I recently reposted a meme that said,
“It’s impossible to love people when you’re standing in judgement of them.”
I had an acquaintance respond who said:
“I’m confused. Should I take a Sharpie and cross all these verses out of my bible? Matt. 18:15-17, 1 Cor. 5:3, Gal. 6:1, Rev. 2:2, Titus 1:13, 2 Thess. 3:14, Titus 2:15, 2 Cor. 2:6-8. The Bible seems to say that sometimes loving people means HAVING to judge them, and Jesus even gave a specific recipe for how to do it. But, you’re saying it’s ‘impossible’. So, He was wrong?”
My initial response was:
“It also says to not judge lest you be judged, (Matt. 7:1). I think the problem comes in that our English word has different connotations. Jesus stated, “For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47). Perhaps, it has to do with an individual’s perspective, resulting in decisions each person makes, as a consequence of someone’s actions affecting their perceived boundaries. This inherently feels like shaming, but it doesn’t have to. While we do need to make decisions about our interactions with others (thus making a judgement), I think we can do that without shame, inviting them into relationship when there is evidence of change. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. I think we don’t ‘stand in judgement’ of others as much as we judge ourselves and make decisions for ourselves.
My acquaintance challenged me again to deal with the verses he cited. So, just for fun, I want to look specifically at the verses he stated. In these verses I see basically two elements: (1) These are examples of setting boundaries, and (2) Judgement should rest in the hands of the corporate (church body) authority, so that an individual doesn’t have to harbor judgment in his heart toward another individual.
I’ve written another post on this Blog on not judging others HERE, where I discuss the different meanings of the English word “judging,” between condemning someone vs. making evaluations, which we need to clarify when talking about judging.
The Greek word for judge is krino and Strong’s definition is: properly, to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to try, condemn, punish:—avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.
Well, there’s a lot in that definition. There are both the meanings to evaluate and to condemn.
How do the verses (below) relate with the meme that I reposted? Are these verses which exhort us to proactively hold ourselves over others, condemning them, or are they an instruction for how to handle situations that unfortunately require discernment and protection? Are they verses that show there is a place for discernment about a brother’s behaviors so we can set boundaries?
Perhaps the meme would have been better stated as “It’s impossible to love people when you’re standing in condemnation of them”, which is how I read the meme to begin with. I will trust that my acquaintance has a good heart and does not condemn those that he finds it necessary to part ways with. I will also practice setting good boundaries based on the behaviors I see in another that may not be safe. Still, as an individual, I will stand by the meme and try to not condemn them and practice letting go of any stones that I find in my hands.
Here’s a look at these particular verses because these are indeed in the Bible and it’s good to wrestle with them.
15 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
This is indeed a great verse to show we need to talk about sins between believers. Some versions also include the words “If a brother sins against you” indicating we don’t need to talk about every sin, just the ones we are offended by. It’s also a great verse which talks about setting boundaries (let them be to you as a Gentile; keep your distance), and taking it from an individual perspective to a corporate perspective. Let more than one person decide if this sin is harmful to others enough to warrant separation from the church. I don’t see this as “standing in judgment” as much as having discernment as to when and how to set boundaries.
Taking it into the corporate level of care also frees the offended person so they can let go of judgment. It is to be borne out of care and concern for the welfare of the sinner and not out of spite or ill-will. Of course, an individual may need to set boundaries for themselves even if the corporate body is not able or willing to do so.
The entire theme of Matthew 18 is that of restoration and concern for those who are lost.
1 Cor 5:13
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
Another great verse showing boundaries are appropriate and required when dealing with an immoral person. The context of 1 Cor. 5 talks about sexual sins and this is a letter written to the corporate church in Corinth. The Church is not to hide evil doers, but expose them (Eph. 5:11). Does this require discernment and evaluation? Yes it does.
Gal 6:1 (Letter is written to the Corporate church in Galatia)
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5 For each one will bear his own load.
Again, another verse which calls us to look at our own heart first before we deal with another person’s sins. Rather than ‘standing in judgment’ (i.e. condemnation), we first look at our own life and realize how difficult it is to change. We come from a place of gentleness and not condemnation. Not everyone has the skill of being gentle which is why it needs to go back to the corporate level to have the elders deal with it.
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false
This is honoring the church at Ephesus (corporate) that they tested (evaluated) apostles and found them to be false. Again, an area for corporate vs. individuals to decide so an individual doesn’t have to.
This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
Again, this is written to Titus who is organizing the corporate church and it is specifically talking about the selection of elders for the corporate church. Specifically he is speaking of teachers teaching false doctrine.
2 Thess. 3:14
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.
Another great verse which advocates for healthy boundaries! Boundaries will indeed sometimes cause a person to feel shame (not that we have to hold them in a shaming way). But by their nature, it does separate us and can cause shame. And yet, even if we have to hold a boundary, we hold them keeping in mind this person is a brother, not an enemy. Someone we love and not condemn.
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
This letter is written to Titus who is over the corporate church, who is to watch the habits and actions of the brethren. The church is to exhort (Blue Letter Bible: exhort = to call to one’s side, to address, speak to, admonish, beg, console, encourage, comfort, strengthen, instruct). I don’t think it comes with an attitude of condemnation.
2 Cor 2:6-8
Sufficient for such a one is this punishment, which was inflicted by the majority, 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.
Again, the corporate church exercising love not condemnation.