On Forgiveness, Tolerance, and Judgment
by Wayne Childress 10/03/2013 / Christian Living
This whole subject can be a very touchy one. On the face of it, it appears simple encompassed within the principle of love you neighbor. It goes beyond that. In reality, in practice, it is often misunderstood and difficult. Such principles as these are the weightier issues - not "church doctrine". Understanding them requires growth; doing them well requires patience, practice, love, and the help of the Holy Spirit. The order in which I meander through my thoughts here is for a reason, which I hope the reader will be able to discern.
The ultimate and simplest answer is Jesus at the Final Judgment will judge us all. Knowing that, the difficult part for us is what are we to do in the interim. Let us begin, because of the nature of man, by pondering where most folks quit - with a verse they love to use to excuse their own evil. At one point, we are told:
Judge not that you be not judged.
People seem to thrive on sound bites. Short attention spans, maybe? But, ever notice how easy it is to take a statement out of context. Jesus did not stop there.
For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and, with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.
This warns us that we will be judged by how we judge others. We are told how and how not to judge. He tells us:
Judge not according to appearance; but, judge righteous judgment.
So we can tell already that things are not so easy. Before we can judge "righteously", we have a responsibility to dig deep and get the facts go beyond the surface. We must have no hate, no malice, no prejudice, etc. Having started on the path to "how", we now explore the path to "what". Consider:
Yes, and why do you judge not what is right?
And calling them, they ordered them not to speak at all, or to teach on the name of Jesus. But answering them Peter and John said, whether it is right before God to listen to you rather than God, you judge.
Therefore, we are to judge what is right only by what God teaches us. I have found nowhere in the Bible where we are to judge by the standards of society what society teaches us. Just the opposite - we are warned against it:
In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men . . .
So we see that we are to reserve judgment to ONLY those issues that involve the breaking of the teachings of Jesus. I have never found a place where Jesus expounded on hairstyle, dancing, music, attire, table manners, or a myriad of other things that are no more than the changeable fancies and traditions of men.
Next, we delve into the mysteries of the "when".
But why do you look on the twig that is in the eye of your brother, but do not see the log in your eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Allow me to cast out the twig from your eye; and behold, the log is in your eye! Hypocrite, first cast the log out of your eye and then you will see clearly to cast the twig out of the eye of your brother.
This tells us several important things that are often over looked. First and foremost, the one judging needs to have their act together. Christian maturity is desired here. This does not mean perfection, none of us are perfect; but, the one judging must practice what he preaches. Jesus was quite adamant in expressing his displeasure with hypocrites. Better not to try to be a guide if you are still meandering around yourself. Jesus said many are called but few are chosen so few are in a position to judge rightly. So the exercise of judgment may place the judge at risk not of losing salvation, but of losing reward. Though if we do not forgive others we will not be forgiven - that will impact out salvation.
The second is, after the "look on the twig" is "cast the twig out". We should not tell someone of their error if we will not be there to help them. If you saw someone who might be bleeding to death, what would you do? Isn't it wisest in most emergencies to call 911 for the person and then render aid? That holds true for this analogy. If you see someone you think might be sinning, do first things first. Call for help - pray for them. Now what if you think the situation is direr? If someone is bleeding to death, it doesn't do much for them if you point it out and don't help stop the bleeding, right? Likewise, if you think someone is sinning unto death and decide to act as a judicator. So the person who chooses to exercise judgment must also be there to help. The judge must have the knowledge and the ability to help. The judge must know how to stop the bleeding. He needs guidance from the Holy Spirit. The judge must have the wherewithal to do it whether a Band-Aid, a bandage and gauze, or a tourniquet. He needs compassion, understanding, patience, mercy, etc.
Third, the one being judged is called a "brother" one for whom the judge truly cares about. This can get very tricky. When and how does human nature usually choose to judge a person? - When uncomfortable and against. An easy example comes to mind. There have been and are several homosexual movie stars. Yet many people who are appalled by the sight of a gay pride parade on TV will still watch and enjoy a show with a homosexual movie star in the role as the main character as long as the character portrayed doesn't "look" or "act" homosexual. If they met the actor, they might even ask for an autograph! This exemplifies the unjust dichotomy of judgment by human nature. Homosexuality is a grievous sin whether you like the person or not. The judge must be able to get past any antagonistic feelings and act only out of love and with mercy and compassion.
There is much at stake with judgment. So much so that we now turn to what a Christian must be ready to do - forgive.
For if you forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but, if you forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Just as we will be judged as we judge, we will be forgiven as we forgive. An important note here regarding forgiveness and judgment trespass here refers to an unintentional or incidental action, a slip up. Notice too that this type of trespass is to be forgiven without consequences. For the sake of clarity, I will refer to them as First Class trespasses.
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and, if he repents, forgive him. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him.
Here is part of the concept upon which faith is based if the trespasser repents, he is to be forgiven.
There are some other critically important concepts to ponder here. To begin with, we see here a trespass of a different nature repetitive behavior, possibly intentional (Second Class). This issue is why forgiveness carries a depth for even the mature Christian. Here consequences are called for a rebuke given hence a judgment is made. All trespasses of this nature will have consequences even for the fellow Christian. As quoted earlier, the Bible clearly states that even the Christian shall be judged.
I posit that our rewards in Heaven will reflect this judgment. That all First Class trespasses committed prior to and after committing one's life to Jesus will be completely forgiven according to the degree by which we forgave them ourselves. That all Second Class trespasses committed prior to committing one's life to Jesus will be forgiven too, if we repent, according to the degree by which we forgave them ourselves; but we shall receive a rebuke not in the loss of salvation, rather, in the loss of rewards in Heaven.
Alas, I begin to digress. I will return to the thought later - back to forgiveness. So if we combine our look at judgment with our look at forgiveness where are we? Seems to me we should never begrudge or "judge" a First Class offense by anyone. Forgive them Period! As to the Second Class offense, now judgment comes in. You have judged the action as a wrong. Let the person know they are messing up. Do you remember the judgment process? Explain to them what is wrong and why it is wrong. Offer to help them avoid repeating the action. Here judgment waits. You have to give the offender a chance to repent. If they repent - Forgive! If they repent Help them!
Now most folks would add tolerance to the mix. Non-believers love to accuse Christians of lacking tolerance. Ever see the word tolerance in the Bible? I have not.
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, neither do I condemn you. Go
and sin no more.
It appears that His emphasis is twofold. First, He forgave; and, then He commanded to sin no more. I see forgiveness yes, but not tolerance.
After these things, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, Behold, you have become well, sin no more that a worse thing not happen to you.
Jesus had healed this man yet here again is the command to sin no more. This time the command comes with a caveat. We see a warning, not tolerance.
And they come to Jerusalem and Jesus went in the temple and began to cast out those that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of them that sold doves; and, would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But, you have made it a den of thieves.
No tolerance here either. You see to be tolerant would be to imply that evil is okay. Now we reach the hardest part. Since we should not tolerate the unrepentant, what should we do? If you have earnest and righteously tried to help an unrepentant sinner and they just don't get it consider the following:
Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast your pearls before
swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
What of the "Christian" who abuses his "freedom"? Who is not earnest in his repentance and continues in Second Class Trespasses after having known the Word. The scarecrow!
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not do the truth.
(1 John 1:6)
Finally, what of the believer who becomes unrepentant:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance: seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God anew and put him to shame.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
(2 Peter 2:20)
The bottom line is to do all you do in the spirit of love and to let the Lord deal with the rest.