This post has been wandering around in my head for several weeks. This morning I told a friend that I had been arguing with God about posting it, and she replied, “You know better than that, just let Him write it.” This is a difficult one because sin is a difficult topic for many. Even among Christians there seems a desire to avoid the topic altogether and focus on God’s love. But the Bible says much about sin and how we are to deal with it as a Christian community, so I’m done arguing. I only hope I have written what He wants me to write.
Do Not Judge, But Correct
Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1. This directive from Jesus is often used as a reason to not call certain behavior sin even if the Bible says it is sin. But is that really what Jesus meant? Didn’t He also tell the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more? John 8:11.
There are other places in scripture where Christians are called to correct their Christian brothers and sisters if they see that they are sinning. In Luke 17:3, Jesus said to His disciples, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2. In Revelation, Jesus says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about discipline or correction leading to life. “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” Proverbs 10:17. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1. “He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.” Proverbs 13:18. “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” Proverbs 19:18. There are 20 verses in Proverbs dealing with discipline and correction of another or oneself being a blessing.
The other day I was searching on www.Biblegateway.com for the verse about God being the gatekeeper of our mouth in response to a comment/question on my post about taming the tongue. I found that verse in Psalm 141:3. As I read the rest of that Psalm I came across this verse: “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” Psalm 141:5. What this verse says to me is that it is a blessing to me for one of my Christian brothers or sisters to tell me when I have missed the mark. “It is a kindness” for another to set me straight when I sin because it will bring me closer to God. I don’t want my own sin minimized or ignored by my fellow Christians. I want them to correct me when I’m wrong.
Based on the whole of scripture, I don’t believe that when Jesus said “Do not judge” He meant that we should never rebuke or correct our fellow Christians. So what then did He mean? Being trained in the law, it helps me to think of this scripture in terms of the legal process. A legal case usually begins with the lawyers who counsel their clients regarding what the law is. When a lawyer tells his client that certain behavior is in violation of the law, in breach of a contract, or in violation of some duty the client owes to others, he is not judging the client. He is simply counseling him in what is right and what is wrong. At a trial, there are witnesses who testify to the facts of what happened and what the client or others have done. But the witnesses are not judging the client, they are merely stating what they know to be true.
Judgment does not come until the end of the trial. It is the pronouncement by the judge or jury that the client is guilty (in a criminal case) or liable (in a civil case). It is the final determination. For all of us the final judgment comes when we die and stand before the judgment seat of God. It is the final decision by God whether we will be judged innocent by the blood of Christ and enter Heaven, or be judged guilty on our own merits and suffer the punishment of Hell. The right of final judgment belongs to God and Him alone. I believe it is this final judgment that Jesus admonishes His disciples to not do.
It is proper to correct a fellow Christian, for this does not amount to judgment. But it is not proper to state that another will surely go to Hell because of their sin. We are all sinners saved by Grace, and have no right or authority to judge the final fate of another. If the fact that a person has sinned is sufficient to seal their judgment, then we are all lost. But thanks be to God, we have been found and saved by His Grace. Let us help each other by rebuking and correcting each other so that we might grow in our faith and understanding of God’s holy and perfect love.