June 26, 2005

Critical Christians

Much has been said in the past few days about criticizing our fellow believers. Should we or shouldn't we?

Most of the commentors responding to my Joel Osteen posts have said NO. "Judge not," they say, "lest ye be judged." And that is good advice. We shouldn't be quick to condemn people. And that's why I posted concerning Osteen's apology as soon as I read it on his site. If I was only interested in condemning someone, I'd have never done that, nor would I have recognized the spirit in which the apology was given. Osteen is truely sorry. He doesn't try to blame anyone else for what happened (which his defenders were quick to do). He admits that he wasn't clear, he reaffirmed what he and his church believe, and he promised to do better in the future. I am praying that God will strengthen him, and give him the opportunity to do just that.

But were we wrong to criticize him? Was it wrong to call the problem to his attention? And what about "Judge not?"
I like what Albert Barnes has to say about that particular verse (Matthew 7:1)

Christ does not condemn judging as a magistrate, for that, when according to justice, is lawful and necessary. Nor does he condemn our “forming an opinion” of the conduct of others, for it is impossible “not” to form an opinion of conduct that we know to be evil. But what he refers to is a habit of forming a judgment hastily, harshly, and without an allowance for every palliating circumstance, and a habit of “expressing” such an opinion harshly and unnecessarily when formed.
The motivations are in question -- why are we expressing this opinion? To encourage the person to change, to warn others about their behavior, or to tear them down? In this case, my own motivation was the second -- to warn others about his behavior. I have no illusions that Osteen read my blog. I have no direct line to him, and no influence over him. I also don't want to tear him down -- in my comments on the previous post, I made it clear that I thought he had a great message to Christians who need encouragement (a fact that I wish the responders to that post had noticed ...). But the fact that he totally missed the opportunity to share Christ with the nation needed to be discussed -- and that's the purpose of blogs in general.

Should we "judge" our fellow Chrisitans? Let's see what Paul had to say:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 ESV)
That's not very tolerant, is it? Telling people that they are following a false Gospel -- that's not very uplifting. Who does Paul think he is, criticizing those who are trying to minister to the Galatians?
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:11-13 ESV)
You mean Paul opposed Peter??? But Peter has such a great ministry, and he's been so blessed by God! How could Paul even THINK about condemning him? Especially since, at this point in his life, Paul hadn't done much of anything -- not anything better than Peter. Why did Paul condemn Peter?

The same reason that people spoke up agains Osteen after the Larry King interview. Because he blew it.

Peter changed. Osteen has apologized. Again, my prayer is that God will use this for His glory, and that Osteen will get the chance to show us that he knows he was wrong.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 03:03 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 I think it is wise not to condemn, but judging is a different story. The "judge not" attitude is appropriate when deal with non-Christians because they are not to be held to the same standards professing Christians are to be encouraged to follow. And that is what I would suggest "judging" of Christian brothers and sisters should be: encouragement to see the error in their ways, to repent, and to move on in a correct way of living. The problem that can arise in this is a sense of arrogance that comes from the judger - if that happens, they the judger needs to be corrected as much as the judgee does. If there was no correction happening in relationships, or churches, or anywhere, it would be much more difficult to return to "the path". We need correction, judgement, and encouragement - what make it bad is arrogance, stubornness, and selfishness in general. Anyway, my two cents, hope it wasn't too much of a ramble!

Posted by: Matt Jones at June 26, 2005 04:28 PM (UsyFC)

2 I'll second what Matt said. Without correcting and keeping each other accountable, we'd all devolve into individual private religions. Big Chris Because I said so

Posted by: Big Chris at June 30, 2005 11:56 AM (tOJb0)

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