I think that we, as Christians, sometimes miss valid points made in the Bible. For instance, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) This statement might be the most overused and misunderstood of Jesus’ teachings. Leave the judgment to God because Jesus calls us to love. But then in 1 Corinthians Paul teaches us:
When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside, but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Paul teaches us, as Christians, to remove ourselves from situations where we might interact with unrepentant sinners. This brings me back to Matthew 7:1. How are we to know one’s spiritual condition unless we use judgment? What I have found, when faced with interpretations, is that motives are usually key. When commanded to judge not, we are still expected to use good judgment or discerning. We are expected, as Christians, to look at ourselves and ask the reason to discern. Is it to point out someone else’s shortcomings in order to elevate ourselves to a righteous position? In that case, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” (John 8:7) This is a significant example of scripture that teaches forgiveness and compassion. But Paul makes it clear in his teachings that the only way to protect ourselves and our church from rampant and continuous sin is to use our good judgment for unselfish purposes thus honoring God.
Unfortunately, there is a situation in my church – quite possibly a church-dividing situation – and when the situation was addressed many of my fellow believers chose “tolerance” over conviction. For the purposes of writing this piece I looked up tolerance or toleration in the back of my Bible and this is what I found. “’I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars.’” (Revelation 2:2) Here is what the footnotes say in conjunction with that passage:
Over a long period of time, the church in Ephesus had steadfastly refused to tolerate sin among its members. This was not easy in a city noted for immoral sexual practices associated with the worship of the goddess Artemis. We also are living in times of widespread sin and sexual immorality. It is popular to be open-minded toward many types of sin, calling them personal choices or alternative lifestyles. But when the body of believers begins to tolerate sin in the church, it is lowering the standards and compromising the church’s witness. Remember that God’s approval is infinitely more important than the world’s. Use God’s Word, not what people around you are willing to accept, to set the standards for what is right and wrong. (Footnotes to Revelation 2:2 NLT)
I took a hard look at myself and decided that perhaps I am a little intolerant. But if I’m to compare my tolerance to sin as it stands now to what God’s Word calls us to tolerate, I am far too tolerant. We as a society are too tolerant. And as a church, to allow flagrant sin or (as in my case) the refusal to indentify a sin as being as such, we are compromising the spiritual health of our church and we have a responsibility to our congregation as well as other believers to not tolerate deliberate, unrepentant sin.