It’s one thing to hear Miley Cyrus shout the lyrics: “Remember only God can judge ya, forget the haters ‘cause somebody loves ya,” but to hear similar words from a Pastor blows my mind. The recurring theme in season 2 of Preachers of LA has been “judgment,” and is followed by the defensive response of: “are you perfect?” This language suggests that only perfect people can reveal or question sin in the lives of others. This language also suggests that bringing up the topic of sin inevitably leads to judgment and condemnation. I will first explain the root of our miseducation on Judgment, then explain how it hurts the church.
What is Judgment?
First let’s clarify what “judgment” actually means. Judgment is the formation of an opinion after thoughtful consideration. Judgment is also a verdict or condemning of a guilty party. Jesus himself speaks against judging others:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
From the definition and scripture references above, one can imply that God commands Christians to not give their opinions about the sin of others. However, this is where the “Miseducation” has begun. The Judgment that God condemns is the judgment that acts as final judgment, for that right is reserved for God alone. Matthew 7:1-2 does not mean that Disciples of Christ should never judge the moral actions of others, but refers to harsh and superior attitudes towards others.
I believe the most misunderstood passage of the Bible is the story of the “Adulteress Woman” in chapter 8 of the gospel of John. Jesus is quoted saying “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After the condemning crowd leaves one by one, Jesus then says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” she replies “No one, sir.” Jesus then says “Then neither do I condemn you.”
Many misunderstand this passage to mean that, if you are not free of sin you do not have the right to mention, or question one about their evident sin. This woman was truly guilty of sin. It is a fact that this woman was caught in adultery, and it is also a fact that adultery is the 7th commandment listed of the Ten Commandments. So what is the message Jesus was trying to teach? That Adultery is okay? Since we all sin, don’t bring up moral failures of others? Absolutely not!
Context of John Chapter 8
Many fail to understand the context of this passage. In John chapter 8, the Pharisees intended to trap Jesus in order to make a charge against Him. According to Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 those caught in adultery were to be punished by death. However a few major requirements were missing.
- Both guilty parties should have been brought before the people, not just the woman.
- Allowing the stoning would have violated Roman Law.
- This punishment was rarely carried out because capital punishment required two or three witnesses.
Jesus knows the Pharisees are attempting to trap him; if he allows the stoning He would be in violation of the Roman law, but if he releases her Jesus could have been accused of disregarding the Law of Moses.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” actually confirms the legitimacy of the law; but also turns the tables back on her accusers and their motives. “This statement does not imply that judicial cases can only be tried by sinless people. But it is a rebuke to the motives of these leaders who ignored their own sins while using this woman to implicate Jesus.[i]”
Jesus Does NOT Excuse sin
Finally this simple phrase is forgotten: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus offers love and grace to this woman, but He doesn’t excuse her life of sin. Many focus their attention on the judgment of the people in this passage and not God’s commands to leave a life of sin.
How this Miseducation Hurts the Church
- It Delivers an Incomplete Gospel – This mindset teaches a Gospel of forgiveness without Repentance. Repentance is turning from sin, and this cannot be absent from the Gospel of Christ which saves us from sin. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
- It Desensitizes the Church to Sin– This cultivates a culture of sinners- instead of a culture of Holiness. “We all sin- so don’t call out my sin,” teaches our believers to Abuse God’s Grace. “But where sin multiplied, Grace multiplied…What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”(Romans 5:21b-6:2)
- It Minimizes the Severity of God’s Judgment- When people would prefer the judgment of God over the correction of their brothers and sisters in Christ… there is a major lack of fear of God. Let’s simply read and ponder on these verses: But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelations 21:8)“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to…..“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” (Luke 13:24 & 28)
God actually Commands us to Judge
I urge you to open your hearts to the correction of others. Yes, there are “church folks” out there that misjudge and cast ungodly judgments upon us. However, we must search our own hearts and correct any offensive and sinful ways. Let’s not jump to be defensive when sin is reveal or questioned in our lives. God may be using that person to save us from a destructive path, “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)
Lastly, when we are approaching others with concerns of sin; do so with the right motives. “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1). We cannot not forget that we are commanded to speak the truth, but gently and in love (Ephesians 4:15).
[i] Holman Christian Standard Study Bible Commentary- John 8:7
Ta’Tyana Leonard M.A. – www.tatyanaleonard.com