You probably hear this phrase a dozen times a day: "…but I'm not judging." Whether heard on your favorite morning talk show, at the office, or Wednesday night Bible study, a misuse of this cultural caveat is suffocating God's truth.
We so badly want to appease everyone, that many Evangelical Christians mistake Jesus' words, "Judge not, that you be not judged," to mean accommodate sin so as not to offend. Well-intentioned or not, I fear Evangelicals have confused being non-judgmental with justification and affirmation.
Within Evangelical communities, "I'm not judging" also comes in the form of "let's not be legalistic" or "let's avoid being non-affirming." Sound familiar? That's because, sadly, these scenarios play out in our churches every week.
Picking and choosing which Biblical truths to discuss so as not to offend or sound too harsh is now the prevailing trend. Last Sunday, a good friend shared how he raised the question in his small group, "Should the Church be concerned about justice?" A seemingly softball question, my friend was stunned when the discussion quickly revealed concerns the Church might come across as judgmental when executing righteousness.
Excuse me, but justice for 276 Christian girls being human trafficked by Islamist terrorists or a pregnant Sudanese mother sentenced to death for leaving Islam should always be the Church's concern. Socially acceptable or not.
Mind you, I'm not just talking about hot button issues like same-sex marriage or even abortion. In far too many churches that I have visited, simply words like "Hell," "sin," and "transformation" are avoided because they invoke negative connotations with the Gospel.
Hear me loud and clear: I am not endorsing mean-spirited criticisms, insults, and discrimination within the Church. Christ was clear on judgment. But he was also clear on righteously rebuking and turning away from sinfulness. (See John 8:3-11)
Talking this week with a local pastor, I was introduced to the stark reality of socially accepted Jesus. Nathan Knight is the pastor of Restoration Church; a relatively new church plant in a Northwest neighborhood of Washington D.C. Pastor Knight said that contemporary urban culture "loves gentle Jesus. They love traditional nice good teacher Jesus. They love tolerant Jesus. They don't love judgmental Jesus."
Pastor Knight continued, "They don't love the Jesus that says, 'I have come not to cause peace but division.' They don't like that Jesus. 'I am the way the truth and the light. No man comes to the Father but through me.' They don't like that Jesus."
"Judgmental Jesus" sounds harsh. But what draws others and me to Christianity is not a fluffy self-help Christ. The character of Jesus and his disciples display courage, boldness, honesty, grace and mercy in the face of intimidation, even death. Because if the testament of the Gospel is not a motivator for speaking truth in love, then I don't know what is.
In the words of commonsense evangelical thinker, A.W. Tozer, Christians cannot afford to be "too timid to tell the truth." Souls are at stake.