Have you ever reflected on our individualistic, post-modern, self-defining culture and the absurdity of relative truth? Even if one says that there is no God, there is no meaning in life and therefore no foundation for morality, we all function as though there is right and wrong. Our legal system is built on that fundamental assumption and we all function as so.
But yet we never want anyone to point out our flaws. And we are afraid to confront others on their mistakes or sins. This is a tragedy that stunts our Spiritual growth and unity.
A friend told me this story on Wednesday: Colorado is under a fire ban at the moment, and we just had the largest wildfire on record this past month. The state is still recuperating and people are extremely sensitive to the devastation. Three friends went camping last weekend down at the Sand Dunes and they took a gas fire ring so that they could have a completely legal fire for smores and warmth. Even during a fire ban, a controlled gas fire is legal. Early into the evening, the ranger came up to check out the fire and after noticing how nice of a fire ring it was, she mentioned that quite a few people had come to complain that there were people breaking the rules and had a fire. My friend was put out in particular that people would be offended and upset enough to report them but not one person came up to ask about it.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
– Matt 7.1-5
This is our go-to verse to defend laxity and inaction towards sin. I mean, Jesus Himself said “do not judge” right? Right. But look at the fullness of what He is saying. The end goal is to get both the log out of your eye and the speck out of your brother’s eye. The goal for all Christians is holiness. We are commanded to “Be holy as [God is] holy” (1 Peter 1.16) and to have the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1.5, 16.26). But the buck starts with me. Because by the standard with which I judge, I will be judged. Therefore I cannot call someone out without inducing judgment upon my own head if I am struggling in the same sin which they are struggling. We all know well the hypocrisy of peers and we all laugh at the parental guidance, “Do as I say, not as I do”. But Jesus Christ Himself is saying: get yourself in line, then help others.
The entirety of the New Testament is filled with instructions, guidelines, expectations and ways to test one’s self to see if you are in the faith. God is very concerned about how we act and what we do. And He gives us the body to hold one another accountable and to push one another on towards holiness and Godliness (1 Thess 4.1).
Our pride and individuality, partnered with inability to receive input from our brothers in Christ lends us to think that we can make our own decisions and no one – not the Church, not God, can judge us. Because God is love he does not care what we do. It was actually verbalized to me one time, “I know that this is sin, but this is the decision I have made. God will forgive me.”
That’s not how it works folks. Saying sorry is not repentance. You cannot excuse actions by saying “please forgive me” alone. You cannot say, “God I am going to rob this bank, and I want you to forgive me” and go on and rob the bank and expect to be excused. A heart of repentance says, “God I know I am a sinner and that you have perfect standards and every time I sin I dishonor you and I do not want to disgrace the cross by adding shame to the name of Christ by continuing in sin, so help me to change.” And it seeks to make retribution for sins past. Repentance is turning away from sin and turning to the obedience of God and His ways.
Not only that, but we are to keep track of one another – to fight for one another’s souls, to push one another on towards maturity and holiness, and to weed out those amongst us who are not truly of us.
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 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 my be confirmed. 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.”
This is Jesus’ direct teaching on holding one another accountable. Clearly he wants us to judge one another for the sake of purity and holiness. He simply does not want us to do so while we struggle in the same manner. We all know and despise hypocrisy. But we are to take sin so seriously that if one amongst us is unwilling to repent and submit to God, then we are to remove ourselves from fellowship with him. Paul uses much more severe language when speaking about such a one who denies the authority of God over his life: the one who willfully continues in sin ought to be turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that hopefully his spirit will be saved (1 Cor 5.4-6).
So don’t judge me. Unless you see a sin in my life and can push me on to holiness. If you have struggled where I am struggling, help me to establish boundaries, set goals and to build the faith to overcome. Teach me to love God more and strive after the obedience of faith. If the log is out of your eye, come do eye surgery on me so that we can both see clearly.
I get a lot of specks in my eyes.