Judging 2 (aka I’ma tell ya how ta live)

So I had a post that generated discussion.  Weird.  Judgment 1 looked at a situation specific to one pastor judging another for perceived heresy, but judgement and judgmentalness is a common theme both among Christians that I talk to and people of other faiths or non-faiths that I talk to about Christians.  The word “hypocrite” gets thrown around much more often than “heretic” and the perception is of a people that think they’re Better-thans, Always-rights, and… well… jerks.  This is what people think of those living in the shadow of the Humble King.  Apparently we suck.


A lot of Christians find confusion between passages that say “do not judge lest ye shall be judged,” and others that say “expel the immoral brother,” or show Jesus tearing someone a new one for being a giant douche. As Christians are we called to judge people? Scripture seems to imply it, but it also says we shouldn’t? What’s up with that?

The balance that I’ve found comes in understanding the difference between a constructive judgment and a coercive judgement. A constructive judgement seeks to hold someone accountable to the standards that they profess to hold, while a coercive judgment tries to hold them to YOUR standard.  When Paul said that apart from the Law there was no sin, he’s giving a nod to this.  You can’t judge someone for failing to live up to a benchmark they’ve never subscribed to.  It’s jumping the cue.  It’s the cart before the horse.  It’s arrogance.  It’s destructive.

“Mehwahwahwah, the Gospel is offensive, Aaron, wah wah,” some people are saying.  Maybe.  Maybe it’s the way you present it.  The Gospel is Good News.  Start with Good News.  First people need to accept the Gospel.  Then they need to accept the standard.  Then you can constructively encourage them in their desire to keep it.  Well, quite honestly, first they need to accept you, but that’s another post.

“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,”  Paul said.  We should all aspire to that, so here it is:  Whenever Jesus is getting judgy, he’s always holding someone up to the standard they’ve set for themselves.  I want to quickly take a look at three examples of Jesus dealing with people who’s actions didn’t meet with his approval:

1. Pharisees
These were the world-class, always-right, religious jerkasses.  They  had hundreds of rules about the Right Way to go about faith and liked people to see them Doing It Right.  They were constantly calling out Jesus for preaching a faith with more grace than theirs, or living in ways “not consistent” with their faith, or hanging out with people who didn’t follow the rules.  Jesus called them Sons of Ghenna.  He ripped into them for keeping nitpicky rules and missing the big ones, the heart of what God wanted from them.

2. The woman caught in adultery
There was this Jewish woman (a member of Jesus’ religion) who was caught by the above jerkasses in the act of adultery.  Under Jewish Law, that was a capital crime, and she could be killed by being bludgeoned to death with large rocks.  The religious people brought her to Jesus thinking that they could put him in a catch 22 with the situation.  Jesus says fine, but you can only throw the first rock if you haven’t screwed up sometime in your life (sinned).  They all disappeared, and Jesus told her he didn’t condemn her.  Huge grace.  Mind blowing intervention.  It didn’t stop there, though.  Jesus told her to “go and leave your life of sin.”  He called what she had done sin!  He held her to the standard of her faith.  The difference was that his correction was gentle and full of grace.  He didn’t make “sin” okay.  He called her to a better life, and he did it without berating her, calling her names, or threatening her with death and the fires of hell to follow it.

3. The Samaritan woman at the well
At one point, Jesus arrives at a town well  in the heat of the day.  No one comes to the town well in the heat of the day.  It sucks.  It’s hot and crappy.  No one wants to carry huge jugs of water when it’s 40 degrees C outside.  Yet here comes this Samaritan woman (not Jewish, in fact, despised by Jews).  She’s willing to brave the heat of the day so she won’t have to talk to people.  Her conscience is bothering her, or at least she’s expecting condemnation.  Shock #1 – Jesus talks to her.  Jesus, a religious leader, a Jewish man, talks to a Samaritan woman.  Shock #2 – in the course of conversation he points out that she’s had multiple husbands and is living with a man who isn’t her husband.  Shock #3 – He leaves it at that.  He doesn’t tell her to go leave the dude she’s shacking up with.  He doesn’t call her a slut.  He reveals himself as the gracious messiah, and she runs off in joy to tell everyone she knows.  This is the woman that Jesus choses to be his representative to the Gentiles.  I’m sure the rest took care of itself in time.

So here we are:  People who believe we are in possession of “the Truth”.  How do we live with that?  How do we live out our beliefs in the presence of people who don’t believe what we do?  How do we deal with people who believe that they have “the Truth” but it’s different from what we believe “the Truth” is?  The fact is, among Christians, we do have the responsibility to call into question actions that don’t line up with the faith we profess, if only to “keep the name of God from being blasphemed among the Gentiles”.  Sometimes that may mean having a frank discussion about theology.  Sometimes that might mean pointing out to someone that they’re being a judgmental douchebag.  Some people might want to point out that it’s inappropriate to call someone a douchebag.  I’d point out that Douchebag is a much less harsh thing to call someone than Son of Ghenna, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’d expect (and regularly receive) the same correction, whether I’m happy to hear it or not.  The thing of it is that, unlike Jesus, we don’t have the license to always be right.  There are things that are veiled.  There is definitely some Black and White in the Christian faith, but in between is the Greyce we live most of our lives in.

Judge me with a gracious heart.  Call me out on stuff because you love me and want to see my life become better.  Respect that I’m living as best as I know how.  Understand that I have reasons, well-thought and considered, for believing what I do.  I’ll do the same for you, and maybe something more productive will happen than throwing stones.


About Aaron Mark Reimer

Aaron Mark Reimer was born in 1980 on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and his parents promptly moved him west to Ontario. He is a pastor, a writer, a speaker, a musician, and a bit of a geek. Published works include The Art of Being Broken, Worshipping Through John: A Devotional For Praise Teams, and a short story about going to Jupiter with his dad that he wrote when he was seven. He has one wife (Vanessa), two sons (Dúnadan and Taliesin), and many cats. Follow him on Twitter as @IAmAnErrorMaker

Posted on April 19, 2011, in Theological Reflections. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. You pose some great questions at the end there and id like to take a stab at a couple of them!

    So here we are: People who believe we are in possession of “the Truth”. How do we live with that? How do we live out our beliefs in the presence of people who don’t believe what we do?

    We live out our beliefs. straight up. uncompromising. The world, even the secular world respects anyone who has the guts to stand up and publicly believe their beliefs. i think one of the major reasons we Christians get called hypocrites by the world is that we are only comfortable bold Christians when we are in our comfort zone. our safety net, our bubble. When the youth leader makes an “error” in his speaking we are comfortable going to him or the church leadership and expressing our concern. when we are out in the bar with friends having a pint, do we share the same concern about our conversation? are we willing to have the boldness to proudly wear the name of Jesus?

    An example i’d like to use is my own band. please dont anyone read this as self righteous or self promoting, i am merely attempting to describe what our ministry looks like. We are a prog metal worship band. Our genre and God-given strength with arrangements and music make us entertaining to a very diverse audience. As such, we have the opportunity to be a band playing in churches and a band playing in clubs. We decided a few months ago that we wanted to be obedient to our worship call and as such, when we play clubs we play worship tunes (You Deserve – Hillsong, Our God – Tomlin, I am Free, Freedom is Here, and others) we have played several shows in churches and have been very well received, however, this week will be our first real secular gig and its made us a bit nervous…

    There is this line that we need to draw between being the worship artists we are called to be, and forcing a mindless religion down peoples throats. Our belief is that God is using us to bring His light, in the form of Worshipping that Humble King of Kings in the darkest places on earth. We want to jump into Gothic Metal Clubs in New York City and shine His light and worship our Heavenly Father. Not for our own gratification, but to show people, who may never get the chance what Christianity is really about. Love. Worship. Connection with God. And we want to show people that we are unashamed to speak His name no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

    All that to say, the way we live out our faith in front of a non-believer is to simply live it out. if we water it down and pretend its not a big deal to us than we are being a terrible witness. if its not important to you, why would you tell anyone about it? you wouldnt. and if you mentioned it in passing with some back handed remark that youre glazing over, then your audience will respond in kind. We need to be proud of Jesus and wear His name with honour. Imagine having a friend who was a better friend to you than anyone you had ever known, a friend who had taken a bullet for you and saved your life, a friend you were honoured to spend all of your time with, but as soon as you got out in public you pretended he didnt exist… you were ashamed of him… you denied your association with him… He is the best friend we will ever know. As Christians, we need to act like it!

    How do we deal with people who believe that they have “the Truth” but it’s different from what we believe “the Truth” is?

    This is an easy answer to state that is difficult as anything to live out. We need to model Christ. We need His sprit of humility and compassion. We need His perspective, His mercy, His grace. We think we know the Truth. We think we have a full understanding and we think we ‘get it…’ what could be more arrogant than these beliefs? How could we begin to suppose that the Infinite God is in someway understood by us? Any of us? When i approach my Christian brothers or sisters with a word that I have received from the Lord, there tends to be a lot of argument… perhaps what i’ve said is something new, that they haven’t heard before, perhaps it challenges them on a deep level, perhaps they are afraid to take God out of the box and acknowledge just how limitless and powerful He is.

    People will always want to believe that they know something, that they have a good grip on something. They find metaphors and draw pictures to illustrate this “truth” that they have that we all need. And when your picture is different than theirs they can be very quick to play the heretic card. its unfortunate that the atheists who call us closed minded have such a good point. instead of listening, really listening and trying to learn, at the very least, where our brothers are coming from, we file their thought under H and move on with our day, knowing full well, that only we have the right answer.

    whats worse than that? the brothers and sisters of ours who would create books, videos, audio series, YouTube clips, blogs, tweets, and anything else that publicly defamed and degraded someone from our community and, without ever speaking to that person and finding out what they believe, cast them off as a heretic, or wolf in sheeps clothing. This too is arrogance, when I call my brother to a higher standard, the standard that he, himself, claims to want to be held to, I do it in a private and personal way, perhaps over an email or, better yet over a coffee. I speak frankly about first WHAT I HEARD then i EXPLAIN THE IMPLICATIONS of what i heard. I then ASK IF WHAT I HEARD WAS WHAT HE MEANT, if its not, I then ask what he did mean. I ask if he can see where i misunderstood and then i suggest that others may have misunderstood as well. If he did say what he meant and what he meant doesnt line up with my understanding, I ask him to teach me, to show me where this truth is coming from and I listen. If when he is finished explaining i still dont get what he is saying, I am honest, I go home and PRAY about it, and then when I receive a word from God I will offer it to him. Its amazing how often, when we use this approach, God will tell us (at least he has told me) that we need to give our brother space to come into his own. and be careful with our condemnation and judgmental spirit. In the case that perhaps we are dealing with a church leader who is actively misleading people about doctrine or theology I would still have an attitude where I was choosing to suggest alternative phrases and alternative ideas. as opposed to walking in and saying that if his convictions misalign with mine than he must change for I am the all knowing all seeing all understanding all mighty… me.

    I suppose those were the 2 things i had to say. great articles man, im really enjoying them!

  2. I think another piece to “judging with love” is that we are instructed to take the log out of our own eye first so we can clearly see the speck in someone else’s eye. I think if people spent more time honestly assessing their own minds and hearts and actions in Jesus’ name, and less time looking at what others are doing, it would also earn more respect from the world at large. It takes a lot of grace to be humble and to have accountability. It hurts. It makes one more accepting and forgiving of others.

  3. re: ‘The word “hypocrite” gets thrown around much more often than “heretic”’

    Oh man, does it ever. For me, bearing the label “heretic” (since I’ve lost the faith) has been SO much easier than fearing the label “hypocrite”. Heretics are out of the group. Hypocrites are in the family and still have to face the family’s wrath.

    Growing up, I saw this in my church’s angst over the silly Pentecostals down the road and how they were wrong about X, Y, Z and can you believe that?? And yet there was not a word said about the Catholics, because they were just … wrong. They weren’t “us”.

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