That times have changed is a given. Consider the moral landscape of America in 2012. If you oppose abortion on demand, you are against women’s health. If you believe that only a man and woman can be united in marriage, you are opposed to basic human rights. If you go even further and pronounce that homosexuality is sinful, you are a danger to society.
What was unthinkable a few decades ago is being pushed as a human right in the twenty-first century. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced in October 2011: “We need marriage equality in every state in this nation. Otherwise, no state really has marriage equality, and we will not rest until it is a reality.”
Our neighbor to the north gives us a good idea of where we are headed. From Canada comes this bit of “enlightened” thinking: “Under Alberta’s new Education Act, homeschoolers and faith-based schools will not be permitted to teach that homosexual acts are sinful as part of their academic program, says the spokesperson for Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk. ‘Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,’ Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening. ‘You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,’ she added.”
Many professing Christians have unwittingly bought into our culture’s relativistic approach to morality. “Jesus said to ‘judge not,’ so who am I to call homosexuality wrong? We don’t know why a woman would want an abortion, so we shouldn’t judge.” And the thinking knows no limit. “He left his wife? Well, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. We shouldn’t judge.” “They are living together? Who are we to judge? Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” And on and on it goes.
In his Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus did teach: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). The judging prohibited is that judging which arises out of a heart of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. It is right to judge sin as sin. The doing of sin is wrong and should be judged as such. What is wrong is looking at the offender from a position of moral superiority. “Well, I would never do that!”
Proper judging denounces the wrong because of God’s standard, not because we ourselves are morally superior to the person who committed the act. Proper judging acknowledges that the act would be wrong if we ourselves committed it. Proper judging acknowledges that we ourselves are capable of committing the same sin were God to remove protecting grace from us.
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul laments a situation in the church in which a man who had taken his father’s mother, evidently the younger man’s stepmother, into an immoral relationship. Paul writes, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing” (5:3). Paul judged the offender as having committed a heinous sin: “sexual immorality . . . of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans” (5:1). Paul writes, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (5:2). The “removing,” though, was not a meting out of punishment to “get rid of” the offender: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (5:5). Paul condemned the church because it had refused to judge.
The Jesus who said “Judge not” is the same Jesus who said “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
We live in a culture that prohibits judging, though the very ones prohibiting judging judge all the time. They judge that what has traditionally been deemed immoral is now moral. They judge that those of us who hold to traditional morality are out of step with the times, that we are trying to “shove your religion down our throats.”
And yet we must not cower behind our sanctuary walls and refuse to confront the sins of our culture. While confronting those sins, however, we must not fail to confront our own. The standard is not our morality. The standard is the Word of God.