Greg started this week’s sermon with a reminder of how central love is to the Christian faith. The Church is to display God’s love to the world. But we fail to do this primarily because we forget that we are unable to both love and judge our neighbor.
Greg started this week’s sermon with a reminder of how central love is to the Christian faith. The Church is to display God’s love to the world. But we fail to do this primarily because we forget that we are unable to both love and judge our neighbor. The irony here is that exactly at that time when we think we see sin in the other person, we forget our own sin and focus in on theirs. When we do this we separate “them” from “us” and we are standing in judgment over “them.” When we separate ourselves from others in this way, we not only judge them, which is wrong, but we separate ourselves from God by presuming to do God’s job. We forget that Christ came into the world not to judge the world, but to save it (John 12:47-48). Why then do we think we are to judge it? Greg explained that the word “judge” shares a common root with the word “critic.” So when we are judging we are criticizing. The central intuition here is that love bridges the gap between people, identifying one with the other for the sake of reconciliation, but judging/criticizing separates one from the other and puts one in the position of right and the other in the position of wrong. Greg made it clear that separating good from evil is a good thing, BUT separating people from each other is NOT. Judging happens when people are separated from one another because of the criticism, the setting up of one person or group over the other as though they were better. There is simply no room for this in the body of Christ.
Greg’s message centered on two responses to one important question:
Why shouldn’t we judge/criticize/separate?
I. We are NOT God. This first response to the question seems obvious enough but we manage to forget it all the time. True judgment requires knowing ALL the facts. If we don’t know all the facts, we cannot know what the truth of the matter really is. Again, we clearly lack these requirements. Why then do we still find ourselves “qualified” to judge our neighbor? Greg reminded us that we see only the appearances of things, the tip of the iceberg. But God’s omniscience (knowledge of ALL things) makes God the one and ONLY judge worthy of the task. As an illustration of this point, Greg told the story of a woman who had suffered ongoing sexual abuse and was judged harshly by the church because she was giving them a bad reputation. The church saw only the torn and desperate state this woman was in, just the tip of the iceberg. But it proceeded to judge her on the basis of that. No one got involved enough to find out that the circumstances of her life were so tragic that for her, the only good thing she could think of was having produced a child who she longed to protect from the things that had damaged her. As you’ll recall, Greg told of how she married and later on began to realize that the husband was abusing this child in the same way she had been abused. And to add to it, he had communicated a STD to them both. Her only “peace” and release from the pain came when she was so drunk she was hardly conscious of who she was and it was at these times that she continued to be taken advantage of at the bars. The church only knew that this woman was promiscuous and drunk at times, but at other times she came to church to give testimonies because she knew she was a sinner and wanted desperately to be forgiven. They labeled her a hypocrite and a sinner. Perhaps she was both, but surely no more so than the church that refused to reach out and offer her support and a healing environment that might enable her to break the cycle of violence she was born into. The church, by judging her, brings judgment upon itself. It separated itself from her rather than embracing her and loving her into safety and wholeness. It was the church’s responsibility to believe and hope all things (I Cor. 13:7) for her even though she could not do it for herself. Instead, we tend to judge.
II. We are sinners. Not only do we lack the knowledge needed to judge we do not have the perfect character required. Even if we did somehow know all the facts, true judgment also requires nothing short of perfect character and wisdom. (The verses referred to here were: I Peter 4:8, Matt. 7:3.)
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