The Bare Soul
September 16, 2012
I Corinthians 5:12 - For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
Most of us are familiar with Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount when He said "Judge not so that you may not be judged." (Matthew 7:1) We may have used this verse to instruct the "intolerant," or possibly someone reminded us of this scripture when we voiced a negative comment regarding a person, place, or thing. Those who study Scripture and know the heart of God might tire of hearing those who know little of Scripture and God's heart misquote Jesus' admonition. The context of this verse spoke to those who lived under a Pharisaical culture which continually attempted to bring others under the burden of religious compliance. However, Jesus changed the complexion of what it means to judge righteously by telling the crowd to first remove all pretense of self-righteousness. (Once the log of contempt toward others is removed from my eye, I will be able to see clearly to remove the speck from my brother's eye [Matthew 7:3-5].) By doing so, we have the opportunity to demonstrate love within the bounds of humility which God has given to us regarding our fellow man.
If we are truly honest, we all make judgments dozens of times throughout our day. We judge whether we are color-coordinated when we get dressed in the morning. We judge whether a certain food is good or not so good for us, and especially our waistline! However, when we move from making judgments that speak into other lives, that is what often causes the rancor. What we must ask ourselves in these cases is: What is our motive? Is our desire to condemn or to construct? To meddle or to mend? To hate or to heal? Why we judge will often be the great determiner on how it is received. We know from the Scriptures that Jesus spoke much about judging and it was not always telling us not to do it. In context of Jesus' discussion with the Pharisees concerning healing on the Sabbath in John chapter seven, He tells them not to be so bound by their laws that they miss the intent. In John 7:23-24 He states, "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." [emphasis added] Jesus is saying to both those of His day and also to us how we are missing the point if we do not judge appropriately and according to the law of love. We must see that judgment must begin with us and our motives, and then we will be adequately prepared to judge with Christ's heart of love (I Peter 4:17).
The Apostle Paul understood this principle when he likewise dealt with religious passivity at the church in Corinth. Immorality, covetousness, slander, envy, and a number of other fleshly indulgences were in full operation in this young, burgeoning body of believers. However, he rightly pointed out how "outsiders," or those who did not know Christ, were not to be judged in a condemning manner. Paul preached the Gospel and allowed the seed to fall where it may, bringing some but not all to repentance. Like Paul, we can only speak the word of God and let unbelievers either continue in their wicked ways or come to Jesus and His salvation. However, for those who do come to Jesus and yet still continue in the ways of the world, it is our duty to judge them in love. Of course, we must be careful in how we present the truth. It must be done in compassion and through relationship. As an example, it is impossible to drive a 2-ton truck over a 1-ton bridge and not expect bridge damage. In the same way, if we have not bridged the relationship in those lives where we speak judgment, then we will very possibly damage the "bridge" and cause irreparable harm. Love is the key, beloved, to any type of successful judgment.
The aforementioned scripture in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians reads as follows, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." (I Corinthians 5:12-13) Was Paul angry? I believe that is certainly the case. However, what precluded Paul's anger was his love. When writing this epistle, I can only imagine the tears streaming down his face as he sorrowfully said, "Remove the wicked man from among yourselves." Paul had built that bridge of relationship and had poured his life into theirs. Therefore, he bore the right to judge with righteous judgment those for whom he had travailed in much work and prayer. We must likewise be careful who we judge and on what occasion. It is often easy to judge the behavior of someone else without first loving that individual. As stated, I believe Jesus' words "judge not that you not be judged" are often used to further the ends of people who want to remain tolerant of the worst behavior. Conversely, I believe it is also important that when we do judge righteously we do it with a heart of love that seeks to correct through the lens of Scripture. As Christians, we must not balk from our responsibility to judge righteously. Yet, we must do it always looking to ourselves, knowing we are only as strong and loving as we are humble before a loving God.
Heavenly Father, may we first judge ourselves correctly that we may be able to judge others with love and to help them on this journey of life. May we never condemn, but always lift up the standard of Jesus, allowing Your Holy Spirit to draw both us and others to Your saving grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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