For every generation, a variety of mottos or catchphrases stand out as spiritual indicators of that day and time. In the 50s our national motto became “in God we trust”. By the late 60s the people cried for more “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll”. Today one of the most prevalent statements I hear, therefore what I consider to have become a generational motto, is “only God can judge me”.
Get ready for a shocker
For non-Christians this is a very true statement. The only person they are required to answer to, aside from governing authorities, is God. Not understanding this fact is one of the biggest reasons Christians are so hated. We judge the world by a standard that only applies to us. To the apostle Paul, this was a given:
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?… God will judge those outside.” (1 Cor. 5:12a, 13a)
I hope that as you read that Scripture you noticed I only used the first parts of each verse. Please note that I am going to focus on the second part later, so neither of the verses are being taken out of context. Always be on the lookout for contextual issues such as omitted verses when someone teaches anything from the Bible. So many people believe lies because they never check for context. Anyway… I digress.
Let’s stop and think about what Paul said for a minute. We follow the laws of God because we love and desire to honor Him. According to Romans 2:12, “all who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law,” so what right do we have to enforce our law onto people who don’t love or regard Christ as Lord? Maybe you succeed in persuading a non-Christian into changing bad habits, but without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, what have you achieved? You’ve merely produced a person who honors God with his actions, but whose heart is far from Him (Matt. 15:8). Let the wise man throw up his hands and shout, “Meaningless, meaningless!”
A more meaningful approach
Scripture tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, not His judgment (Rom. 2:4). As Christians we have to be careful not to get this twisted. When it comes to dealing with non-Christians, judging them and informing them of how far they are from being righteous in God’s sight does nothing but heap loads of condemnation on their heads. Nobody wants that. Did you want to hear that when you first came to the Lord? What was it that made your heart say yes to Him? The general answer for us all is His love. We love Him because He first loved us. If this is the case for our relationship with the Lord, shouldn’t we then extend His love and kindness to those who don’t know Him yet?
This coin has two faces
On the flipside, use of a statement like “only God can judge me” is not even an option for Christians. We lost that right the moment God signed our adoption papers. We became part of a family where tough love is the motto. So when a Christian tries to use this statement, it takes on a whole new meaning. Instead of expressing truth, it expresses an attitude of licentiousness (lacking moral discipline; having no regard for accepted rules or standards). It becomes a matter of taking God’s grace for granted.
Paul had something to say about licentiousness in the church:
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’”
Restoring health to the body
Once you join the body of Christ, you are accountable to all its members. This is not a weakness or a hindrance, as some would believe, but it is a great strength. In love we look out for each other and care for one another. The judgment we pass on one another should only come from a place of love, a genuine desire to see them prosper, and not from a place of condemnation. You should never look down on a brother because of any sin they struggle with, because you yourself are susceptible to the very same sin. Romans 2:1 is a good reality check for me when I start feeling a little “holier-than-thou”.
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
The body of Christ is a unit, so when one member attacks another, its health will undoubtedly fail. Again I encourage us all to put the greatest commandment into practice and simply love. Love God and love one another, saved or unsaved.
Activation: The next time you hear that someone is struggling with sin, remember your responsibility as a believer. Make an effort to keep from judging critically or treating the person harshly, but extend God’s love and kindness. Then wait and see what happens!
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