So Quick To Condemn

We really need the biblical balance here:

There is a very fine line that Christians must walk: we must never be soft on sin nor make excuses for it, but we also must allow God room to move in grace, mercy and forgiveness. Some Christians can push one side of the equation to the exclusion of the other – but both are needed to keep the biblical balance.

On this site I have often dealt with those who wink at sin, minimise God’s holiness, and present a false view of God’s grace, as in the hyper grace teaching. But sometimes I have sought to get believers to learn how to cut others some slack, to show a bit more grace, and to be less keen to rush to judgment.

As I say, it is a balancing act, and it can be quite hard to get the right balance. Making cheap excuses for sin and basically pushing an unbiblical antinomianism is probably where too much of Western Christianity is at nowadays. As but one example of this, last year when some well-known Christians were found to have been caught out in immorality, one gal wrote a piece TRYING to get the balance right, but I think she failed.

Her main point was that we are ALL sinners (which is true), so we really are in no position to call out any other believer (which is not true). She seemed to make the case that since we all fail, none of us are in a position to point out the sins of others. Here is part of what she said:

Here’s my advice, Christians. The law disqualifies you, your mother, your father, your brother and your sister. Embrace the fact that you are going to sin and you are going to make mistakes. Embrace the fact that your neighbor, your pastor and your parent will sin and make mistakes. Think before you attempt to spread gossip about someone else’s failing. Show mercy. Extend grace. The same grace you want from your Father in heaven. www.christianpost.com/voices/christian-sex-scandals-make-a-case-for-my-own-guilt.html

Should we show mercy and extend grace? Sure, but never at the expense of standing firm for biblical holiness. The writer of the book of Hebrews was not just making things up when he warned, “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

This is all related to the two extremes of legalism versus licence. As I said in a recent piece, it seems that in Western Christianity the latter is the main problem. Sure, both extremes are wrong, but the order of the day for too many believers is to refuse to biblically judge, as they just make cheap excuses for sin of all sorts. See here: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/08/04/on-legalism-and-license/

But as I say, there is another side where believers can go wrong. There indeed ARE many Christians who are quite happy to show no grace and mercy to others, and they end up being little more than Pharisees. They are always so quick to condemn and attack others, be it for their theological views, or what they do or do not do. They really are graceless Christians.

As has often been said, Christians tend to shoot their wounded. Instead of showing some understanding and some humility to those who stumble and fall, we can be so ready to judge and condemn. Sadly we can tend to enjoy pointing out the sins of others, but not so much the sins of ourselves. We love being merciful and forgiving to ourselves, but not so much to others.

We need to be careful here. How far would most of us get if somehow there was a giant screen where all your deepest, darkest and most private thoughts were shown to the whole world? We might tend to be less arrogant and condemning if that were to occur. But Jesus said one day this will in fact happen:

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:2-3)

The biblical Christian will reverse the order of the Pharisees: he will be hard on himself while softer on others. It was C. S. Lewis who gave some helpful advice in this regard. He said that we should be Arminians (emphasising our own choices) when it comes to our own weaknesses and our brothers’ strengths, and Calvinists (emphasising God’s initiative) when it comes to our own strengths and our brothers’ weaknesses. (I just read that again recently but cannot now recall where – grr!)

Having this sort of charitable and humble assessment of ourselves and others will help us go a long way in not being so quick to blast others and so slow to condemn ourselves. So yes it is true – properly understood – that we are all sinners, we are all fallen creatures, and even as redeemed and blood-bought Christians we are all still works in progress.

Understanding that should help us to be more patient with others – and ourselves at times – while we do encourage everyone to be all they can be in Christ, including holy, righteous and sensitive to sin. And keeping in mind that real biblical love is not winking at sin, but caring enough to confront, this should help us as well when we are tempted never to speak up when we should.

Sure, calling out sin and holding up others to the high standards of Christ can be a tricky issue to navigate, and must be done prayerfully and carefully. But avoiding this altogether helps no one. As the famous Puritan Richard Baxter once put it:

“A foolish physician he is, and a most unfaithful friend, that will let a sick man die for fear of troubling him; and cruel wretches are we to our friends, that will rather suffer them to go quietly to hell, then we will anger them, or hazard our reputation with them.”

And this involves things like church discipline when needed. This of course is almost fully forgotten in most Western churches today. As a case in point, on one Christian social media site the question was asked, “Should the Church discipline members who sin?” I replied by saying this: “Persistent unrepented of sin must of course lead to church discipline”.

And I also included a link to an older article: billmuehlenberg.com/1998/02/23/in-search-of-church-discipline/

While a number of others also affirmed the role and necessity of church discipline, it was rather sad to see how many Christians really seemed to have problems with it, pushing the ‘we are all sinners’ line as a way to suggest we should avoid all judgments and all forms of discipline.

As I keep saying, we must keep seeking to find the elusive biblical balance here. Being soft on sin is not biblical and it helps nobody. But being so quick to launch attacks on others is also not the way to proceed. What helps us the most is to be so aware of God’s holiness and our own lack of it, that we forever stay on our knees in humility and brokenness.

As we remain in that position of regular contrition and sensitivity to God, we will be far less likely to want to rush to condemning others – especially when we are aware of similar shortcomings and sins in our own life. Getting the balance right here is always very difficult. But that is what we are called to do.

Two concluding passages should be of help to us in this process:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” -Galatians 6:1

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” -Hebrews 10:24

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7 Replies to “So Quick To Condemn”

  1. Thank you Bill for your incredible articles, I read them all but don’t often get time to respond.
    This article as you say for us all is a balancing act as to how we respond. For me I have learnt not to gossip or pass on if I hear of someone fall into sin. I have decided to pray for their repentance and restoration, and suggest to others if they inform me to do the same. Church leaders must always be accountable to trusting leaders or a close friend as they are so vulnerable to the enemies ploys, when accountability for thoughts and actions are no longer being shared.

    I always remember Bob Mumford in 80’s saying church leaders (males) must be very aware of “the glory, the gold and the gals,” (probably very politically incorrect now).

    Thanks again for keeping your readers knowledgeable from a Biblical worldview so many areas – invaluable

  2. Hi Bill. Can you explain how it can be said in Luke 12:2-3 that all our sins will be “made public”, when Psalm 103:12 says they’ll be completely removed from us?

  3. Thanks Bill. Context might be of help here. In Psalm 103 David is speaking of the joys of sins forgiven when turned from and repented of. But in Luke 12 Jesus is speaking about the Pharisees who – unless they repented – would not have their sins forgiven and forgotten, but instead would have them made known to all. So it is the difference between the redeemed and the non-redeemed.

  4. I think one reason so many don’t seek help when they could use it and why people don’t reveal past sins they have done or sins they struggle with is gossip. Face it there is a lot of gossip flying around the church and going from member to member Via phone text email etc. No-one want to be the subject of gossip especially since anyone who has experience with gossip knows it tends to get embellished because it usually isn’t interesting enough as is and needs a little spicing up to tantalize the hearers and many time one spicing up isn’t enough and the story morphs quite a bit from what you said.

    Another reason is some people just don’t fully forget what you admitted or fully forgive you and even if they won’t admit it the way they act around you proves it. You don’t want to admit a sin then have people treat you this way for your time at the church.

    I agree with church discipline if we are talking biblical sins however as noted by you in another article some churches ADD to the Bible as to what is sin and that is problematic. Plus some are returning to shame as a thing however that simply is NOT compatible with today’s world. Shaming someone by telling their sin to others will only make things worse. I have heard, not sure if true but quite possible, about someone going to the pastor at their church to talk about committing adultery and then come Sunday, because the church believed in shame, the pastor told the whole congregation including their spouse who was humiliated.

    We have a capacity for grace we can make thing better but we also have shown that we can screw thing up REALLY bad too. I think Christians have the ability to heal the worst pain a person has been through and we also have the ability to CAUSE the worst pain a person can go through. When we get things right boy do we get them right. But we make a mess of things OH BOY do we make a mess!

  5. A great article Bill. We all need God’s unconditional love to get the balance right.

  6. “Persistent unrepented of sin must of course lead to church discipline”.

    I see this matter come up time and again Bill, the Manly league business a few weeks back was the last time; gays and their supporters publicly saying ‘everyone sins, so gays are no different’ but alcoholics, drug addicts, thieves and Christians in general don’t seek to KEEP sinning, they are trying to stop from sinning, where as gays want to continue sinning – with the Blessing of Christians.
    And besides, when Christians speak out against thieves etc. we don’t hear the same retort from thieves “everyone sins, so we should be allowed to keep thieving”.
    In other words, comparing gays to other sinners is apples and oranges, and of course the Church should speak out when these matters of gays[unrepentant] and thieves[repentant] are being conflated in public.
    God Bless Bill. – yes I’m Aussie, but not that Ozzie!

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