Daily Devotional – I’m Normal.™ I AM Ministries
“To promote Godly living in a culture committed to destroying it”
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
The practice of Christianity can be confusing. Whereas the core of our salvation, belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior, is fairly straightforward, certain applications our faith raise questions or outright confuse us. One such area is how we deal with others who are engaged in sin.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us plainly “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2). In Romans 2:1, Paul tells us “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Case closed, right?
Proverbs 18:17 gives us cause to reevaluate. Consider what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 18:15-17. If our brother sins against us, we are to show him his fault, one-on-one. If he doesn’t listen, we are to approach him again, this time with witnesses. If the brother still doesn’t repent, we are to tell it to the Church. If repentance is still absent, we are to treat the brother as if he were a “pagan or a tax collector”. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Paul provides a discourse on our duty to expel the immoral brother, culminating his argument in verse 13 by saying, “Expel the wicked man from among you.” This sounds like judgment to me.
What’s a normal person to do? These passages appear to be contradictory, and reconciling them can be confusing. So how do we do it? One approach is to turn the American legal system. Here, a wrong-doer is first caught and arrested by the police. This is analogous to what Jesus describes in Matthew 18:15. Next, the perpetrator is accused in a court of law, sometimes with witnesses of the crime, but always with witnesses of the judicial system. Similarly, this is analogous to Matthew 18 16. Next, this person is tried by jury and, if founded guilty, convicted of the crime. At this point, Jesus’ advice in Matthew 18:17 seems an appropriate course of action.
Notice, however, that no judgment has taken place yet. In our courts, a conviction is not equivalent to a judgment. Although pronounced guilty of a crime, the criminal has not received a judgment or sentence regarding an appropriate punishment or disposition of his fate. It is up to the presiding judge or jury to decide the type and duration of sentence to be imposed. Until the judge issues a sentence, no judgment has been rendered, only a finding of guilt.
Thus it should be with our own Christian brothers and sisters. The Law was established so we can tell right from wrong. Through it and the teachings of Jesus, which perfect the Law, we can determine what is sin and if a brother needs correction. God has provided us with the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin.
This, however, is the point where we must arrest our propensity to judge. We are to point out the sin to our brothers and sisters, yet it is not up to us to decide the punishment they deserve for their sin, especially if our thoughts turn to their eternal fate. We should not judge that a person should burn for all eternity, which appears to be crossing the line into the territory of the Heavenlies.
Our restraint in suggesting eternal punishment or the state of someone’s heart is normal. This does not mean we should abandon a legal system that can put dangerous criminals behind bars. After all, God gave many examples in the Law of how people should be judged and punished for their Earthly transgressions. However, we are not to say a person should “burn in Hell” for their transgressions. We can help convict others of sin, but we are not to render judgment on their soul.
Our criminal justice system is a two-fold process. First a conviction must be obtained, after which a judgment can be rendered according to the law, albeit with limitations according to each crime. It is the same in our spiritual lives. The Bible tells us it is normal for us to convict. However, we are warned in strict terms not to cross over into judgment. This we leave in God’s hands. Rest assured we have a perfect Judge to deal with the sins of others. Be diligent in correcting others, always in love, but do not cross the line into judgment. This is the normal way.
In His love and service,
A servant of Jesus Christ
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