Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Misinterpreted Verses #2 - Theme Verse for the American Church

Yesterday I brought out the discussion on Jesus being a traveling salesman. Today, I would like to discuss what I believe has become the theme verse for the American church. A theme verse is a verse that people use as being a central focal point for life/ministry/passion/etc. I believe that the American church has come to a point in its desire for acceptance and relevance that it has adopted Matthew 7:1 as its theme verse Judge not, that you be not judged(ESV).

This verse has been used by countless believers to not take a stand for truth for the sake of not causing offense and for the two dreaded dangers for the church: Acceptance and Relevance. The great irony is that at many times we use this verse to justify behaviors that God in His Word finds abominable, namely abortion(murder), homosexuality, and divorce. For the sake of tolerance, acceptance, and relevance the motto of the American church can be summed up in this statement: "I can't say anything about this, because the Bible says not to judge. So who am I to say that what you're doing is wrong? Shouldn't we just love and accept everyone?"

To that I will say that yes the Bible presents a very open view of the Gospel, that the cross is available to all who would cling to it. But more than love, the Bible describes God as holy. Holiness sets a standard that must be met, and holiness has a full and complete hatred of sin (and evildoers for that matter; Ghandi said 'love the sinner hate the sin' not a Christian). For us as believers to change God's standards of acceptance of conduct, behavior, and ethic is to supplant God from His throne and instead install as King the almighty I.

Let's examine the context of this verse. Jesus delivers this verse in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, the central teaching passage in Matthew's Gospel. It is a new sense of law, not given through the lawgiver Moses but from the very mouth of God Himself. It is a higher law, a law that demands more than action but attitude of the heart. This verse is delivered within the greater discourse of Jesus addressing the "speck and log" in the eye. Jesus at no point says that it is wrong to judge, not in the least. Jesus here is instead saying that with whatever standard we judge with, it will be measured back to us. This doesn't excuse us from making judgment calls on things or calling sins sin, but instead calls us to ask ourselves how we are judging others. Are we judging based on a standard we set based on legalism or self-righteousness, or are we making judgment calls based on the Word of God that we ourselves will face one day?

We must talk about the speck and log that immediately follows this verse. In this, Jesus mocks the self-righteous person who points out other people's faults while not noticing their own sins. He points out the foolishness of their standard and practice of judgment. Jesus however, does not say that judgment is wrong. He simply points out that self-righteous legalism is wrong, not judgment based on the Word of God and God's standards of righteousness.

The American church pursues a life of non-judgment because we, in my opinion, have lost our collective sense of shame and moral standard. We pursue acceptance, tolerance, and don't wish to admit even our own sinfulness and this plays itself out in the arena where we tolerate and condone even the worst of sins because we can't be honest with ourselves.

Church, don't be scared to take a stand for truth, even when it is not popular or politically correct. You will be mocked, insulted, and possibly blackballed for taking a biblical stand for what is true. But, it is worth it. The American church has settled too long for comfort, ease, and tolerance. That is not the Gospel, which shines light into darkness and exposes sin for sin and wickedness for what it is. The Gospel is divisive, because it cannot be anything but offensive to say that "you" are a sinner who stands guilty and condemned by the standards of a holy and righteous God. We don't like to say that, it might hurt our self esteem, and besides we're not really that bad.

Think about it, comment away. To God be the glory,

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