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Leanne Payne

The Matter of Judging


(Excerpted from The Healing Presence, Chapter 13, Baker Book House, 1995.)

The Corinthians apparently were making wrong judgments about matters other than leadership. They had become tolerant of the wrong things and proud of that tolerance. Failing then to judge the sin in their midst, they had apparently come to believe that it was an "elitism" to accept a man who was unrepentant and living in sin.

As William Barclay reminds us:

An easy-going attitude to sin is always dangerous. It has been said that our one security against sin lies in our being shocked at it. Carlyle said that men must see the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin. When we cease to take a serious view of sin we are in a perilous position. It is not a question of being critical and condemnatory; it is a question of being wounded and shocked. It was sin that crucified Jesus Christ; it was to free men from sin that he died. No Christian can take an easy-going view of it.¹

The Apostle Paul had to teach the Corinthians that we in the Body of Christ are indeed to judge ourselves; that we are to judge the sin that is killing us.

In keeping silent about evil,
in burying it deep within us,
so that it appears nowhere on the surface, 
we are implanting it,
And it will rise up a thousandfold in the future.²

One cannot effectively carry his cross apart from exercising right judgment. One of the sad things in today's church world is the inability to confront sin and call sinners to repentance. This is where some of the worst psycho-babble comes in, that which reconciles good and evil within the soul of the person who needs to repent and be healed. In addition to needing healing, often this person is being consumed with his own rebellion. Fortunate is such a one who has the minister, priest, or bishop who will in the power of the Spirit call him to repent, hear his confession, and pray for the healing of any emotional difficulties underlying his aberrant behavior.

Often these unfortunates find themselves in the hands of those who have a new gnosis, a new kind of false light or love. It smiles broadly with a compassion that is as cruel as death, for it leads to the death of the soul that continues in willful sin. It opens the church to a darkness she can no longer judge as evil.

The people of God go unprotected, not only because the leaders fail to judge sin, but also because they all too often deliberately "desensitize" the person in the pew to the nature of sin, and bar him from a right judgment as well.

Many, therefore, are afraid to rightly discern and judge evil. The evil, then, as Solzhenitsyn says, rises up a thousand-fold in the future. This is a part of the present crisis in masculinity and authority that affects us all because it is ingrained in our culture. We live in an age that reconciles good and evil, and that therefore has no moral measuring stick for judging. A passive compassion (that does a great deal of harm) is easier for the modern Christian than a decisive action that proves to be, in the end, the only loving thing to do. Because of this blindness, Christians can hear our Lord say, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" (this regarding unjust, hypocritical judging—Luke 6:37). But they find it hard to hear Christ's command to "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24 KJV).

There is a right as opposed to wrong judging, and we who follow the way of the cross must learn it. We do not judge or act apart from the Spirit of God; we do not fail to judge or fail to act in obedience to God. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians provides a wonderful study on the matter of judging. A point to be made here is that he was writing to a people who "did not lack any spiritual gift." He was writing, then, to a people who were self-centered in the use of the spirituals. He was writing to a people no longer Presence-oriented but experience-oriented. There are few souls more dangerous to the church and her mission than those in whom the gifts still operate but clang.

¹William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 44
²Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago