very likely that every Christian would have a different answer to each of them.

Believing that Jesus Christ and His Father "are one," as scripture tells us, and believing that we are to take on the mind of Christ, as scripture also tells us, and knowing that God hates sin, then are we not to hate sin? Are we also not all sinners and yet, we manage to love people every day? Why is one person lovable, with sin in his life, and the next person unlovable, with sin in his life? (to some Christians)

I do not believe God sees degrees of sin as man views sin, man tends to think there are some sins that are more egregious than other sins but, God simply hates all sin.

Remember the line in the sand that Jesus drew, and the words he spoke as he lifted his eyes to speak to the accusers of the prostitute? Remember the words Jesus, then, spoke to her after her accusers had dropped their stones and slunk away?

The Christian cannot justify sin in his life, although, to different degrees we all may try to at different times, under various circumstances and for different reasons but, I don't believe God will ever justify what He, in His word, has defined as sin.

There's a saying: God said it, I believe it, that settles it, or something like that. I've heard an addition to that saying, or a variation, God said it, that settles it, whether I believe it or not. We may not like to admit sin in our lives, others may not like to admit sin in their lives but our distaste for admitting it does not change the definition of sin, no matter how much we wish it to be so.

I'm not one of those who believes truth is relative, that you can have your truth and I can have mine. I do believe there is a truth that comes from God that, whether we choose to accept or not, does not change.

That's just me. I understand there are Christians who do not believe in the inerrancy of scripture. I am not one of them.

---continued in next comment---

Jackie Melton said...

In regard to the one question that might have been raised in my original post, how does one show love for a homosexual while hating the sin in their lives? I treat them with kindness and respect but, if the occasion came up that I would be expected to approve of the sin in their lives, I wouldn't approve the sin in their lives and I don't believe it would be a loving act to tell them the sin in their lives is acceptable to God anymore than I believe it would be a loving act to tell an adulterer or a liar that their adultery or lies are acceptable to God. My issue is that the sin in the life of the homosexual should not make the homosexual less lovable than the liar or the adulterer.

I wonder if you are not suggesting that the church, or the individual Christians within the church, are unloving of the person if they refuse to approve of the sin in the life of an acting homosexual.

Is the church unloving of the pathological liar if the church disapproves of the lies he tells?

Is the church unloving of the adulterer is the church disapproves of adultery?

If a man commits murder, should the church embrace the act of murder in order to love the murderer?

If a law were passed that made gay marriage legal in every state in the union and any given church was not willing to wed the homosexual couple because the church (any church) felt by marrying the gay couple they would be endorsing, approving and validating what scripture has identified to be sin in the lives of those individuals, then each church, could no longer practice "freedom of religion," which IS a right guaranteed in our constitution.

Any church refusing to marry a gay couple would be open to discrimination suit. If and when a church can be sued for freely practicing its religion by not endorsing what it perceives as sin has, in essence, lost it's freedom to practice its religion or to practice its collective faith.

In your great concern over the "rights" of gays to marry, I hope you will consider the importance of protecting the American people's right to freely practice their religion.

Thanks for your comment.

Jackie Melton said...

...and no, before I am accused of it, I am not comparing a homosexual to a murderer. I am comparing sin to sin.

Anonymous said...

There MUST have been homosexuals around when Jesus was walking among us. But, so far as I can tell from my scant Lutheran background, the Bible never mentions ANYTHING he said against--or even ABOUT---homosexuality. I guess he figured that there were and are more important missions here on Earth than being concerned about how two people love each other. Didn't he say,"Love one another, as I have loved you."? Unconditionally. Right?

Jackie Melton said...

Anon 2:08,

JESUS said in Matthew 5:17-20

"17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Jack said...

On all marriage this is my stand:

1. The government should not be in the business of marriages. Period. The government can provide civil unions that protect the rights of all persons.

2. Churches should be the only institutions involved in a marriage (which I define as a religious ceremony). Those churches should be able to marry whomever they feel it best or right to marry under their God's direction. Some churches marry gays. Others do not. That's their churches business. It is not a legal thing, it should be a religious thing.

4. This protects the rights of all persons (gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, etc.)

You ask: "I wonder if you are not suggesting that the church, or the individual Christians within the church, are unloving of the person if they refuse to approve of the sin in the life of an acting homosexual."

I wonder if the way they choose to "love" someone is more kin to discrimination, hatred and/or fear.

I won't even get into the issue of the Bible as the inerrant word of God.

Once again, I hear someone commenting about "Hate the sin but love the sinner" yet I hear no concrete examples of what that looks like or how that should be done. Nothing. How are Christians who can't even agree if there is a Hell or not, be able to follow such an obscure saying which does not show up in scripture anyway?

So let me be more clear. How does JackieHammer "Hate the sin, love the sinner" in those circumstances? How are we, in your opinion, supposed to act in the scenarios I put forth? Give me your advice.

I'm really curious. You may need to email me when you do it, as I don't want to miss it.

I'd be glad to post mine as well (in this comments section or on my blog. Your choice.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jacke. You just proved my point.
When people spout scripture instead of giving a REAL answer, the argument is lost. Done. Over. You can "cut and paste" the Bible all you want, but you're evading the question.

Did God not give you a mind?

Jackie Melton said...


I appreciate that you believe we should offer an example of how love would look under the different, specific scenarios you've laid out. That said, I really don't think we can ever know how we would react in specific circumstances until actually "walking in those shoes." We can speculate about, or guess at how we would react but, we can't really know until such a situation actually stares us in the face.

I think there have been examples of how love looks in different situations displayed by people have gone through those situations. For instance, I've seen reports of people who have had one of their children murdered exampling what love looks like to the family of the murderer of their child, such grace would be a really good example of how I believe love should look in practice.

I am also honored that you are interested in my opinion in the first place. :)

According to scripture, love is the greatest gift, and if we don't have love every other gift we have, every other good action we take means nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Love, really, is not (or should not be) about circumstances, love is (or should be) about people. A true display of love would supercede circumstances, any and all circumstances.

If I am demonstrating the love of Christ to people it would, or should, look the same under any circumstance.

To those interested: The Bible defines love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

It's always a pleasure, my cyberspace friend. :)

Jackie Melton said...

Anon 6:22, I think you really should think about the question you asked me because:

1). You "spouted scripture" at me, yourself, quoting Christ.

2). Since you quoted Christ and then posed a question about the stance of Christ in regards to love, I thought it would be best to let Christ answer for Himself. That is why I answered your quote with a responding quote.

It's very nice that you honored me with, at least one, comment here but, I doubt that there is any "REAL" answer I would or could give you that would please or satisfy you.

Perhaps you could identify what it is I have written that seems to have offended you, causing you to respond in the way you did? I would be interested in understanding what prompted such a response as you last delivered.

Thank you.

Jack said...

I agree that we don't know how we WILL react, but I do think we can look at situations and talk about the many ways we could react.

I didn't mean to imply there is only one right way under those circumstances, because there ain't. My thought goes back to the young Christian you talked about.

If you and I cannot talk specifically, how can we possibly expect a young Christian to do right? For that, I think it is up to older Christians to help guide others by providing at least some possible solutions.

Jackie Melton said...

I wouldn't disagree with that at all, Jack. I even mentioned it in the post, as a matter of fact.

I know we have a responsibility there. Maybe we can take a swing at it a bite at a time?

You go first. ;)

Jackie Melton said...

I'm going to reply to numbers 2 & 3because, to be honest, it was the most hard to imagine situation for me. It was something I'd never really thought about occuring before.

1. I am an absolute supporter of freedom of religion and so, I would have no problem with my hosts praying to the God they worship.

2. Since I was a guest in their home I would respect their absolute right to practice their religious observances in their home (or anywhere else, for that matter).

3. I would join hands, bow my head and silently pray to the God I worship while they are praying to Allah.

By praying to God, the God in whom I believe, silently, I will not be an unwilling participant of their prayer to their God while respecting their right to pray to their own God.

I would see no need to tell them that I had prayed my own silent prayer to my God. Because they are new neighbors they will learn that I am a Christian eventually. At some point I would hope to share my faith in my God with them, when the time was appropriate.

Another response that might be a bit more pro-active and hospitable, at the same time, would be to return the dinner invitation and ask them to join hands with us in prayer to God after having joined hands with them and followed the above scenario. Besides, it might be interesting to see what their reaction would be in a similar situation?

Jack said...

I agree with that response, but I think it might surprise us to see how many Christians would find that compassionate response offensive. It is but one respectful response to a situation that does not create enemies. And everyone gets to keep their religious beliefs. I like this.

If one couple were agnostic or atheist, I think they could bow their head and think about how hot their spouse is during the other couple's prayer time.

That is tolerance. No one converts to the other's belief. No one sacrifices their religious ideology. However, they don't convert or attack, or freak either. They just tolerate one another and build relationships and demonstrate love and compassion. No need to make enemies if we don't have to.

By thinking of these scenarios and practicing them ahead of time, we can prepare ourselves for sticky situations and hopefully make better choices when a surprise comes.