We all enjoy letting people think that we are “in the know,” don’t we? By billing ourselves as having the gift of discernment, we indeed can puff ourselves up…at least in our own eyes. But the same Bible that commands us to call out false teachers and correct sinners also admonishes us to maintain an attitude of humility.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. ~~Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV)
When we have concerns about a person’s ministry and/or personal conduct, therefore, we must first examine ourselves. Why do we feel the necessity to call attention to this person’s weaknesses? Are we genuinely concerned for their spiritual well-being, or do we simply want to show off our discernment abilities? Do we earnestly pray for for their repentance, or do we just want to see them grovel at our feet?
These aren’t comfortable questions. I know they’re uncomfortable because I’ve had to ask them of myself periodically. And sometimes the answers haven’t been very pretty. As a matter of fact, sometimes the answers have been downright ugly!
I seriously don’t think I’m the only one who has bullied my brothers and sisters in Christ in the name discernment, however. All of us struggle with our inclinations to execute hypocritical judgment. Just spend ten minutes on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll see how eagerly people jump at opportunities to rebuke people they have never even interacted with prior to the rebuke.
Jesus addressed our readiness to condemn each other in His Sermon on the Mount:
Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. ~~Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV)
Before you accuse me of ignoring context, let me assure you that I know the bulk of Matthew 7 commands us to discern false teachers. I also know all the other Scriptures commanding us to judge sin in each other and, when it necessary, to call out that sin.
At the same time, I believe we often minimize Matthew 7:1-5, perceiving it as a threat to our ministry of discernment. We don’t want to interrupt our discernment activities by asking the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin before we rush to expose the sins of others.
If you read my blog with any regularity, you’ll know that I don’t oppose discernment. I’ve called out false teachers and confronted sinful evangelical trends many times in my articles, and I expect to keep doing so. After all, I call this blog The Outspoken TULIP for a reason!
But I don’t want to use outspokenness as a guise for self-righteousness. I don’t want to forget my own vulnerability to temptation. None of us should want to judge with hypocrisy. All of us, therefore, must walk in humility, cultivating a willingness to deal with our own sins before presuming to call out sins in others.