In the church, it plays itself out by what we allow and tolerate within the body. The New Testament is clear that the church is to be unified, but more so it is to be pure. Pure implies a removal of stains and of cleanliness. But, I would contend that many churches allow impurities into the camp willingly and thereby are dirtying the wedding dress we collectively wear as the Bride.
Now, to the subject under which this article is titled. There are many who feel we cannot make judgment calls within the church because we too are sinners and we cannot make judgment calls against other sinners because that would be hypocritical. To you, I say, read your Bible a little closer. 1 John tells us to test the spirits, and for there to be clear discernment within the church when it comes to issues of sin, leadership, and what the church will allow.
To clarify, there is forgiveness found in Jesus, and all of us who have been found in Him truly know how sweet and wonderful that forgiveness tastes. We who have been forgiven know how wonderful it is, and how grateful we are for receiving something we had no claim to.
However, I must be very clear that forgiveness does not mean restoration. There are times when sin is committed and the issue of restoration is either delayed or forfeited. Sin, while being forgiven judicially by Christ in heaven, still carries consequences. A man who drives drunk and crashes into a tree and kills his passenger and loses his arm can be forgiven, but does that bring back his arm or his passenger? No, because that which we do in the body has consequences. Anyone who got a spanking as a child knows that there is forgiveness but a penalty must still be paid.
Let us look to some commonly applied biblical characters that people would look to and say "well, look at what they did. How can we judge so-and-so when Bible-character did this-and-that?"
Saul/Paul - Saul murders Christians and persecutes the church. Saul is the most aggressive attacker of Christianity. Saul does all these things BEFORE his conversion. Paul, the apostle, recognizes his sinful history and truly understands his forgiveness. When comparing someone to Paul, you must remember that Saul (pre conversion) is the one in question. You cannot compare apples to oranges, nor can you compare what Paul/Saul did with what someone did post-conversion. The issue there is the regeneration that takes place when Christ makes someone new. That which is in the flesh cannot be held to the same standard as that which is in the Spirit. Therefore, the rules of the game change when someone professes Christ and is "born again."
David - David is regarded as the man after God's heart. But David has one big black cloud hanging over his legacy. His sin snowballs from neglecting his duty as king to go to battle to lusting after another woman to rape (who can say no to a king) to adultery to conspiracy to murder. David is confronted by Nathan and he admits his sin and pleads for forgiveness. God forgives his anointed, but still pronounces a judgment. The son of David and Bathsheba will die, and later David's son tries to overthrow and kill him and his reign as King is never the same. David, while forgiven, still has to endure punishment for his sin. He is still the man after God's heart, but he is not the same king as he was before. His legacy is forever tarnished by his grievous error.
King Saul - Saul was the first king of Israel, and his reign is that of tragedy. He falls short of the ideals set before him and ends up losing his kingdom and his life due to his disobedience. His sin causes him to disobey the direct commands of God and to cross the line of his influence to offer a sacrifice. This sounds like a small issue, but he loses the hand of God over his life and kingdom.
This approach of sin without consequence is dangerous in the church, the family, and society. In society, a concept of sin without consequence destroys social order and promotes a society like the book of Judges (the people did what was right in their sight), where anything can happen and the people do as they wish. In the family, it means that the standards found in the Scripture are overlooked in the name of tolerance, acceptance, and love. This means it is easier to walk away from a marriage because "God wants me to be happy" or "It just wasn't what was right." It means you can find another lover that satisfies where only Christ and your spouse can without there being consequences for it. In the church it opens the door for allowing anything and everything in the door. It leads to churches accepting anything and everything in the name of political correctness and tolerance. Instead of holding to a standard, we refuse to make statements of conviction because we would be "judgmental."