Today’s culture is steeped in conflict, a tide that rises higher with every incendiary comment or post on social media platforms and cable news outlets. They thrive on this discord, driving up ratings and ad revenues. Yet, amidst this sea of contention, the church is called to be an oasis of peace. The church is a gathering of diverse individuals, united by the transformative power of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Our mission is to share the Good News in a world drowning in strife and bitterness.
Christianity and Conflict
However, reality often falls short of this ideal. History and the New Testament both bear witness to divisions, anger, and rivalries within Christian communities. Our study of the book of James raises a pertinent question in chapter 4: What sparks conflict among Christians?
James asks, “What is the source of wars and fights among you?” (James 4:1a). He answers by unveiling the underlying cause of our conflicts—worldliness (4:2-10). When Christians behave like the world around us, discord follows.
Christians, too, can fall prey to speaking ill of one another, indulging in slander and sinfully judging each other. In doing so, they place themselves in the precarious position of judging not only God’s people but God Himself (4:11-12).
Reframing Judgment with Humility
Confronted with this stark reality, it’s easy to be disheartened. We might be tempted to throw our hands in the air and echo, “judge not” (Matthew 7:1), if only to avoid seeming judgmental. However, the antidote to sinful judgmentalism is not permissiveness but discernment, which calls for humility, particularly in our personal interactions.
Maintaining unity in our churches necessitates addressing instances where fellow believers behave contrary to God’s Word. Whether concerning conduct or character, sin must be addressed.
But wisdom is required. Our approach must not be to assail with Bible verses or issue challenges thoughtlessly. We must ensure that our concerns stem from genuine issues and not from our personal biases, convictions, or upbringing.
To help navigate these complexities, consider these three diagnostic questions or statements that can assist us in countering sinful judgmentalism.
Diagnostic 1: “Am I Being Too Quick to Judge?”
Before pointing out the faults of others, we must first scrutinize ourselves. Are we deflecting our own sins onto others? Jesus’s warning against seeing the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own must be heeded.
This does not imply that only the sinless can address the sins of others. If so, silence would reign. Rather, when we speak, we must do so humbly, recognizing our shared human frailty and our collective need for God’s grace and mercy.
Diagnostic 2: “Help Me Understand…”
This phrase shifts our focus from ourselves to others. It communicates a concern and queries its validity. By questioning in this manner, we acknowledge that we could be mistaken in our perception of others’ words or actions. Whether we find our perception accurate or flawed, humility guides our response, either leading to repentance or reconciliation.
Diagnostic 3: “Are You Okay?”
This question goes beyond surface-level concerns to explore underlying issues. People’s actions often mask deeper struggles. Being a listening ear and a source of compassion allows us to create a safe space in the church where individuals can be honest about their sins and challenges without fear.
Relying on the Divine Judge
This approach to conflict necessitates trust in God, who has experienced sinful judgmentalism more intensely than anyone through Jesus. Despite being mocked and defamed, Jesus humbled Himself, becoming human like us. Through His humility, He rescued us from our sins and our tendencies towards sinful judgmentalism.
If worldliness fuels our conflicts, Jesus is our remedy. If disagreements arise, Jesus is the one who can reunite us. Thus, we must seek His wisdom to know which issues to address and how to address them, to cultivate humility, and to end conflict among us as we renounce sinful judgmentalism and trust in God’s perfect judgment.