Judgment Free Zoneby Earl Roberts on February 22, 2016
“Judgment-Free Zone” (Romans 2:1)
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1
We hear in Apostle Paul’s admonition an echo of the Lord Jesus’s warning in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
Over the years, many in church have misapplied these verses of scripture and this has given rise to the idea that the church should be a judgment-free zone.
To judge, (Gr. krinó), is to differentiate. In this context it means to differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong, and between righteousness and sinfulness. Neither Jesus then, nor Paul now, is declaring the church to be a judgment-free zone.
I would suggest to you that not only is the idea of a judgment-free church erroneous, it is also inimical to her responsibility to accurately reflect the holiness of God. “For it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16
Purpose of Judgment
It is the solemn responsibility of the more mature members of the body of Christ - in the local assembly - to identify and correct sinful activity both in their own ranks and throughout the church.
But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 1 Timothy 5:20
The purpose of judgment is to identify sinful behavior, to bring it to our attention, and give us the opportunity to repent, so that we grow in Christlikeness and live in holiness.
For it is time for judgment to begin with God's household. 1 Peter 4:17
Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32
In the church there are two extreme judgment paradigms which we must assiduously avoid.
The first I call the Feel-Good Church. In this model, we have all but abdicated our responsibility to differentiate between good and evil and have effectively made the church into a judgment-free zone.
People do this in order to be “nice”, because they mistakenly believe that this is what Jesus meant when He said, “Do not judge.” Or shamefully, since judgment inevitably offends some people, it may be put on the back-burner in order to protect membership numbers, or donations, or both. After all, no pastor in his right mind wants to alienate his donor base!
No judgment means an inevitable slide into sinfulness. Woe to the Feel Good Church! Its members will feel good all the way to perdition.
The other extreme I call the Feel-Bad Church. It is just as destructive. It’s an atmosphere in which your every action seems to be construed as a transgression. An environment which is focused more on calling people out than it is on nurturing them in their faith. A church in which condemnation and mistrust are the currency of the realm.
Too much judgment results in a stunted Church, which takes a dim view of innovation, and where the fullness of the beauty of His body is not allowed to flourish.
The Feel-Good Church has failed in its responsibility to reflect the holiness of God, and the Feel-Bad Church has failed to reflect His love.
Judge Like God
Since it is clear that we ought not to be judgment-free, and that judgment is absolutely necessary, my recommendation is that we judge – like God. What do I mean?
1. We should anchor our judgment in the word of God, correctly interpreted and applied.
Now we know that God's judgment … is based on truth. Romans 2:2
Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. John 7:24
When we’re unsure about the scriptural basis for our judgment, consult the pastors and elders of the church.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28
2. We should judge relationally, in the bond of love.
You are more likely to be received and have your message heard if you have first established, over time, that you are personally interested and invested in the life of your brother or sister.
If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. Galatians 6:1
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of … Christ. Ephesians 4:15
3. We must call out sin for what it is.
Do not be afraid to name sin. Without an acknowledgement of sin there can be no true repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Our brothers and sisters need to know the truth about sin, so that they may experience the fullness of His grace and the joy of a restored walk with God.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." John 8:11
Jesus is our great example. He was loving, and relational, and he called out sinful behaviors.
“The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." John 4:18
Contrary to widespread belief, the two positions are not mutually exclusive. And the result is … restoration!
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?" John 4:28-29
Judgment is absolutely essential to a healthy God-glorifying Church. May we be inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to love the Lord and each other enough to make the sacrifice that is required to judge each other.
For it is time for judgment to begin with God's household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17
Earl E. Roberts