A well-meaning soul shared a thought the other day with her social media friends. The thought, in the form of a meme, carried the message, “Worry about your own sin. I promise you won’t be asked about mine.” Of course, it immediately garnered a number of likes and positive comments. After all, most of us can empathize with someone who feels judged, condemned, or criticized for one behavior or another. The problem is the meme is a bit simplistic.
It is true the Bible contains the admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV) Additionally, the following verses seem to emphasize that thought. Verse 3 is especially pointed, advising one not to judge the speck in another’s eye while failing to notice the log in their own. There you have it, point made, case closed, do not judge others. Hardly!
Certainly, each of us will be judged for our sins. What I think of your alleged sins, and you think of mine, are of little concern in some ways. It is God’s judgment that matters. Still, the idea that one Christian should not worry about the behavior of other believers is simply not biblical. In fact, it may be one of the actions, or lack thereof, one will be asked about on the day of judgment.
If you are reading this sentence, the last sentence may not have registered yet. Either that, or you are giving me the benefit of the doubt, and waiting to see if I say anything else judgmental. Yes, I did just imply that a believer is to be concerned, worried possibly, about the sins of others. The question now is am I denying or ignoring the truth of Matthew 7. I think not, but you will need to be the judge of that.
The truth is Matthew 7:1-5 is not speaking of believers in general. Many want to focus on the first verse, while completely ignoring the rest of that section. Verses 3 through 5 make it clear Jesus is speaking to hypocrites. He is speaking to people accusing others of sins while living in sin themselves. Some feel He was specifically speaking to the Pharisees who were known for expecting others to adhere to the law, when they paid it little more than lip service.
Think of it this way. If the verses in Matthew are saying only the sinless can criticize, rebuke, correct, or attempt to show someone the error of his or her ways, then no human being has the right to advise, criticize, or point out someone’s sinful behavior. That means no priest, pastor, reverend, deacon, Bible teacher or anyone else can do anything more than teach the Word. Even then, they must be careful not judge or imply a person’s actions might be sinful
If these verses in Matthew are to be taken literally, then Paul was wrong when he wrote to the Corinthians about their behavior. Not only was he wrong, he was encouraging the Corinthian church to commit sins by judging others and taking action to remove them from the church, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:2)
It would seem obvious the Bible encourages believers to hold each other accountable for their behavior.1 In Matthew 18:15-17 believers are told to “show him his fault in private.” Also, Paul admonishes in 1 Corinthians 5:13, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Verses in 2 Corinthians, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, and Galatians teach a similar message. Christians do have an obligation to notice, be concerned about, and deal with the sins of other Christians.
Two other points need to be made here before bringing this piece to a close. The statement, “you will not be asked about mine” is misleading at best. At worst, it is a deliberate attempt to lead a believer astray. Neither those who read this piece nor AnOldSinner will be judged on the behavior of others. That does not mean we will not be asked about their behavior in some manner.
This piece posits that Christians have a duty to let other Christians know when they are sinning. If that is true, then it would seem God may want to ask us about why we did not tell our brother or sister to mend his or her ways. If that is true, God will not ask us about the other’s sins. He will ask, or judge, us on our failure to help that believer mend his or her ways.
Finally, the Bible makes it clear we are to approach others with love and respect when dealing with issues such as this. We are to make the first effort at correction in private, and if that does not work the Bible lays out a process by which a believer is to be disciplined. (Matthew 18:15-17) Unfortunately, we all too often resort to non-biblical behavior when dealing with the sins of others. In fact, we fall into sin ourselves, as did the Pharisees, because we do not understand, or do not know, how to lovingly take another’s behavior to task.
Yes, the page of verses to which this article links is titled “Church Discipline.” Just remember there is the church, the place you attend services, and then there is the Church, which is the body of believers. Churches, buildings designed and dedicated to holding Christian services, did not exist in biblical times. When we speak of Paul writing to the church at Corinth, he is writing to the body of believers, part of the Church, and what he says is applicable to all within that body.
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