Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heartless Judging

The title of this article might imply that this blog offers a correction to those who judge others without the slightest degree of empathy. That interpretation of the title would be far from target. Actually, I want to talk about the dangers that emerge when we allow our emotions to influence our judgment or critical thinking. I realize there are a large number of Christians who think that any kind of judging is wrong. In answer to this objection, I defer to Scripture. Paul informs the Corinthians, “Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”[1] Paul is referring to a man practicing sexual immorality all the while professing Christ as Lord. There is no place in the Christian group for individuals who profess Christ with their lips and deny Him with their actions. Judging is an essential component of the Christian life. Again Paul says, “But he who is spiritual appraises all things…”[2] The Greek word translated “appraises” is anakrinw and it is the Greek word for judge. This is why many English translates use the word “judge” in their translation of this verse rather than appraise. In other words, the spiritual person judges everything. To the uncritical, this looks like a hypercritical person because they examine things carefully in light of biblical principles. This does not mean that there is no such thing as a hypercritical attitude. Of course there is. It does mean that in our culture, one should be very careful before labeling someone as hypercritical because that could be falsely judging a brother or sister who is actually obeying Scripture in its imperative to exercise discernment.

By heart, I actually mean emotion. Our feelings often cloud our judgment on any number of issues. Should I allow my kid to hang out with this other kid who may be a bad influence? Should I permit my daughter to date that boy? What would it do to her if I forbad it? Should I place an employee on warning even though I really like her as a person? Our emotions tend to get in the way of our judgment and tend to displace the priority of our convictions. This happens in the Christian community when we really don’t want to identify someone as a false brother because they spoke softly or were really kind or seemed very sincere in how they talked about Christ. Our reaction is to place some sort of priority on that kind of behavior as if it matters that someone is soft-spoken, or speak kind to us about theology that we know is false. It is even more difficult to keep emotions out when the other person shows emotion, such as tearing up when they speak of Jesus. Make no mistake about it, emotion is no substitute for a regenerated heart. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, but he is actually a roaring lion walking around seeking to tear us to shreds. Think about how a lion hunts. The Gazelle sees the open plain, wind blowing the tall grass, with the heat of the sun on its back. All is quiet and tranquil. Everything feels so incredibly peaceful. The animal relaxes as it lowers its guard. What it does not realize is there is a killer just 30 feet away, hiding beneath the tall grass, just out of site. The environment feels one way, but it is actually quite the opposite. False brethren do not wear labels announcing they are false. They come in secretly, looking like the real thing. In fact, often times, they look better than the real thing. These are pawns of Satan, and most of the time, they are completely unaware that they themselves are playing the devil’s fiddle.

The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned authoritative and therefore, binding instructions to the Galatian believers. In telling the Galatians the story of his trip up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, he writes that “Titus was not even compelled to be circumcised.” This indicates there are details that Paul does not have time to provide. He gives us a clue in the next sentence when he says in Gal. 2:4, “But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.” That Paul would say this immediately after saying that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised is a clue that these men were placing great pressure on Titus to conform to abhorrent teaching. I am in a discussion with a Church of God minister at this very time who thinks that it is more important to be effective evangelists than it is to be theologically sound. He refuses to acknowledge that it is impossible to be an effective witness of something you don’t really understand. Sound doctrine is not negotiable. Note that these brethren were categorized as false brethren according to Paul. The Greek word is ψευδαδέλφους which simply means false brethren. These are pretenders because their convictions and lives do not line up with those of the community to which they claim to belong. They come in all stripes and flavors. Some of them are very sweet and soft-spoken. They don’t mind serving, cleaning, cutting the grass and even are involved in ministry. They can be some of the nicest people in the church. This makes it very difficult for one to confront them and it especially makes it difficult for us to label them as false believers.

Labeling false brethren as false brethren, while extremely serious, is a necessary practice within the Christian group. There is something far greater than the nice lady or man who is attempting to persuade us of their teachings while claiming to love Christ. That something is the revelation of God in Christ as disclosed in Scripture. The truth of God in Scripture is what is at stake. It is easy to identify men who are fleecing the flock, like T.D. Jakes a heretic. His wealth gospel and modalism stand condemned without ambiguity. However, it becomes more difficult when those we have confront are closer to home, standing in front of us attempting to convince that the venom they spew is God’s truth. It is especially difficult when these people are very likeable. Nevertheless, confront them we must, that is, if we love them.

Paul goes on to tell the Galatians that his team did not yield to these teachers even for an hour. In other words, Paul and his team did not give these men the time of day. He dismissed them immediately. Why? Paul says he responded this way toward these false teachers so that the truth of the gospel would remain with the Galatian believers. That is my entire point. Paul took anything and everything, including emotion, out of his decision to label these men for what they were. He did so, he says, for the sake of the truth of the gospel. Paul knew that these men had made progress introducing the Galatians and even getting them to adopt a false gospel. These teachers were of high repute. They were men of great influence in the community. They were using this influence to distort and pervert the gospel. Paul made no bones about it. He matter-of-factly labeled these men as false brethren who were essentially enemies of the faith and he dismissed them from the Christian conversation. They were not to be given honor nor were their views to be respected. The honor and truth of God were being compromised and the souls of men were at stake. I would to God that we would see truth this way today. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we have lost our passion and conviction for the truth of Scripture that Christ said would make us free indeed.

When it comes to standing up for the truth, you must guard your emotions. There are times when it will be difficult to inform the person in front of you that their beliefs do not reflect genuine faith. You don’t want to tell them that. You don’t want to “hurt” their feelings. I think of the time that Stephen confronted the Jewish leaders of his day and how they become so angry with him that they killed him. Truth often hurts. It cuts deeper than anything else can. Sometimes, God uses that to rescue believers from serious doctrinal error and even the rim of heresy. Other times He uses it to inform true believers of who the wolves are among them. The point is that we must find a way to become comfortable with standing up for the truth. This is not to say that you are not emotionally moved by the results. That is not my point. My point is that you cannot allow positive or negative emotions to interfere with sharing the raw truth of Scripture with people. Plant, water, and God will do the rest according to His will.

[1] 1 Cor. 5:12-13 NAS

[2] 1 Cor. 2:15 NAS

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