When We are Called To Judge

I love reading blogs and I think Mark Sandlin has one of the best out there. I genuinely look forward to reading his thoughts. Mark makes me think and he cracks me up – usually at the same time. One of his posts has been made the rounds recently and for the most part I really like it – check it out … but come back


See? It’s good, right?  Most of those unholy cliches make me cringe when I hear them. Here’s the BIG BUT …

BUT … I have to make a judgment call on two things Mark says that followers of Jesus should never say (specifically #5 – Love the sinner, hate the sin and #4 – It’s Okay to Judge).

1. I think we should hate the sin that makes us sinners.

Sin put our world in a tailspin of destruction that only the love and grace of Jesus can redeem and restore. I hate what sin does to the people I love. I despise the effect of sin on those who would call me their enemy – it widens the gap between us. I abhor the effects of sin on my own heart, mind, and actions. I loathe what sin costs humanity, and what it cost Jesus to step into our mess to bring salvation. By what contrast does one truly love sinners if not against the hopeless, hateful sin that puts us in need of saving grace? Yes, I love sinners … but you’d better believe I have a hot and holy hatred for sin.

2. I think Christians should judge.

“Don’t judge others.” In one sense, I agree with the notion that Christians are not to stand in judgment on those outside the community of faith. The Apostle Paul says as much, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.” – 1 Cor. 5:12 However, the very context of Paul’s prohibition from judging those outside the church is contained within a section emphasizing the necessity for the Corinthians to hold accountable those within the church. 1 Corinthians is in large part a letter telling the church how to effectively offer evaluative, instructive, corrective, and disciplinary measures for the health of the Body. In other words, Paul is teaching Corinthians Christians how to judge.

The idea of a truly non-judgmental posture is unrealistic. To say one should not be judgmental is itself a judgmental statement. As volitional beings, humans make decisions based on judgments toward the value of options from which they choose. There are differing value systems, and those values come into conflict requiring one to judge between which values to adopt. To become non-judgmental is to stop thinking. It cannot be done.

The concept of judgment is greatly misunderstood. The scriptures instruct Christ- followers to make wise judgments regarding what is true and what is good (Isaiah 5:20, Matthew 7:15-19, Galatians 5:16-23), yet according to Paul Copan, the most frequently quoted verse in the Bible is Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”[1]   A vision for civility grounded in Christian conviction will be fuzzy at best without clarity on this issue.

Jesus’ instructions here are not a blanket disregard for probing investigation, insightful evaluation, critical thinking, wise discernment, or perceptive decision making. Jesus is waving a caution flag against a particular sort of judgmental attitude – self-righteousness. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus was condemning those who judge using two standards of morality; one standard for themselves and another for the one they accuse.

Luke 6:37-38 also condemns a self-righteous attitude. Michael Card observes this as the connection between both passages; “A judgmental attitude inevitably leads to a harshness of spirit that renders a person unable to [give or] receive forgiveness.”[2]

How then did Jesus respond to those living according to beliefs contrary to the Father’s will? How did Jesus model “judgment” that accepted and affirmed people while not approving or affirming their sin? What qualifies a civility that connects conviction and compassion?

When the gospel narratives describe Jesus “accepting” prostitutes, tax collectors, and others considered sinful, there is no indication he accepted their behaviors. He called Matthew to follow him (requiring Matthew to leave behind his previous life), he called the woman at the well to forsake her lifestyle of promiscuity, he called the woman caught in adultery to leave her life of sin, and he called Zacchaeus to redemptive restitution. “Jesus refused to define people in terms of their present sordid circumstances. He affirmed their potential for living as faithful and creative children of God.”[3]

And all this from a position of unconditional love, uncompromising conviction, and uncommon decency – something Martin Marty calls “Convicted Civility.” This is no doubt a difficult position for Christ-followers to take, but one that the church is called to nonetheless,

It has never been easy for the church to nurture a convicted civility. Indeed, when the biblical writer first urged the followers of Christ to‘pursue peace with everyone,’ the society was at least  as multicultural and pluralistic as today … If they could work at treating peoplewith gentleness  and reverence in such an environment, what is our excuse for attempting less?[4]


[1] Paul Copan, True for You, but Not for Me: Deflating the Slogans That Leave Christians Speechless (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1998), 32.

[2] Michael Card, Matthew: The Gospel of Identity, vol. 3, Biblical Imagination Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 68.

[3] Richard Mouw, Uncommon Decency (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 24.

[4] Mouw, Uncommon Decency, 19.

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