Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stop Judging the World and Start Judging the Church

During our Sunday gatherings, we are studying through the book of Matthew. This Sunday we'll be looking at Matthew 18:15-20. In this passage, Jesus deals with the issue of confronting a Christian brother or sister in unrepentant sin. He tells us how to deal with this keeping in mind that the goal is restoration.

We'll also take a look at I Corinthians chapter 5. In this chapter, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for tolerating open sin in their midst. They were too proud to do anything about it.

Toward the end of chapter five, Paul says something very interesting. In 5:9-13, Paul writes,

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'"

This is fascinating because it flies in the face of much of what we usually do in the church. It appears that those in the church in Corinth were judging the world by isolating themselves from it. They were most likely passing judgment upon the world be criticizing those outside the church for their sinful lifestyles. Meanwhile, they were tolerating sin within the church without confronting it. In fact, they were so proud that they said nothing while one man committed sexual immorality with his step-mother. So while they sat in self-appointed judgment over the world, they allowed sin to run amok in the church.

We are much the same way today. As the church gathers, there is no end to all the condemning speech aimed at the immorality of the world. We can all think back to conversations we have overheard or taken part in in which the sins of the world are blasted for their gross excesses. We sit in judgment of those outside the church. Meanwhile, we allow sin to live well in the church. We may not have anyone in the church who is sleeping with his step-mother, but we still allow sinful attitudes and actions to run free. Do we confront gossip, jealousy, anger, anxiety, or pride in the church? We most likely do not.

In 5:9-13, Paul confronts both the Corinthians and us about this. Paul tells them in no uncertain terms to stop judging the world and start judging the church (this judgment, of course, after taking the planks out of our own eyes). Paul makes it clear that we should spend time with those outside the church. We are to be in the world but not of it. How will the lost hear the gospel if we ignore them in judgment? Even Paul didn't judge them. Instead, we are to judge the sin inside the church by excluding those who refuse to repent. These we, as a body, can and should judge. The goal, certainly, is restoration. However, for the time being some pain might be involved for the unrepentant. But why should they repent when everyone in the church gives them the message that their sin is acceptable?

As the church, we must be obedient by stopping judging the world and starting to judge the church. We do this best by sharing in each others' lives and really knowing one another.


Aussie John said...


For me, this has been an ongoing subject for discussion and some rather heated responses, for many years.

I am in total agreement with your words. I do not personally know a "leader" who will agree with us. Some have chosen to severe the "friendship" we had over the matter.

I am of the opinion that until leaders accept the reality of the situation which demands attention to what you are saying, such leaders cannot claim to be honest and trustworthy.

The attitude of the Pharisees seems to prevail: As long as the outside of the cup is clean, the condition of the inside is of no relevance.

Maybe white-washed walls is a better metaphor.

Eric said...


It is just SO easy to sit in judgment of the world. It seems to fee our fleshy pride. That's probably why we aren't supposed to do it.

We don't want to confront brothers and sisters because we don't want to get into their business (and definitely don't want them to get into ours).

Dakota Brown said...

I think that Paul's confrontation with Peter is a great example of this. He saw that Peter's mentality towards the Gentiles when Jews were present was harmful to the testimony that he, being one of Jesus' personal followers, was supposed to preach. Quite frankly, it's hypocrisy that shouldn't be tolerated. "Do as I say and not as I do," doesn't exist in the vocabulary of a true christian. A leader of a church (whatever that term has come to mean) should not only be corrected, but corrected firmly when the example he or she sets is followed by others, because there is a danger that they may lead others astray in their "position of authority", and we all know how Jesus felt about that...

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting. You give a good example here. Peter was clearly in sin, and Paul confronted him about it. As followers of Christ, we humbly and lovingly have the responsibility to do the same. As you mention, Peter was in an important position as an apostle. His actions could have had long-term negative consequences on the church if they had been ignored. Paul's confrontation with Peter undoubtedly saved much sorrow and tension for the early believers.