About a year ago, I shared with a friend something I that was really hard for me to say, “I don’t think you should be doing _____.” (Of course there were more words shared that than, but that was the gist of it.) This person was a Christian friend and was doing something that I saw as destructive to her faith and could back up with the word of God. It’s important to say that or else the conversation would have gone much differently. The reaction I got from this conversation was pretty intense, but basically her response was, “don’t judge me.”
I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about the “Don’t Judge Me” or the “Only God Can Judge Me” culture we live in and I’ve come to the belief that it’s extremely destructive to the Christian faith. I’ve (regrettably) been on both sides-- the one saying, “you shouldn’t be doing that and here’s why” as well as, “don’t judge me.” Trust me, there’s no good side to be on. Both are hard.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say (or maybe you say), “the Bible says don’t judge,” when confronted with opposition to their actions. They are right in part, but wrong in another, and I think it’s one of the most harmful lies the enemy has been able to sow into the Christian world…
Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The verses following it are also frequently quoted, but not usually with the summary of the previous, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
We somehow use verses one and two to justify our sin and protect us from being “called out,” but we fail to read on and see that Jesus is actually saying not to “judge” when we have the same sin in our own lives because our own sin will cause us not to see the other person’s clearly, thus we could harm them trying to “remove the sin from them.”
The Christian community needs to embrace “judgement” within itself and here’s why: when I hear someone say “only God can judge me,” I just can’t help but feel pain for that person. We have to know that they are right, in part, only JESUS can pass the final judgement on them. Only Jesus can welcome us into the Kingdom of Heaven or sentance us to the pits of hell-- and trust me, He will. He will pass judgment on each and every one of us-- and this is why it’s important for us to point out sin in our friends lives. We point out sin in our friends’ lives out of love, because we are not ignorant to the coming judgment. We know judgment IS coming and we know the STANDARD we are going to be held to because we have a book that outlines it.
We simply cannot go on living in this mindset. If we truly want to have God be at work in us, we have to be willing to have the sinful parts of us pointed out, however painful it may be, and work to rid ourselves of it. I don’t know when or why we came to the idea that nothing has to change about us when we become Christian. Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that we are not welcomed into the open arms of Jesus if we are flawed, but I am saying that once we run into His arms and spend a little time there being loved on, that same love should propel us to be holy and righteous. The chains of sin should fall off and we should WANT our life to look different that it did before we ran into His open arms.
***I have to add this disclaimer, if someone is pointing out sin in your life and is attempting to “pass a final judgment” on your life, that is wrong and extremely against the Christian faith. Only Jesus can do this. It is never okay to say to someone, “you’re going to hell for _____” This is an attempt to pass a final judgement, taking on the role of Jesus. It’s a careful balance between “you’re going to hell” and “those actions deserve hell.” They’re different. We all deserve hell, but to say that we are going there for ____ is to downplay the weight of Jesus’s crucifixion and forget about grace. When we “point out sin,” we must be careful to accompany it with GRACE and LOVE. We must not forget to include in this discussion that Jesus is ready and completely able to redeem our sin and has already paid the debt for our sin-- that’s grace, but just because there is unlimited grace, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to be holy or that sin is not longer bad. Sin is still sin and it’s still disgusting to God.***
Brene Brown (God bless this woman) has done extensive research into the difference in ‘guilt’ and ‘shame,’ and I think it’s important to bring into this discussion. In our culture we use these two words almost interchangeably , but they are not the same. ‘Shame’ is what we feel when others see our sin and are passing judgment on us, when they see our sin as our identity. Shame is what the enemy wants, because it paralyzes us and keeps us isolated in our sin. It keeps us from vulnerability. Shame says, “your sin is too big for Jesus and if anyone ever finds out about it, no one will accept you.” Can you see how anti-Jesus this is? In our vulnerability, we find freedom because we refuse to believe the lie that our identity is in our sin. This is SO much different than guilt. ‘Guilt’ is a healthy emotion to experience and if we have the holy spirit inside of us, we will regularly experience this. The feeling of guilt comes from the Holy Spirit convicting us for our sin. It’s not going to go away with Christianity and nor does God desire us to never experience guilt. We live in a sinful world and we are going to sin again even after we come to Jesus. If we don’t feel guilty when we sin (and we know we did it), there’s something terribly wrong. When we feel that guilt, we should run back to those open arms of Jesus and apologize (repent) for those actions. We need to feel guilt in order to propel us not to do that again.
Let’s look at scripture:
Just before Jesus went to the cross, He spent time asking God to spare Him, if it was His will.
"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this[n] cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. After leaving them, He went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the time is near. The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! See, My betrayer is near.”
But why? Jesus knew that He came in order to go to the cross. He, on several occasions, denounced any comment or attempt to keep Him from the cross.
For example, in Matthew 16:
From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!” But He turned and told Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.”
Jesus wasn’t asking God to “let this cup pass from me” because He was scared of physical pain, He was asking this because He didn’t want to feel the emotional pain of being an “enemy of God” on the cross. The “cup” he was talking about is the cup of God’s wrath meant for all of us that live in sin.
Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.’ Jeremiah 25:15
O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. Isaiah 51:17
If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger. Revelation 14:9-10
Jesus didn’t just feel the physical pain of the crucifixion-- I believe that was nothing in comparison to the pain from the guilt He felt as took on the sin of the world… the pain of being an enemy to His Father.
So why is guilt healthy? Why do we feel it if we have grace for all our sin? Because when we sin, we have a little taste of the cup Jesus drank. We taste what it’s like to be an “enemy of God.” Jesus drank the full cup for those who come to Him, but the cup is still there for those who don’t come to Him on the day of judgment. When we sin and feel guilt, we dip our tongue into that cup and taste the wrath of God and it doesn’t feel good. I’m so thankful it doesn’t feel good or else I would easily become and enemy of God without even knowing it. I’m so thankful for guilt and conviction from the Holy Spirit because it helps me to navigate life, it helps me to know when I’ve gone off track and am walking away from Jesus instead of toward Him. If we are in the family of Christ, our desire should be to pursue holiness.
We should embrace it when our Christian friends lovingly point out sin in our lives. We should welcome it because it’s an opportunity for us to grow closer to God. It’s going to be hard, but so worth it. Think back to math class in high school, you have a test coming up and have studied hard and know how to do the problems. Of course, you’ll make some mistakes now and then, but still, you know the curriculum. Now, what if you see your friend in the same class preparing for the exam and they’re doing the problems wrong. How evil would it be for you not to tell them? To let them continue to make the same mistakes and walk into the test with all the confidence in the world? How stupid would it be for you to say, “don’t grade me” if your friend shares this with you? They're not “grading you,” they literally couldn't, they don't have that authority. They’re simply warning you of a standard you are about to be graded by.