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Devotionals

Sacrificing Accountability on the "Judge Not" Altar of Church Growth

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Judged anyone lately? Sadly, the answer for most of us (including me) is" yes. From the guy who cut you off in traffic, to the off-beat person who's not picking up the social cues you're sending, to your weed-smoking neighbour" it's so easy to judge. And judgment just gets worse from there. It's the basis of racism, sexism and almost every other 'ism' you can think of. -- Carey Nieuwhof

This is a form of the logical fallacy known as illegitimate totality transfer. This assumes that all the uses for a word that occur at a given time apply in any given instance. Can you make an argument that judging is at the root of racism and sexism? Sure although I can make an argument there are far more culpable villains. But conceding that fact does not mean that every time judgment is noted it must relate back to these two negative uses. If you have a friend who smokes and you advise him to quit for all of the known health reasons you have indeed judged but is that negative? Of course not! That really cuts to the heart of the issue of judging. What is the motivation for it and how is it delivered? Nieuwhof here wants to establish a foundation that all judging is bad. He continues:

It's also fundamentally incompatible with authentic Christian faith. Jesus said Christians should be known for how deeply we love. Yet studies show that in the eyes of many non-Christians, we're known for how deeply we judge, not for how deeply we love. The problem in many cases is not that unchurched people don't know any Christians. The problem is that they do. And they don't like us--for good reason. -- Carey Nieuwhof

Say what? Judging is fundamentally incompatible with authentic Christian faith? Yeah that is absolutely nowhere in the Bible. I guess Jesus was wrong when He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers. He was just being judgmental. Or how about when Paul called out Peter for being a hypocrite, which I may add forced Peter to realize his error. What about the key verses when Jesus says to help your brother with the splinter in his eye? No Carey. Authentic Christian faith is rooted in the truth. Jesus even stressed to not judge by mere appearances but rather with right judgment. The rest of this quote shows a disconnect for Mr. Nieuwhof between Scripture and application. The verse he casually references states that we will be known by our love for each other and then he goes on to speak to how we treat the unsaved. That verse has nothing to do with the unsaved. Now, the rest of his point is correct but he is not connecting that this is because of the church judging the lost. By painting with a broad brush he has lumped all judgment into the same basket. Remember too that his entire premise is that judgmental Christians are killing churches. That is utter nonsense. The presumption underlying this thinking is that a small church is somehow stagnant. If God gives a pastor 100 people and they all go to heaven he will hear well done my good and faithful servant. God gives the increase beloved -- not Carey Nieuwhof and his human wisdom. He continues:

But when you see grace and truth fused, it takes your breath away. Why did people travel for days on foot in extreme conditions to meet Jesus? Grace fused to truth is what our hearts most deeply long for. But in the evangelical church today (and I'm an evangelical), the hard edge of truth has crushed many. And one of the most frequent expressions of loveless truth is found in judgment. -- Carey Nieuwhof

Yes. Grace fused with truth. He must be talking about when Jesus told the woman about her five husbands. No? Maybe it was when He told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. No? Maybe it was when He told the masses that they only came to Him for a meal. This soft edged Christ that Nieuwhof worships does not exist. This sloppy agape nonsense is exactly what is killing the church. Truth sometimes has an edge to it. If they are crushed they are crushed for not wanting to give up their sin. Remember beloved that Jesus Himself said that He came to divide families against themselves. That is the true nature of the Gospel. Not that you deliver the message with meanness but that you recognize the message of heaven and hell will be viewed positively by those who are willing to repent and be seen as judging by those who refuse to. Nieuwhof however is not concerning himself with this because all he wants is for them to come back to the church the next week. He now lists the five things that he says are Christian virtues we will miss if we judge within the church:

1. Love. The presence of judgment almost always guarantees an absence of love. Think about it through the lens of your marriage, a friendship or even someone you work with: it is virtually impossible to love someone and judge someone at the same time. But wait, you ask: what if they're making a mistake and I need to correct them? First of all, look at your mistakes and the depth of your sin, and deal with your issues first. In the process, you'll encounter a loving God who forgives you despite your rather egregious sin. I try to remember this rule: If I'm judging someone, I'm not loving them. You can't judge someone and love them at the same time. -- Carey Nieuwhof

Says no biblical text anywhere. Remember judging is simply coming to a conclusion and Jesus said to make sure you are right. It is patently silly to suggest that you cannot love someone and judge them at the same time. If my wife started drinking heavily I can judge correctly that I need to speak to her about it and I do so because I love her. To not judge people who we claim to love is a shallow, meaningless love. The back story to the verses from Corinthians cited earlier is that the church was allowing a man in their congregation to openly be in a sexual relationship with his father's wife. I am sure the church didn't want to judge him so they allowed it. Paul writes to expel him from their congregation! Then in the second letter to the Corinthians we see that this man is restored. He never gets to the restoration unless those who loved him rightly judged him.

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