Yesterday in little ol’ Fargo, North Dakota, a firestorm erupted when the local newspaper refused to publish the “wedding” announcement of a lesbian couple. Being the silly person I am, I attempted to get into the conversation by supporting the newspaper’s decision on their Facebook page. Why? Why oh why do I go into such situations? Of course I got the classic responses from some lesbians, gay guys, and typical non-Christians. Those don’t bother me so much. What bothers me the most are the Christians who had critically negative things to say to me because I support the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most disheartening was the acquaintance of mine who said something to the effect that as Christians we shouldn’t be judging other people’s actions.
No verse was cited to support this, but clearly she got this idea from Jesus here:
Judge not, that you be not judged.
St. Matthew 7:1
Clearly Jesus tells us that we are not to judge because we are sinners too. St. Luke gives us an account of the same event, but he expands more.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned.
St. Luke 6:37
Here, it is clear that a very specific kind of judging is being mentioned here, the judgment of condemnation. But we all know, or should know, that there is more than one kind of judging. There is the act of condemnation, and there is the act of discernment, the judging between two things, such as good and evil. And it is the discernment between what is good and evil that Jesus does not forbid us from, and in fact, requires of us.
Just a few verses later, Jesus tells us how to discern between what constitutes a good man and what constitutes an evil man. We are able to judge between good and bad people by the fruits of their lives. We cannot, of course, condemn them to hell, but we can judge their actions as good or bad.
God has always called his people to warn the wicked:
If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life.
This command is still applicable today:
Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2
There are more, too, but I won’t list them here, this is sufficient. We are not called to judge our brethren into Hell, not here, not at this time. But if we do not take seriously our duty to judge between good and evil in order so that we can be liked, and perceived as nice, we actually do condemn them to hell. Our silence on their sin condemns them far greater than calling them out ever would, and it heaps condemnation on ourselves.
We might not like to hear this message. Some of us will still refuse to obey. But that doesn’t matter. We are not called to be liked and to be nice. We are called to be holy as God is holy. We are called to be obedient to the will of God. We are called to make disciples.
So those who refuse to call sin sin, I warn you and rebuke you today at the danger you cause others and for yourself, and to remind you that that is not a Christian virtue.