Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Confronting = Judging? That's some bad theology.

Our society today has lost its appreciation for community. The irony is that as I look around, there is an increased surge of groups who claim to be communities. I believe that the essence of true community has been abandoned, however, because it doesn't allow for the rampant individualism which pervades our culture. Community is acceptable as long as I can choose which community I belong to, how they will treat me, and how I will behave in it.

Outworkings of this thought keep coming up in my life. From Christian people I meet who think that they can choose how they live, no matter the lifestyle, to social work textbooks that emphasize our need to love, not confront or judge and minimize the work of the law, to the hesitancy of people to confront sin.

The theology of love that gets spouted everywhere I look, forgets the theology of the law, and in doing so negates the theology of love. If you have no sin, why do you need grace? Before we could understand love, we had to understand sin. We have lost the knowledge that love is ultimately what does confront us with our sin.

And that brings me to my main point...the bad theology of calling confronting, judging. The misinterpretation of community has led to confrontation becoming thought of as judging. This could be because of an unwise mode of confrontation, but I tend to think it's more the lack of understanding of what community involves, and especially as a Christian community, what is required. Confrontation is necessary in the Christian community, it is one of the methods God uses to keep us accountable, growing and persevering til He comes. In our individualistic culture, however, it is seen as someone putting their nose where they don't belong and interfering with the powerful freedom of self. It is seen as judgmental and intolerant, and if you ever dare try to confront sin with love, you'll most likely be met with the passages "judge not, lest you be judged" or "take the plank out of your own eye, before pulling the speck out of mine". These passages are helpful to remind us of hypocrisy and our own sin, but not to dissuade any confrontation at all. When used in the wrong context it is a cheap way of not looking out for our siblings in Christ.

Jesus confronted sin in His day. He continues to hold the majority of His judgement back, even now, but He had no problem being honest with the sinners He came in contact with. In our emulation of Christ, we should remind ourselves that love is more than we make it. Love should be our motivation to help others, to encourage others, and also, to confront others. If we refuse to confront sin in our own lives, and in the lives of Christians around us, because we want to love them, then we have forgotten, or never known, what love really is.

That being said, confronting is not easy or simple. Even for those who find it easier than others, it still needs to be approached biblically, with much prayer, and with a heart filled with love, not judgement. Only then can confronting be a useful tool to help us in sanctification. I would love to see the day when our Christian communities were honest with each other about sin, and through confrontation and encouragement became closer as a Body, and closer to God.


Scatterfingers said...

I think James Mac had it right when he said that judging sin and bringing the mind of Christ are not opposite things: they are complimentary aspects of the same thing. That is, love. To bring the law alone is brutality. To bring the heart of Christ alone is wishywashy. Both is love.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Sargeant.

Love MUST be defined in both what we feel AND what we do. If we have the first without the latter, we have a totally 'Jesus died for you so don't worry about what you do - it's forgiven', but if you have only the actions, there's an aura of fear. Because, say the legalists, if you sin you're toast.

It's only when we realize that we both don't need to fear the future AND that we have to be responsible in our actions today that we are acting as we ought.

I feel that I lost the train of thought that made sense to me when I starting writing....hmmm.... :-)

Puritanism: The haunting fear that somebody, somewhere, is ....

having fun.

undoubtably_me said...

Amen, Chris. Very well put.

Confronting is kind of like discipline, in theory. We are told by God to discipline out of love, and not anger. And yet, society fights to have corporal punishment billed as a crime, and ignores the love aspect of discipline. While I understand that many people do use corporal punishment as a release for anger, there are still those of us that adhere to the original intention. If we discipline someone because we love them and want them to see and realize that they were wrong, that's very much the same as confronting a fellow believer with their sin, is it not? The angels rejoice with a new believer, but how much more do they rejoice when one who had previously believed, and then turned away on account of sin, turns back to the Lord in humility and obeisance? The heavens cannot contain that joy.