During one of my pastorates I received a letter from a couple that requested that they be removed from membership. The two-page letter explained in detail the reasoning as to why they had made up their mind to leave the church. Ultimately, the reason they had decided to leave the church was because I was apparently too condemning and judgmental about certain groups and topics like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, divorce, LGBTQ and so on. I have to say, the letter caught me off guard for a couple reasons. First, if someone thought I was being judgmental then it is their right and duty to come and speak with me. Obviously, this couple thought that my actions were sinful and thus they are required by Scripture to come and walk with me through it. The failure of this couple to do this can only be seen as both unloving and judgmental, which is the very thing that they themselves were accusing me of. Second thing that caught me off guard with this letter was that the central issue that they had with me was my presentation of Biblical truth that condemns the above mentioned beliefs, actions, and ideologies. This couple wasn’t new to the faith and their issue with the biblical condemnation of these things caused me great grief.
We live in a society where the condemnation of someone’s actions or beliefs is seen as unloving. However, as Christians we are called to present truth and a worldview that is very often at odds with the norms of our society. This presentation of truth and Christians’ worldview is not done with a lack of love but rather it is rooted in love because as Christians we desire for all to know the depths of their depravity, their need for the Savior, and the need to repent from their rebellious lives and actions and turn to Jesus. Jesus is our only hope but you must be able to recognize your need for hope which only comes from calling sin, sin. What is unloving is when pastors, missionaries, Christians in general, present only the love of God without the recognition of sin in their own lives and the lives of others. This philosophy can be best summed up as cheap grace and easy believism, which essentially focuses on the love of God, the benefits of God, the blessings of God, the encouragement from God, without ever talking about or focusing on the Christian’s need to fight against sin daily and the unbeliever’s need to understand their sin and repent from it. This type of philosophy distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ and has condemned many to hell for they have believed in a gospel that is not Scriptural.
Am I judgmental? Yes, I am but not in the way that the world defines the term. As a Christian, I am instructed by God to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. Imagine with me if I went to some remote tribe and I came to them and said something like this, “Greetings, there once was a man who was God incarnate and he came and he died for sin, he arose on the third day, and now he dwells in heaven till he returns again”. Naturally, I would assume that after the questions come about how God became a man, there would inevitably be a question as to what sin is and why Jesus had to die for it. At this point, based off the logic of the couple that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for me to speak out against sin would be judgmental and condemning. Hopefully you see the error in their logic. Sin must be called sin! Jesus called out by name the teachers of the law for their sinful pride in Luke 20:45-47, “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Paul likewise called out the Judaizers who were teaching a false gospel by name in Acts 15. Many other accounts of the Apostles, Prophets and yes Jesus himself condemning groups of people for their sin is evident throughout the pages of Scripture. So, if you have a pastor who doesn’t condemn sin and the ideologies of those who support it both openly or passively, then you don’t have a biblical shepherd but rather a coward. Additionally, as a shepherd I am called to bring your attention to the threats of spiritual dangers like universalism, inclusivism, wokeism, and so on. How am I to point out the dangers if I am not allowed to call out those who teach such things? As a father of curious boys, it’s not enough for me to warn them about electricity. I have to show them not to put a fork in the light socket because electricity will come out of it and hurt them. Likewise, it’s not enough for me to just say that inclusivism is antithetical to the Scriptures, I have to show you who is teaching it in order that you may stay away.
In all honesty I appreciated the letter from the couple as it allowed for me to do three things. First, it forced me to perform a self-evaluation to ensure that my teaching, preaching, and demeanor while doing it, was aligned with the Scripture. This is something that I need to do on a regular basis and I was thankful for that opportunity. Second, I was able to reevaluate my stances in regards to divorce, LGBTQ, transsexuals, Mormons and so on, to ensure that I fully understand why these beliefs, lifestyles, actions are considered sinful and it gave me an opportunity to pray for those involved with such sin. Third, in light of evaluating my stances on other’s sin, it made me evaluate my own sin and whether or not I was condemning my own sin like I condemn others sin. It is easy to point at other’s sin while avoiding condemning your own. Fourth, the letter led me to praise God. If people are offended by me calling sin what it is and condemning that sin in hopes that people will repent and accept the gospel…..then PRAISE BE TO GOD!
All-in-all, biblical judgement and condemnation of sin, done in love, is what pastors and Christians alike are called to do both in their own lives and in the lives of others.