Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Pendulum: Rebuking and Judging

One of the greatest tensions I feel as a Christian is attempting to walk the fine line between rebuking and judging.

You see, many Christians will say we are not to judge and they will quote Matthew 7:3-5. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

They are right of course; judging is for God to do, not us. We are all imperfect and how can one imperfect person cast judgement on another?

But then you get the other extreme; that we must NEVER speak up against another person’s sinful words or actions because that is judging. The problem with this view is that since we are all imperfect, we can never correct each other because it will make us hypocrites. Therefore, we get no guidance or correction from one another and everyone is too afraid to speak up against wrongdoing for fear of being labeled ‘judgemental’.

Rebuking is not judging. We are called to rebuke one another out of love and concern for one another’s godliness. That’s one of the reasons we are part of the church and not just individuals. We need each other to encourage and also to rebuke. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 says we are on occasion to put unrepentant offenders out of fellowship but with the hope that they will stop doing what they are doing and will be welcomed back again.

The trouble is I often don’t know whether I am rebuking or judging. I guess the key test is whether I’m doing it out of love for that person, that I want the best for them, but quite often I’m doing it out of anger and hurt. So I guess that’s judging. It is very, very hard that’s for sure.

Am I the only one who’s felt this tension?


Jillian said...

No definitely not the only one. And having been on the receiving end of rebuking, both warrented and unwarrented, I realise how fine the line is between judging and rebuking.
Judging someone is when you hand down a sentence to them. In relation to the passage from Matthew, it indicates that you are judging them, without judging yourself or recognising that same sin in yourself.
Often it is God who rebukes us, His Holy Spirit works within us to make us aware of our own sin, but then also helps us deal with that sin. That is what rebuking should look like. Jesus, who has been man, understands our sin, but God's judgement has fallen on Him, not us. So what we're left with is rebuking.
Rebuking needs to come from understanding. Understanding the log in your own eye, seeing the speck in another person's eye, and out of care and concern for the other person, showing them how that speck can turn into a log. Sharing strategies on how to whittle that log down into specks and buring them in the Refiner's fire.
Sometimes you're meeting people speck for speck though. =)

Mark Edwards said...

there is a even bigger issue for us that in this age of internet, blogging much should we display our displeasure at someone elses sin?

how seriously do we take Jesus' admonition to 'go to the brother in private"...and then how do we square that up with Paul (apostle) sending out letters to churches, naming and shaming those in sin...for everyone to see and read about.

can you solve this issue for me Sarah? Because its too complex for me...

my rules...
check my motives...calm down, breathe...then act in love and in the same way I would like to be treated.

recognise two things
1. my feet are made of clay
2. there but because of the grace of God go I

Sarah said...

Thanks for your thoughts guys. Mark, I wish I could solve this issue but I was asking everyone else to do that for me :)

The advice to breathe and calm down before approaching someone is something I'm definitely trying to work on. But I've talked to a few people who seem to never want to approach people who have hurt them. I can relate because I don't like confrontation either but I've found that bottling anger and then stewing in it is not good for your health.

Mark Edwards said...

I agree with that.
I hate confrontation, but fortunately I have being in conflict with people O do confront. But try to do so with gentless and respect. Dont always get it right!

My motto...'keep short accounts'

Jillian said...

Mark, the Bible definitely does say to go and talk with someone privately first, and then if they are still unrepentant, bring a friend, and then involve the eldership. Just because all we see of Paul's involvement with the various Churches that he is rebuking are the letters in the Bible, doesn't mean that he didn't talk to them privately first... His letters often seem to indicate that when he was there, he confronted them/rebuked them for their sins, but now that he's away and still hearing about it, a letter is required.
I agree, bottling up isn't good for the health, as you tend to stew on it - and if you stew on that anger for too long, it turns to bitterness. However, sometimes gathering up the courage to talk to someone is just as difficult, especially if they're someone in authority, and is liable to shoot you down in the process! =)