Do people judge each other because of unforgiveness, ignorance, lovelessness, or entitlement? Are there several causes? Hmmm. I recently was challenged with dealing with heresy while submitting myself to the Holy Spirit’s training. It was a heart struggle in my nature! I admit I have difficulty wanting to sit in a church where the preaching includes the world’s encroaching philosophies (undetected or at least embraced by its leadership). Yes, the Refiner’s fire is at work within me to grow in love, grace and righteousness. That is a good sign. My intention is to help those who (1) love God’s Word, and (2) are challenged by error or compromises within the church’s pulpits. You see, from time to time, I have allowed my passion for the Word of God to permit me to become frustrated with individuals who should know how to apply the Word appropriately. I was frustrated to the point that I was disengaging from some so that I could bridle my tongue and control my thoughts.
We are human so frustration is often a part of our lives. Even Jesus Christ was angry with hypocrites at times; however, when our frustration is prolonged, we can move into a non-Christlike frame of mind and begin to judge another. I validated my concerns about particular leaders within the church with supporting Scripture, but I failed to see that these people were developing too. As a result, my heart was hardening toward them. Perhaps I expected them to be stronger based on their roles which are defined in the Bible.
Where was my compassion for their failures? Why was I angry with them when the circumstances that initiated the emotions had long passed?
To grow past this level of faith, I needed to sincerely: (1) stand for the Word without compromise; (2) show forgiveness to those who pervert the message; and, (3) as far as it depended on me, be at peace with the offenders at the same time.
Compassion and forgiveness are not to be disregarded just because people disagree. Yes, believers can differ in opinion on some things (like interpreting the details of an unfulfilled prophecy) because there is only One who has all correct knowledge. I draw the line at any opinion that disagrees with Scripture. Christ’s words were so direct and clear that I can not dispute them by arguing they are a matter of interpretation. If I am going to base my entire life and afterlife’s security on Christ, then I had better be able to trust what He said.
- “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20).
Woah! Let’s think about this. Jesus Christ (who laid down His life for the sins of humanity, the God-Man who was full of grace and forgiveness, the Son of God who is our righteousness) told us we would not enter into the kingdom of heaven unless our righteousness was greater than the Scribes (who were fully devoted to ensuring the complete accuracy of Scripture when making copies) and the Pharisees (who were the teachers and enforcers of the law with great precision).
Just a brief word about the Pharisees. Have you noticed what the Pharisees did right? Let’s summarize what Jesus said about them as recorded in Matthew 23 and Luke 11.
Pharisees to be Commended for:
- Study of Scriptures (Experts)
- Travelling land and sea to convert a single convert
- Championing human equality and ethics
- Honouring Prophets with tombs and monuments
- Teaching there was a future for the physically dead.
Pharisees Criticized for:
- Concentrating on externals or appearances rather than the inward person;
- Burdening converts with their Interpretation of the Law;
- Neglecting to personally give justice, mercy and faithfulness to God;
- Persecuting and killing those who ministered correction from God;
- Not focusing on knowing God personally (in a true relationship) and thereby limiting others’ knowledge about entering heaven.
There are few today who could claim to do all that the Pharisees did well and yet we know that these works without faith in our redeemer are futile.
- “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
- “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;” (Hebrews 3:12).
- “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4 to 7).
Our LORD had moved upon the Apostle Paul (a regenerated Pharisee) to pen these next Scriptures to teach us. Consider his letter to the Romans where it states:
- “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” (Note that Paul was quoting from Psalms 14 and Psalms 53. Paul goes on to say) … But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. … Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. … Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (These Scriptures can be found in Romans 3 starting from verse 10).
Knowing that Scripture does not contradict itself, there is an invitation to go deeper here. So, if only the Divine is righteous and imputes His righteousness to us through faith in Him (Romans 4:20 to 25) so that His judgment of us renders us innocent, faultless, and guiltless despite our failures (Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11), then His imputed righteousness fulfills the law in us. Praise God!
This imputed righteousness is what clothes us. What does it mean to be clothed in His righteousness? This is a study in of itself. So let’s go with a summary that Jesus taught and that Paul reiterated by the Holy Spirit.
In the same letter to the Romans, Paul wrote what the LORD taught him which reads as follows:
- “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8 to 10).
In Scripture, the word righteousness describes the way of thinking, feeling, and acting that is completely conformed to the will of God, and therefore no rectification in the heart and life is required.
It seems easier to love God than my neighbour; yet, I know that if I love God, the outcome (or fruit) is that I will love my neighbour. If I have been regenerated and am being sanctified, His Spirit is in me so I have to love in order to remain at peace with Him and continue growing. So then if I have prayed about it and asked God to help me love an individual, what is going on when I have prolonged difficulty with my neighbour’s sin?
The word Christ used for love in Matthew 22:39 when He commanded us to love others is “agapaō” which means a decision to be committed to a person for their well-being out of reverence; to treasure their worth so much so as to be unwilling to abandon them.
This is not what I had decided relative to these erring Christian individuals. I had to repent, again.
Some can be harder on other people’s sins than they are on themselves. We tend to want justice when it comes to others, and grace for ourselves. It might also be a case of being offended by another because of their treatment of our Saviour and abuse of His grace. That’s what it was for me.
When leaders preach their doubts, disagree with Scripture, treat it or its people irreverently, or allegorize too much it breaks my heart. When leaders do not realize the impact of their words on their congregations, I am so concerned for those who will blindly accept the teaching instead of searching the Scriptures themselves. Jesus warns us that offenses will come. He said:
- “… It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! … “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:1 to 4).
We see here that Christ taught that judgment or “woe” would come to the offenders and that our responsibility was to forgive.
In Matthew 18, Jesus warns us against withholding mercy. Mercy is forgiving what is deserved. This parable teaches me that unforgiveness is a sign that the Father’s grace and mercy towards a believer have not been permitted to transform the heart. If a person has been regenerated but has not cooperated with the Holy Spirit to grow in love for others, this entitled and selfish attitude will be dealt with at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Refer to Romans 14:10, 2nd Corinthians 5:10, and 1st Corinthians 3:11 to 15). But if a person cannot love, this person does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the seal for the day of redemption (Refer to 1st John 3:14 to 18 and Ephesians 1:13 to 14).
If you have time, meditate on the entire Matthew 18 passage; you will see we have no right to be unforgiving. Jesus said in the last portion of the parable:
- “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:32 to 35).
Perhaps this is where it becomes difficult for us to love God supremely while loving those who disrespect Him. Forgiveness is to be given because we love Christ and because we understand we have received so much mercy. This is when we are most like Jesus, and when He is delighted with our growth.
Some might say, we are just human and we all make mistakes. But being human is not an excuse to become stagnant or complacent with our goal to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Being human means being created in the image of God. When Adam sinned, all of humanity gained knowledge of good and evil. All humans have a choice even though we have a predisposition because of the fallen nature to choose our ways above God’s ways. Without the grace of God that illuminates the heart to choose righteousness, we would all choose the way that leads to death but we are not without excuse. Scripture explains it this way:
- The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20).
- “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
- “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19).
- “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1 to 3).
Sinfulness or unrighteousness is a result of unbelief, it is disbelief that submission to God’s will is the right way. It is to prefer to stay in darkness than to come into the light of God’s Word or God’s ways.
- “… that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19).
So, is it sinful to be angry with false teaching within the church and compromise God’s standards of living? Is it wrong to address the errors with those who spread them? It is not unloving to tell the truth, to rebuke, to correct, or to be angry with unrighteousness. A correction is an act of love. Indeed, Scripture confirms this.
About rebuking and correcting:
- “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2nd Timothy 4:2).
- “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,” (Titus 1:13).
- “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” (Titus 2:15).
- “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19).
These verses teach me that if you love someone, you will want them to know the truth and will even confront them with their error. The motivation is not wrath or separation; rather, it is so that correction can be made and unity restored.
- “You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 97:10).
- “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.” (Proverbs 8:13).
- “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me.” (Psalm 101:3).
- “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).
- “Abstain from every form of evil.” (1st Thessalonians 5:22).
- “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2nd Timothy 2:19).
The letter to the Ephesians sums it up nicely. It says:
- “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin“: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. … Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4 starting at verse 25).
And there it is: (1) ensure your actions do not grieve the Holy Spirit who loves the other person; (2) do not let a day pass without rectifying something that causes division with a believer and grieves our LORD; (3) understand what angered you (it might be your sin causing the emotion); (4) when you confront your neighbour, ensure your words are promoting another’s growth in Christian wisdom, devotion, happiness, and holiness; and, (5) when confronting to bring resolution, be kind about it, and let it be from a place of forgiveness just like Christ forgave you while you were still a sinner.
You see, it is not wrong to inspect fruit for a purpose, but it is not our job to go around inspecting everyone’s fruit for the sake of righteousness. Rather, we should be self-examining and concerned with our personal devotion to the LORD so that our fruit would glorify God.
- “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8).
I saw my error clearly in Christ’s teaching from Matthew 7:
- “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? “Hypocrite! First, remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. … Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. … If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. … Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?”
When reading the full context of this Scripture I see so much! Matthew 7 parallels Luke 6:37 to 45 and I invite you to read through that portion considering how each verse relates to the other. I was moved to tears when I digested these passages and then concluded with these verses:
- “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21 to 23).
Practicing lawlessness is breaking God’s law, and Jesus said that the sum of the commandments rested on loving God pre-eminently and others as yourself (Refer to Matthew 22:40).
- “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:14 to 17).
- “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. … Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. … And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (1st John 2 starting at verse 10).
Although I saw the error in the ways or teaching of certain leaders (and I did approach them periodically about the discrepancies), I felt that their weaknesses and creative license with Scripture were abuse to the body of Christ. I was angry with the way they handled my precious Saviour’s Word and I wondered how they could handle the documented thoughts of God with such irreverence thinking nothing of it. While my anger was not wrong, my lack of compassion for their development was. You see, I started to avoid them socially at church because I didn’t know what to do with them. While I thought I was keeping the peace, the change in my behaviour and the distancing of my love was wrong. It is written:
- “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.” (1st Peter 3:8 to 9).
It is extremely uncomfortable to place yourself in the path of someone who continues to offend you. In many cases, it is better to remove yourself from that situation, especially if it involves false teaching. We know of dear brothers and sisters who have left local assemblies for the sake of their children on top of the effects experienced in the adults’ hearts. I can appreciate their perspective.
I have realized that it is part of my personal sanctification process. If Christ has placed me in proximity to others, it is for His purposes and His glory. If I believe this, then I am called to love like Christ; to continue to show love; continue to speak the truth; continue to confront in a kind manner; and, to do so promptly while handing back the offense to Christ.
The offense is not mine to hang onto. Jesus bought it with the payment of His blood; His blood is the sufficient price for all of our sins.
There may be a time when the LORD calls me to leave a certain congregation or people. If He does, He will call me to something else, and it will be in absolute peace with God and the church. Distancing oneself can only be a temporary measure to seek the LORD on what He wants from you. It is not a permanent measure.
Should the LORD call you away from a segment of the body of Christ, it will be for everyone’s benefit and it will be to another local body of Christ. We are all members of one body for each other’s benefit under the Lordship of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father through the Holy Spirit.
Each believer’s journey with our LORD is a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) created in Christ Jesus long before any of us were born (Ephesians 1:4 and 5). If Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father are working together to see His elect home through a process of human cooperation in sanctification, then how dare I hang on to someone else’s sin that was paid for long ago? (Refer to John 10:28 to 29, and Ephesians 1:13 to 14).
I am reminded that the purpose of knowing my neighbours’ fruit is to determine what influence I permit them to have in my life and to pray for them. That is it. An assessment or an inspection of something that is seen or can be measured is to determine a course of action.
A judgment renders a verdict and should come from those in a governing position based on laws. For the operation of the church, these scenarios and guidelines are laid out in Scripture. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.” (Deuteronomy 10:17).
If these leaders are false, the LORD will deal with it because it is His church. I am to be kind, present, and actively speak the truth as His ambassador wherever I am. The same goes for earthly authority.
- “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” (1st Timothy 2:1 to 6).
- “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:12).
To answer my original question about the reasons we judge others, I have concluded that (unless it is an institutional role to administer justice or correction) judging another person is a sin regardless of the motivation. (Refer to Romans 13:1 to 7; Acts 17:31; Titus 3:1 to 3; and 1st Peter 4:11). Accusations can be accurate or false, and (regardless of their validity) the charges must be surrendered to the LORD who is the only righteous Judge.
- “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:33 to 34).
For the believer, since the steps of the righteous are ordered by the LORD (Psalms 37:23), every scenario that initiates the temptation to judge is an opportunity to deeper depths of love and higher heights in the knowledge of God’s grace through submission to Him.
Whether in the earthly kingdoms or the church, it is a difficult thing to pray for individuals who teach or lead contrary to the Word of God; who seemingly abuse their positions for their self-justified reasons. But that is what God’s Word says we are to do.
In conclusion: (1) we do not compromise nor condone sin; (2) we address error quickly so that we do not fall into sin ourselves; (3) after confronting, we exercise our faith by hoping for goodness; (4) we pray for all; and most importantly (5) we obey God above all. I guess that means that we would walk in love.
Trust in the sovereignty and omniscience of our God and recognize that He alone is the righteous Judge. Recognize that without God’s grace, we would be lost; He bought us by paying the redemption price.
- “And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. … many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love (or “agapaō”) of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:4, 11 to 13).
- “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1st Corinthians 13:4 to 7).
Thank you, Father, for growing us into the likeness of Jesus Christ who sacrificially loved us while we were offensive to Him. Thank you for leaving your Spirit with us until your work on earth is done!
Or you can review the 4 SIMPLE STEPS or concepts to help you ask the LORD to bring you into right standing with Him. The steps are designed to help you know why a prayer of repentance is necessary. There are no “specific words” to pray, but there is a process to coming to faith.
All Scripture in this blog is from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.