The President’s Column – “I don’t want to be a member of your church because your church is too judgmental!”
From the May / June 1994 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
The President’s Column
“I don’t want to be a member of your church because your church is too judgmental!” These words spoken to me undoubtedly characterize the attitude of many who happen to visit our congregations or speak personally either to the pastor or our members. And in order to add some credence to their charge, they invariably refer to the words of Jesus, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Luke 6:37).
What about this charge? To answer this charge we must remember, first of all, that we confess in our Lutheran Confessions that the inspired Word of God alone is the sole source and norm of all true doctrine. We dare not use our feelings, our likes and dislikes, as the source of our teaching but all doctrine must be drawn from the inspired Scriptures and whatever is contrary to that Word of Truth must be rejected. It is the duty of the teachers of the Church not only to proclaim the Truth, but also to denounce error. Every teaching which is contrary to the Word of God is a deadly evil which emanates from the father of all lies (John 8:44) and ruins the soul that receives it and holds to it.
We see from the Scriptures that the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament spoke out against all false teaching. And what about the Savior Himself during His public ministry? We hear Him issue the warning, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). He minced no words in His denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:13ff. He also warned His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). Look at the judgment which the Apostle Paul spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Galatians, chapter 1, verse 8: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
It is the duty not only of the pastors specifically but also of every Christian personally to judge doctrines on the basis of God’s Word of Truth. The Apostle John directs the words to all Christians when he writes, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Such judging is not sinful but commanded by God Himself! Not to speak out against the false prophets as they reveal their false teaching and as the Lord grants us the opportunity makes us guilty of the sin of denial! Jesus says, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38; see also Matt. 10:32,33).
Everything which is condemned by the Word of God must also be condemned by us. We have no right to excuse or minimize what God condemns in His Word! Yet, this is precisely what is going on within the visible church today. Those things which God so plainly labels as sins in His Word (homosexuality, adultery, etc.) are judged otherwise by some church bodies. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Is. 5:20). And those who cry that we have no right to judge in such matters are either grossly ignorant of what God’s Word teaches on this matter or in their puffed-up pride simply refuse to accept what God says.
But what about the passage which is often referred to by our accusers, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Luke 6:37)? The Savior here does not speak about labeling as false teaching whatever is plainly contrary to His Word. This, as we have seen, is commanded by Him! Instead, the Lord Jesus forbids all loveless judging, unjustly condemning our neighbor, making the good which he has done to appear evil and criticizing his praiseworthy activities in order to elevate ourselves.
It is loveless judging when we hastily pass sentence and are ignorant of all the facts and have not heard both sides. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13). It is loveless judging when we judge the thoughts or the motives of the heart for only “the Lord knoweth the thoughts of man…” (Ps. 94:11). It is loveless judging when we simply judge according to the outward appearance when the Savior warns us, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). It is loveless judging when we judge one another without taking into consideration our own faults. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5). It is loveless judging unjustly to pass sentence in matters of Christian liberty. Concerning such adiaphora (things neither commanded nor forbidden) the Apostle warns, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13).
While we should be very careful, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, to avoid all loveless and sinful judging in our relationship with one another; on the other hand, we dare never hesitate to condemn what God Himself condemns in His Word!
Oh, let me never speak
What bounds of truth exceedeth;
Grant that no idle word
From out my mouth proceedeth;
And then, when in my place
I must and ought to speak,
My words grant power and grace
Lest I offend the weak.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor M. L. Natterer, President