I’ve heard it said Christians are judgmental. People don’t want to go to church because they think others are examining everything they do and condemning their choices. And sometimes they’re right. Some who call themselves Christians feel it’s their job to pick others apart.
I am saddened by those picketing street corners and even churches and Christian concerts, with signs declaring others are going to hell for the specific sins they choose to list. Their hateful speeches yelled through a bullhorn add to the image many have of Christianity.
All of us are guilty of sin and destined for hell—if it weren’t for Christ’s sacrifice for us. But Jesus himself said it’s not our job to judge others. Only Jesus Christ has authority to judge the thoughts, attitudes, and deeds of men and women (John 5:22-30). And He will do that at the end of the age—when all are gathered and stand before His throne.
He said: “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” (Matt. 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-42).
So why then do preachers preach, and teachers teach, and Christians caution others of the consequences of sin? When we do it right, the purpose is not to judge, but to warn. Ezekiel chapters 3 and 33 make it clear God wants us to warn others so they don’t go to hell. A warning is by definition:
1. To inform someone in advance of an impending or possible danger, problem, or other unpleasant situation.
2. To give someone forceful or cautionary advice about their actions or conduct.
It’s our job to tell unbelievers who God is and the Good News that He loves them and wants to rescue them from sin; but also about the impending judgment of all. This news should be delivered with hope, with gentleness and respect, making sure we are living what we proclaim (1 Pet. 3:15-16).
On the other hand, we also have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters who claim to walk in the Way. It’s called accountability.
How is accountability different from judging? I’m glad you asked.
Judgment pronounces a verdict—either a reward or punishment for the actions of another. It is the finger of authority pointing to one under law. In this case: God’s perfect law that can only be satisfied by the perfect sacrifice—Jesus Christ. And Christ is the only Judge.
Accountability involves a relationship. It’s putting an arm around the shoulder of an equal. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ has agreed to do life His way; to love and obey Him. And we, as believers, are called to keep each other accountable—not with a pointing finger, but out of concern for the other’s welfare, their witness, and the detrimental effects of sin in the Church.
If we don’t address sinful behavior for fear of being “judgmental,” we are acting in disobedience to God. Sin will go unchecked and spread. Unbelievers will see no difference between the behaviors and attitudes of those who claim to be Christians, and the world, and feel no need to be saved.
Words such as rebuke, exhort, and admonish are key throughout the New Testament—but so are submission, obedience, and confession. Accountability is a two-way street. The Body of Christ is a family—encouraging, nurturing, reproving, and warning when one of us is flirting with danger.
The question to ask before speaking (or responding to rebuke) is—what is the fruit of this behavior, attitude, thought pattern? Where will it lead? What do I need to do?
Check back later this week for part two of this post. I’ll address the why’s and how’s—why God calls us to be accountable, and how to go about it in healthy ways.
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