The next time some well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) person in God’s church, declares “don’t judge me,” ask them if they made a judgment to say “don’t judge me!” Of course they did. That’s how ridiculous things have gotten in the religious circles of the King.
Brother Tim has again hit the nail on the head with this piece about modern day judgment haters in the body of Christ. His careful exegesis of the passages dealing with admonishment and exhortation is extensive. And his example of the sports medicine treatment is destined to become a classic example here at Walk Worthy.
Be prepared to get prepared for another round of equipping to preach, teach, and disciple the real Gospel of Jesus Christ!
DON’T JUDGE ME – BY TIM PRICE
As I am reading in the New Testament, on an accelerated pace, I am astounded at the number of texts directing believers to admonish, exhort, confront, reprove and encourage one another. There are ten such directives if there is one. Implied is that these experiences should be ongoing and common rather than rare and unusual.
In my 51 years, such an approach in church has never been a regular occurrence that I have ever observed. I have attended Sunday-going-to-meeting brick-and-mortar edifices for 42 years. I have been among Christians in many US states; in Japan, Romania, and Mexico, so I don’t believe my experience is unrepresentative of the general rule. In more recent years, I have been associated with various house and organic church involvements.
In either case, the overriding notion, I’ve observed, to anything that could be construed as admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, or reproof has always been negative. In addition, such actions have always been rare. I wonder why this is the reality in churches? Why would God season the New Testament with directives for what is now thought to be negative?
I was talking to my wife about the oddness of so many scriptural directives, while there is a drought of such practices in what we call church. She shared how on a recent weekday television show, The View, Kris Kardashian, the mother of the wild brood who make up the reality-TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, reacted to her girls’ assessment that she had been babying Rob Kardashian. Rob has been a bit of an embarrassment to the Kardashian show. Thus thee daughters have been after their mother, Kris, to “cut the umbilical cord” concerning Rob. Kris then levels the ubiquitous adage “don’t judge me”. And there it hit me! The by-words of an entire generation—even an entire society—epitomized by this unreality-show guru’s response.
In addition to my Bible reading, I have also been reading a book, The Third Way, by Paul M. Lederach. I have been extremely encouraged by Lederach’s handling of Matthew 18:15-20, “…if your bother sins go to him…” Lederach states that this text ought to be a regular application in our fellowships so as to foster growth, body life and the interactive connection of people in our fellowships. In 42 years of Sunday-going-to-meeting, I’d only heard about this text and it was always in a context of “church discipline” which is an unpleasant application. Lederach, however, embraced it as a necessary consistent that is positive.
The church crowd seems as squeamish and uptight as the unregenerate world concerning all things perceived as “judgmental.” That universe seems to be an ever-growing reality these days. Nothing means everything and everything means something other than what it ever used to in the relativistic fog of our day. What Paul gave as necessary measures to mature the body of Christ and perfect it in order to be a good visible representation—through admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, and reproof—now seem to be broad-brushed as “judgments” or “judgmentalism”.
Consequently, you find precious little of these necessary measures happening on a common level even through pastors or counselors: “leader figures” that is. They avoid such for a detached construct of sporadic teaching/preaching and education of the head. However, this only perpetuates “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of truth,” which is not a dynamic of accomplishment in practical use.
First, I want to look at the alleged “proof text” bandied about as the silver bullet for the ever-impending vampire of “judgment”. Then, I would like to show how the world—the collective order of unregenerate humankind—has renditioned what calls itself church, what actually is church and most followers of Christ into accepting the band wagon of “judge not.”
The English Bible’s use of the word Judge:
The English New Testament translates a number of Greek words into our modern word judge. This presents a challenge because the untaught will readily generalize their understandings and think they are doing the right thing by “not judging” as they construe it. When the unregenerate world order gets hold of our Bible and starts telling us what it means, hell, heresy and confusion follow as sure as night follows day.
Strong’s word 2923 – krités can mean a judge, a magistrate, a ruler. It is used 19 times in the NT.
Strong’s word 2919 – krinó can mean to judge (decide), to separate (distinguish), determine right or wrong, to condemn. This word is used 115 times in the NT.
Strong’s word 1348 – dikastés means a judge, an arbiter, a magistrate. This word is only used twice in the NT.
Strong’s word 1252 – diakrinó can mean discern, distinguish or compare thoroughly. This word is used 19 times in the NT.
As you can see, the New Testament mentions judging or judge fairly often. However, there are a number of meanings to which judge could apply that aren’t condemning, demeaning or shaming. The “judge not” ideal, so in vogue today, has been lifted from its context and hacked down to a self-serving sound bite, which is then used as a blunt instrument to bludgeon people who are thought to be “judging” in order to shut them down. Let me explain.
This “judge not” tidbit comes from Matthew 7:1, translated from the Greek word krinó. The larger context is the Sermon on the Mount, which is about the kingdom of God. Christ was articulating the culture, approach, and values of His kingdom. Christ was talking about how believers ought to deal with one another.* At the same time, we should express a level of this decorum in our dealings with the unregenerate world around us. However, the world order is not the arbiter of what “judge not” means, nor how it applies.
*Note: A friend, Jon Zens, wrote a book titled 50 to 0: How Christ Leads Through the One Anothers. This book articulates the fundamental basis of authentic relationships and the far-reaching aspects of what they apply to. Jon read this treatise and noted that authentic relationships make applying admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof easier. I agree! However, I want to be clear, a true relationship is not the basis for being able to speak to any believer or acclaimed believer in the means admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof.
In the “judge not lest you be judged” text of Matthew 7 the author wasn’t talking about distinguishing or determining right from wrong, as one meaning of the word krinó suggests. Matthew’s application was warning against unmerciful and condemnations, decrees or rulings against others. The text and hermeneutic of the passage, however, does not say in fact “do not judge,” end of statement. The context is talking about being careful in our discernment, admonishment and so forth.
Some would have us think that because we have foibles that can surface, if we are not putting to death the deeds of the flesh, Romans 8:13; we are somehow excluded from dealing with a detail in the body or with a brother. When someone throws up a statement to that affect it is stonewalling and obfuscation pure and simple. We are to be careful and merciful in our approach instead of roughshod or our groups will turn into devouring one another. Lake of care and mercy in our approach will foster return fire instead of consideration and listening.
The context of the much abused Matthew 7 goes on to build upon a warning about this kind of excess through an illustration: trying to pick a speck out of a brother’s eye when a log is in our own (See: Matt. 7:3-5). In fact, verse five suggests that we SHOULD continue to work on issues with our brother or sister BUT only when we are walking right. The modern cultural broad brush as “don’t judge” is a flat twisting of the meaning and application of this passage from which it is lifted.
Judging in the sense of condemning or ruling on a matter is well within the scope of what we can and should do at times within the body of Christ or in our fellowships. This type of “judging” plays into the involvements, admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, or reproof that we are commanded to do in the New Testament.
Paul, for instance, deals with a man who was involved with open immoral activity, which scandalized the worst unregenerates of the day. This issue was such a blight against the Kingdom of God and the church in Corinth because God’s purpose was that it was to be an utter contrast to the backdrop of the evil world order around them. Paul thus delivers this man over to Satan so that he might realize his error and repent. Paul “judged” this person’s activity and his active role in choosing the immoral activity with which he was involved.
Earlier I mentioned that we are commanded to admonish, exhort, confront, and reprove those in our fellowships and anyone who claims Jesus but who acts contrary. There are very few qualifications and quantifications as to who we might address in this fashion and how we might go about it. We are to be respectful of people senior to us (1 Tim. 5:1). We are not to continue admonishing someone who doesn’t respond or who continues their error willfully (Titus 3:10).
We are to toss certain people out of fellowship (Matt. 18:15-17, 1 Cor. 5:1-13) when believers refuse to change or accept correction. We are NOT to judge the order of unregenerate mankind or individual unbelievers as that is reserved for God. But we are to judge that which is part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 5:12). The word “judge” in this text is a derivative of krinó: krinete. Krinete is a present tense verb (sustained activity), imperative mood (command). The intent of this word encourages the practice of judging in a righteous way.
Let’s look at the directives Paul and Christ have given:
- Admonishment – to caution, advise, or counsel against something, to urge to a duty; remind
- Correction – Verbal chastisement used to facilitate reform, improvement, or rehabilitation
- Confrontation – a meeting of persons face to face. A technique used in group therapy or an encounter where a group works with a person to get them to face their responsibility and the consequences of their actions
- Reproof – an expression of censure or rebuke
- Exhortation – an utterance, discourse, or address conveying urgent advice or recommendations
- Encouragement – to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. To stimulate and approve
Inherent in these measures are assessment, observation, discernment, weighing, and determining the right and wrong of other people… But this isn’t “judgment” as in condemning or castigating or branding from which one cannot escape. The objective of admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, or reproof is for perfecting and maturing the local body of Christ.
These measures are not meant for control, domination, or subjugation but for redemptive and synergizing application. If these measures are being used to control or manipulate others, the person using them as such needs to be confronted. If they are “in charge” remove yourself and escape such tyranny.
Religious people, even the best, I have found are increasingly triggered by anything that hints of “judgment”, which unfortunately sometimes includes actual proper applications of admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, or reproof. One recurring reaction I hear in regard to these measures is, “You don’t know my heart”. Or someone will take up for another person, thinking they are being attacked in an admonishment or exhortation, by saying, “How can you know a person’s heart?”
Both approaches most times effectively shut down any examination or consideration wherein one person is dealing with another person’s sin or folly. Let’s talk about this ploy and what it is based on. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians wrote about the infiniteness of God and His preparation to be of help to a believer through the Holy Spirit (See: 1 Cor. 2:8-13). Paul used a metaphor of a man and what is in his mind and heart being unknown to others as a corollary to God’s infiniteness and how we need the Holy Spirit’s help to reveal God’s heart and will to us.
Some untaught people or troublemakers take this text and twist it to means all sorts of things. It has become a hiding place, a cop-out or a means to stonewall. In their interpretation, one can go out and do whatever, and then they say, “You don’t (and can’t) know my heart.” This meant to say they had good intentions about whatever, however the words or outcome got in the way, i.e., they are not at fault and whatever is wrong doesn’t really represent them… Luke 6:45 tells us a different story… “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
Matthew clarifies the thought to be inclusive of all people, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man,” (See: Matt 15:18). These texts are CLEAR! What we say and do emanates from our heart, who we are at the most fundamental level. Therefore, we are culpable. What we do and say represents what is in our heart, though perhaps not exhaustively. There could be a residual at home in our heart that we need to deal with if there is evil in what we do. We might need teaching or more understanding to know we are doing wrong.
Admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, reproof and correction are NOT judgments. They are tools and operations to equip, mature and address issues in the body life of the fellowship and practical matters as it relates to being the visible church to the outside unregenerate society. Anything meant for good can be used for evil, but that is a different story to address at another point.
Abstention is the cop-out way to deal with everything and what calls itself church deals with most of its problems by tossing out everything that has been misused in order that it shouldn’t be misused ever again. Since admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, reproof and correction have become so uncommon, so too is the spiritual and relational maturity in what we call church.
Some other problems we face today concerning the application of scripture regarding the measures of admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, reproof and correction is that Christians are ruggedly independent to an excessive degree more than interdependent or dependent on one another and God. Secondly, what is considered to be “orthodox” is more of a big tent where everything is an option or optional and God’s truth is offered à la carte. People can pick and choose and all is okay.
Thirdly, church people, or believers, or followers of Christ; or whatever, have become increasingly insecure. Folks are quicker to assume that any word dealing with an issue involving them is a personal attack against their character or their heart’s intention. Fourthly, church folks have been acculturated to only listen to “special people” in ministry. These “special people” are usually supported by church finances. Do you think these “special people” are going to take a hard line on a big giver or something that will cause a major flap? The recipe we have for church today is an automatic disaster machine because people have utterly strayed from the directives of the NT and instead, embraced the ideals of the world.
Concerning some issues in my life and seeking to find help; the order of the day seems to be to “soft-pedal” everything. I’ve been told that since so many live in shame-based thinking we need to empathize with them so they won’t sense any “judgment.” What then becomes of the New Testament instruction to admonish, exhort, confront, reprove and encourage one another so that problems, issues and growth can take a positive course?
I have found not just a few counseling and recovery approaches enabling the faulty thinking that empathy and identifying with the person afflicted by a shame base is the only way to deal with such problems. The scriptural approach of admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof then appear to be judgments and are treated as such in many cases I have been involved with. The strict empathy approach astounds me, especially when recovery efforts in other spheres take on an entirely opposite approach.
Sports medicine or physical therapy takes an injury or a lack of performance as the result of an accident and they restore function, use and mobility. Isn’t that what we should be doing in emotional and spiritual areas too? In a physical arena, someone who ought not to be over-exerting themselves playing softball acquires an injury: a sprained ankle. Lots of people get sprained ankles by overexerting themselves. The reaction is the same, the treatment is the same, and the pain and discomfort are the same. A patient goes to a physical therapist and will be subjected to motion and exercise regimens that will retrain and stretch the injured area in order to regain use and full-motion flexibility.
It’s painful, it takes work and the therapist explains and encourages through the grueling process. However, what would happen if the physical therapist “soft-pedaled” the hard work of retraining muscles and stretching in order to restore use of motion to its normal range? What would happen if the physical therapist said, “We’re going to protect you from pain and learning so that you don’t feel uncomfortable.” Such an approach would be an utter failure.
My point is that church and Christianity in general have soft-pedaled so many things that there are hardly any standards for which to strive. There is no way to seriously resolve most issues or foster growth. Few want to do the hard work of teaching people that regular admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof are scriptural and is the only way to facilitate collective growth as well as personal growth.
The soft-pedal approach is rampant in the church as well as counseling concerns. Leaders in religious circles don’t want to put up with what it would take to prepare people to receive such interactions. They don’t want to put up with the bumps of developing the culture of a place where regular admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof occur in order to foster improvement, growth and maturity. It’s easier to soft-pedal and create a culture where excuses are accepted. Nobody has to take responsibility.
How are believers in such an environment going to be substantially moved towards maturity in Christ and be perfected in body life and ministry? Schools aren’t the way to do it. Where was the “ministry school” in Christ or Paul’s day? But, yet, they turned the world upside down. Osmosis doesn’t work because the environs wherein a person should be able absorb maturity from the culture of the group can’t do so because most groups are compromised to the nth degree with worldly teaching.
There is another angle that immaturity keeps “the clergy” in a paid job. Preaching doesn’t do it because it’s a passive involvement that doesn’t allow people the experience of working things out, listening and dealing with reality. Sunday School for adults can’t do it because it is just another passive involvement of soaking in cerebral information that is given no opportunity for practical application.
It is increasingly difficult to see Church, even in all it forms, as anything more than a façade facility. Amidst all the advertisements of high ideals and spiritual virility, accomplishment and use of the practical involvements given to us in the New Testament for growth and maturity in each person’s gifting and calling for ministry and interchurch culture is a joke.
The natural expansionism of the early church has been replaced with an attraction-based passive activity. Churches of all types have set aside the directives of admonishing, exhorting, confronting, and reproving those in their membership. As a result our fellowships are reaping the whirlwind.
If you ever should practice the New Testament directives of admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof in the current church atmosphere, one of two things will happen. Either it becomes the Wild-West battle royale. Or it evolves into a church-splitting event because people factiously line up behind person that is unwilling to deal with their issues and they con others into thinking they are being “picked on”.
When are we going to throw the world and its ideals out of the church and become what God wants?
When are we going to develop the kind of character it takes to consider another person’s admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof?
When are we going to develop the character and approach to give admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof in grace and love?
The body of Christ ought to be a community of love and growth. Anyone who comes to a meeting ought to first be a believer. They must also be taught that love and growth are the culture of our place. Part of that love and growth will involve the apostle’s directives to admonish, exhort, confront, reprove and encourage one another as a regular course.
Part of the community will be unlearning the unhealthy practices learned in their institutional church or pagan backgrounds. Some of the learning/unlearning will require embracing these active measures, rightly employed, in light of having been formerly traumatized and abused by their misuse. Understanding and grace certainly need to be marks and measures of how we navigate through these waters.
In this process, relationships are necessary. That means letting people in and them letting you in. Admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, or reproof along with all the other one anothers isn’t a one-way street where you are the only one who has to take it to the hilt. There is no one in a fellowship that doesn’t need growth and the involvement of all others present. You will need to grow in love in order to “go to your brother” without anger, frustration, or personal peeves.
You must also grow in grace to receive from others that they are loving you to come to you as well as what they share. Authentic relationships take time and there are a lot of bumps and bruises in the best examples. I would like to share more about the need for authentic relationships, however, I feel that there are other aspects in conjunction to authentic relationships that need to be covered. Perhaps a second treatise is necessary to take on these other details.
In all our learning, we also need to make room in application for the different voicings we could see these functions appear in. What do I mean? Each person has a different personality and leadership strengths. It is foolhardy and limiting to think or require that admonishment, exhortation, confrontation and reproof are going to look a certain way every time they occur. A person with the gift of mercy should be expected to handle confrontation just as well as a prophetic type. But the two will naturally go about confrontation differently.
Having said as much, each gifting and calling needs to learn balance between the common excessiveness of their gifting and the moderating aspects of the other giftings. The mercy person needs to learn the decisiveness and discernment of the prophetic type and the prophetic type needs to learn the smoothing presentation and empathy common to mercy people.
The body as a whole can help to broaden each person and their giftings to where the group functions smoothly with all involved and all functioning in their specific calling as they grow into being the family of God. Too much of the time giftings can be send as counter to others. We need to get to the point where we can see all as necessary tools that work together rather than against one another. Not all are teachers, or evangelist… But this doesn’t mean that one or the other is better to the denial of the other.
Below are some texts where the involvements of admonishment, exhortation, confrontation, or reproof are mentioned. Check them out. See what we’ve been missing all these years.
Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:15;
Col. 1:28; Col. 3:16
1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Thess. 5:14; Titus 2:4; Heb. 3:13
1 Thess. 2:11; Heb. 10:25
1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Cor. 4:16; 1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus. 1:9; Titus 2:15; 1 Peter 5:1
Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 14:3
Below are a links to related articles. Some draw out the Greek more than I have here. None contradict what I am saying.
You may read the original article on Academia here.
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org