The Delicate Balance: Righteous Judgment vs. Condemnation

In contemporary society, it’s commonplace to hear criticisms thrown at Christians, with accusations of hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes often taking the lead. It isn’t just external critics voicing these claims; many from within the faith have raised their voices in a plea for more empathy and less stringent dogma. They yearn for Christians to display the love that Jesus taught, embracing a lifestyle that champions relationship over strict doctrine. In essence, they seek a shift in focus — from what we oppose, to what we stand for.

There’s a clamor for Christians to cultivate a culture of staunch inclusivity, where judgment and dogmatic finger-pointing are replaced with understanding and acceptance. They long for an end to our perceived tendency to criticize others while overlooking our own flaws. But can the church ever cease passing judgment?

The short answer is no, for in specific contexts, passing judgment within the church is not just necessary, but indeed a blessing.

Judgment is inevitable within the church, as it must stand for something, serving its divine purpose. The church boldly and compassionately declares to all, “Jesus Christ is Lord of all.” This statement confidently and passionately uttered, denies any rival claim to this Lordship, be it from political leaders or material idols.

The proclamation is evident in every Christian declaration. Affirming the Trinity, for instance, inherently condemns any system that diverts the truth to other gods. Similarly, accepting Jesus as the Messiah negates any other path to salvation. This process of saying yes and no is judgment and is simply unavoidable.

The remarkable truth, however, is that this dialectic doesn’t apply only to Christians and the Church; it applies to everyone. For every affirmative action, there’s an equal, opposite rejection. Even advocates of inclusivity must exclude someone, and even those opposing judgment must judge something. This paradox highlights that passing judgment is not merely an act; it is a gift.

The Church does not advocate for judgment for its own sake but because it helps keep sin in check. This is vital in an era of ‘cheap grace’ where overlooking judgment can end up condoning sin instead of justifying the sinner. It calls out harmful behaviors, lies, and wrongdoings, offering a stop sign to sin, abuse, and self-destruction.

Of course, human judgments can be debatable and may not always align with God’s judgments. However, Christians can confidently judge one another because they understand that their words aren’t the final say; their judgments ultimately fall under God’s authority, who can reveal any misdirections or untruths. Despite this, these judgments still need to be aired and considered as the Church anticipates God’s final redemption of all things. Judgment, in this light, is a divine tool for setting things right.

The eminent theologian Karl Barth once conversed with Billy Graham about the latter’s evangelistic methods. When asked what he would say to a sinner seeking help, Barth famously replied, “I would say to him: ‘Friend, you are in great danger … but then, so am I.'” Barth recognized the liberating truth: God is the ultimate judge. He negates our self-destruction to affirm our resurrection. God’s judgment, embodied in Jesus Christ, offers humanity redemption from fear, sin, and death.

The Apostle Paul succinctly put it in his letters to the Corinthians and Galatians. He urged for the expulsion of wicked individuals (1 Cor. 5:12) and the restoration of sinners in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1). This intricate balance between judgment and grace in Jesus Christ serves as a model for the Church. To truly follow the Lord, it must continue to judge, and allow itself to be judged, to restore and be restored.