S (Scripture): James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. 12 But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor?
O (Observation): James is striving for peace in the Chirstian community he oversees. Part of this struggle is to tame how the Jesus-followers deal with their varied and divisive beliefs and actions.
A (Application): Why do we put ourselves into the seat of the judge? Does it come from a supposed superior intellect of the commands of Scripture? Is it a regional culture that assumes a certain stance towards morals? Does it come down to peer pressure (in the sense that proving your piety earns you points with God or other Christians)?
Whatever the root cause, James is pretty clear here that we are called to NOT judge our neighbor, but instead, as we start counting others’ sins, perhaps then we should start counting our own. In doing so, we realize that we don’t get to be the judge.
Locally, in Murfreesboro, TN, one church has asked the scouts (Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts) to NOT come back to use their facilities, because the scouts now have the option to allow pack leaders who are in same-sex relationships. Some churches / denominations won’t abide this.
So…they kick out the whole group. The potential good of the scouts is in some ways undone by the churches / denominations judging their neighbor. And that’s their right. No one should be forced go against their convictions or concience.
But the damage is done. The “Christian” viewpoint becomes one of hypocrisy through these kinds of actions. Becoming judge is wrong. Christ is the only judge. And I am assured of my salvation as a baptized believer in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let me be clear: Christians, much like Muslims, should not all be painted with one stroke of the brush. We are varied.
In my case, as part of a member church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we allow for leaders who are in same-sex relationships to be pastors and to allow pastors to perform same-sex unions, as approved or not by the local congregation.
We struggle to adhere to James 4 text, while viewing everyone through the lens of “fully saint, fully sinner.” We strive to live into this freedom Christ gives us, to use that freedom to love our neighbor, and not to use it for selfish gain.
How have you struggled with judging your neighbor? Are you doing that with a family member? Have you counted your own sins?
I’m reminded daily to challenge myself and other people. I remind people, as I challenge them, that I, too, struggle. I try to meet people where they are and join them in the struggle.
Let’s keep it real. Love the sinner, hate your own sin.
P (Prayer): Lord, you are the only wide judge. Keep us from harming our neighbor. Keep us from hiding your light under a bushel. As we judge, remind us of our own brokenness and soften our hearts to allow your grace to enter in. Amen.