Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do not judge... its a boomerang!

In the teachings of Jesus, there are parables, principles, and imperatives. Among those things that Jesus spoke in the imperative form is his admonition to “judge not!” (Matthew 7:1-3). And yet, the apostle Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 6:5 if there is not anyone spiritual enough to ‘judge’ a dispute among believers and in chapter 5, verse 12, Paul seems to imply that we are to ‘judge’ those within the church, at least in terms of morality. Again in 1 Corinthians 11:31 Paul seem to encourage us to ‘judge’ ourselves before taking communion.

So when do we follow the clear command of Jesus not to judge others? And we do we apply the teachings of Paul about judgment of ourselves and of other believers within the church? And what about the ‘spiritual man’ who makes judgments about all things but is not himself subject to any man’s judgment? (1 Cor. 2:15).

What is the difference between judgment and discernment?


smokin joe said...

HINT: for you Greek scholars, in Matthew 7 where Jesus prohibits judgment, he uses the Greek word "krino." In many of the pauline passages, a cognate words are used such as 'anakrino' or 'diakrino'.

Is there a difference in the words used that does not through clearly in English that explains when judgment is bad, and when discernment is needed? How does one tell the difference?

This is an important topic, because most of the unchurched young people I know who have dropped out of church, tell me that it is because "Christians are so judgmental."

chris hyatt said...

off the top of my head ... judging oneself or even those IN the church does not include judging those who are NOT IN the church. Even when there is necessity to "call a spade a spade" within the church, going a step further and judging that person who's fallen, sinned, slipped up, turned away - is often counter-productive to his or her redemption, reconciliation and restoration.

I've come to the conclusion that I don't "DO" church very well. So maybe I would prefer to err on the side of non-judgmentalism and let the standing for moral correctness be left to another. I realize that’s a cop-out, but it sure makes life easier =)

I know this, I am constantly praying for the wisdom to love others and not judge them, while giving full access to God's Word and righteousness in my own heart. If I can love fully, yet personally surrender, I don't think I will have to make "judgments" in order for someone to know whether I personally approve or disapprove of their behavior.

Recently, I sat with someone I love deeply and listened to him say “I really appreciate that you don’t judge me.” I thought to myself, “oh no, does he think that I approve of all that he does and shares with me? Cuz I certainly don’t. And maybe he’ll mistake my lack of correction as an endorsement.” That’s a scary position to be in. I eased into a conversation with all the typical “hedge building” techniques, and broached the subject with fear and trepidation. After which, he said, “I know where you stand. But you don’t judge me while I’m sorting things out for myself.” He had to remind me that had I come across stern and demanding, I wouldn’t have the chance to live an example for him, and have the relationship to influence him as his hunger deepens and his desire to change increases. As we all believe, the Holy Spirit is a far better agent of conviction and holiness.

smokin joe said...

I don't "do" church very well either, thats why I stopped going. Although I think there is more nuance to this than just "Jesus vs. Paul" if I have to choose between Jesus' command NOT to judge and Paul's encouragements to discern, I will err on the side with Jesus.

Marquito said...

I like this conversation. Allow me to present a dilemma.

A Christian has a friend who is practicing homosexuality (believe it or not, yes, this is still a sin). If the Christian does not judge/discern in his heart that the behavior is sin, and does not challenge his friend's behavior in a loving way, is he really going the Jesus route (Smokin Joe reference) in loving his friend? If he says or does nothing, is he loving his friend, or is he setting his friend up for disaster?

When we think of the word "judgement" we think of a one-time action of pointing a finger and angrily accusing someone of his fault. I believe that's what Jesus was talking about when he spoke about the plank in our own eye. But judging something as sinful, and discerning what is right for the sake of loving a brother is supremely important, and central to the gospel of grace. AND THIS PROCESS IS NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT; it is a process that needs to be allowed to run it's course (in other words, it takes love, patience, and could take years to resolve, if it gets resolved).

The end goal is not to say "see, I told you so" to the sinful brother. The end goal is redemption for that brother.

I also believe that healthy judging can only come from a healthy heart; meaning a heart that understands brokenness and is very aware that sin-nature affects ALL of us.

smokin joe said...

welcome to our conversation Marc! To everyone else: Marquitos is a Cuban-American brother-in-Christ in Miami who likes rum and smokes cigars and has a cool blog that I visit often with the name, Cigars, Rum and Grace. I hpoe you will visit his blog...

Good comments! "Speaking the Truth in Love" I'll wait until some other comment before I respond... (I liked what you said too Chris)

steve H said...

We need to consider the whole passage -- Matt 7.1-5.

Judge not THAT YOU NOT BE JUDGED. Look at your self first: be aware of the log in your own eye. Deal with that; remove the log from your eye.

Then WHEN YOU SEE CLEARLY, you can remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Although it may be only a speck, specks in the eye hurt. How can I say that I love my brother and not work to help relieve him of the speck?)

The issue is that we will be judged with the same judgment we use. Compare it to Luke 6:37-38.

I believe it to be a warning as to our motivation and personal condition, rather than an absolute prohibition to never judge.

Its interesting to see how the verse is misused in our current cultural milieu. People who know next to nothing about Scripture know the words "Judge not..." and the enemy uses it to stop us from clearly standing for righteousness in society and in the church.

We can't not work to free people if we don't get free. We cannot work to free people if we don't see their chains.

Love, forgive, be merciful, do all things for edification... judging with these motives and attitudes and goals will bring freedom.

Because of sin we have a hard time seeing that mercy and judgment work together just as love and authority work together. God is not conflicted regarding these and as we become godly, we will not be conflicted regarding them either.

As we are becoming godly, we have plenty of reason to be humble, prudent, patient in our love, mercy, judgment, and leadership of others.

Brian Emmet said...

Great post, Joseph--thanks for initiating, and thanks for comments so far. Welcome, Marc--thanks for weighing in!

"Jesus versus Paul" is a bad way to set the conversation. I'm not sure Joseph meant a whole lot by it, so I don't want to chase it, other than to register that I think it's bad hermeneutics. But let's only chase that if anyone is really interested.

Actually, everyone believes in and desires judgement. We want to current govt in Myanmar to "get what they deserve" for their horrible response to the typhoon. We want Pres. Bush to be held to account for the war in Iraq, or his response to Katrina, etc. We want the jerk who cuts us off in traffic to get pulled over by a cop, and priests who abuse boys to be punished. Nobody really desires a "judgment free" life.

Folks rightly react to the church's perceived inconsistency: a man (or woman) who's screwing around will come in for way more heat than a man (or woman) who is proud, greedy, arrogant. Tobbacco or alcohol use (and I'm a big hooray for rum and cigars!) catches more flak than indifference to poverty.

I don't think the answer is "non-judgmentalism" as currently defined by our culture; instead, it is more--way, way more consistency/faithfulness/integrity-- on our parts. As Steve H rightly points out, if your neighbor's hair is on fire, it's a definite failure of love not to try to talk with him about it.

smokin joe said...

you gotta give me more than "bad" ... before you dimiss my Jesus versus Paul statement. There ARE significant differences between the teachings of Jesus and Paul that we tend to gloss over (I do not say contradictory) and they need to be considered.

Jesus says "judge not" (krino), Paul says judge only those within the church and judge youreselves (anakrino or diakrino-- don't remember which). He also says, no one can judge the spiritual man, who in term judges all things.

So what gives? Whats is the difference in the various contexts and shading of meaning in the Greek words ...

And don't say my positioning of this is "bad" ... tell me it is unsound, wrong, unscriptural, provocative, liberal, even heretical but give me some specific reasons rather than some vague all-encompassing moral judgment of "bad."

(by-the-way Steve, I liked what you said).

John the Musician said...

<_< >_> O.o ruh roh. I'm sensing some tension. =OP

Erm...yes I can't recall who I'm replying too but someone said that we can't totally get rid of judgementalism in our lives altogether. I tend to feel that I've got rid of most judgementalism in my life (except under heated circumstances like getting cut off in trafic for instance) It is however more of a cop out in my life than an effective way to live.

It's rather nice seeing as how I'm still pretty immature spiritually, to be able to shrug things off and feign helplessness.

As far as speaking the truth in love, I think it's important to realize that if we're reaching out to someone who doesn't have a personal relationship with God or is backslidden into a different lifestyle, we should use discernment as to which areas we should or should not speak to.

As far as Jesus versus Paul, I wonder if people have made the mistake of putting them on the same level. Obviously Paul's writings are divinely inspired and are in bible for God's purposes, but at the same time it's important to realize that Paul is indeed a man. All men no matter how great or Godly they are have weaknesses where as Jesus is Agape love incarnate in human form and as such has no imperfection. Almost every single Godly man or woman in the bible also has some major weaknesses. Moses - anger, Abraham - fear, David - lust, and so on and so on. It seems in someways as if God wants us to find the weaknesses in the Godly characters so that we can see his glory more clearly.

Anywho just some thoughts. =O)

smokin joe said...

no John, not tension, just lively give-and-take among good friends who are secure in their relationships. Its what makes our blog conversation fun. Back the hermaneutics of Jesus vs. Paul some other time.

I want to go back to what Steve said:

"I believe it to be a warning as to our motivation and personal condition, rather than an absolute prohibition to never judge."

I think this is a real key. It has to do with our motivation. Are we judging to condemn and punish? or are we "discerning" with a desire to bring healing and restoration?

I think it is unfortunate that there is not a clearer or more obvious distinction in the translation of the Greek words to English between judgment and discernment. The word "judge" is used for both in some translations.

Gothard associates a word picture of a judge with black robes pounding a gavel and rendering a verdict of guilt with the word "krino" which Jesus uses in Matt. 7. Jesus tells us not to do that because that’s God's job. None of us are qualified to establish guilt and exact punishment.

However, Paul is using a different Greek word that is better translated discernment. Gothard associates the word picture of a Doctor in white medical coat and a stethoscope .... trying hard to diagnose a problem in order to be able to prescribe the better medicine.

I have found this visual contract to be helpful … and I also have been dismayed to find far more of the black robes in my heart than I would have hoped.

Marquito said...

Hey, I was watching "Lost" last night, so forgive my dropping out of the conversation. And, thanks for inviting me in.

I read through all the comments, and have judged that you are ALL heretical, Joe did make a "bad" comment, and you're all pretty much screwed.

On a serious note, I think Steve said it best as well.

"I believe it to be a warning as to our motivation and personal condition, rather than an absolute prohibition to never judge."

Grace really is an amazing thing. It strips us of our ability to judge, corrects our motivation, and teaches us to love others and to love God above all. I think that's what it's all about in the end.

I like what Tim Keller says (paraphrased), 'We are much more sinful than we ever thought, and we are much more loved than we could ever hope to be.'

Brian Emmet said...

It sounds like "judgmentalism" means for us a self-righteous, self-protective, hypocritical condemning of others: I'm hard on you for the areas that are easy for me, and easy on myself on the areas that are hard for me. It also entails "playing God"--I arrogate to myself the right that belongs only to God to pronounce judgment.

However, I can and must testify to the world, depending on the Spirit to convict. Chris provided a good illustration of this: his friend said, I know where you stand, but appreciate you're not judging me while I work it out for myself." Chris apparently had made his "judgement" (evaluation, assessment) of a subject clear--his friend seems to understand Chris' judgment of the matter--without forcing his friend to agree with him, and, more importantly, without canceling their relationship: we may disagree, sharply, but I am still committed to being a good and faithful friend.

Note on Matthew 7: the passage (vv. 1-6) begins with "Judge not" and ends with a command to judge: "Don't give your pearls to pigs," which necessitates making a judgment about who might fall under the heading of "pigs."

Brian Emmet said...

Marc, fabulous likeness of yourself!

smokin joe said...

Marc: you are too funny! When are we going to get together with my buddy Dr. Sam for a cigar and some good Nicaraguan rum?

Brian: I do want to revisit my "bad" hermeneutics with you, but not necessarily in this thread.

I think the point that I am driving at, that might be getting missed in this discussion is the need for some clear definitions.

there are a number of words that are used in multiple ways in the scriptures: world, kingdom, church. God so loved the world that he gave ...but John tells us in 1 John to "love not the world"

My point is that there are multiple and quite different -- even opposing -- scriptural meaning for "judge" which are reflected in the Greek.

Brian implied this when he put assessment and evaluation in parentheses. Judgment is used in the scriptures to mean condemnation, assignment of guilt, to declare punishment, or to form a negative opinion about (this is what Jesus tells us NOT to do), and evaluation, assessment and discernment (this is what Paul tells us TO DO).

My appeal is to begin to parse these words to that we can identity the first form of forming negative opinions without losing the ability to discern or evaluate or declare truth.

Much of what takes place among Christians toward “outsider” groups really is “krino” or condemnation … not redemptive discernment or loving communication of truth. This is why the church is losing so much influence with secular pluralistic people.

As Captain Jack Sparrow would say “sabe”?

steve H said...

good conversation. I'll be away a few days. Would like to hear more.

John the Musician said...

I think part of the reason that Church has lost it's influence is that it has placed the importance on being nice.

Let's just burn em all down and get down to the nitty gritty of saving souls.

Marquito said...

Brian, professional though it may seem, believe it or not it is not a self-portrait. My daughter was the artist at age 5.

Joe, we do owe each other some good cloud of wisdom time. I'll have to wait until after the baby is born, which is in a few weeks. After that we'll definitely get together. Until then I'll try and clear up the definitions of the word judge. Scary territory though. The Bible is so clear when you can just take it at face-value and not think too much about it. Sometimes in the study of words, you can gain or lose some of the mystery; it can go either way. The other side of that is 'ignorance is bliss', so I'd prefer to check out the meanings.

In the end however, the idea of the proper motivation and proper application of judging is the redemptive purpose of God through Christ Jesus, centered around his love for his children.

smokin joe said...

Marc, ...while everyone thinking about judgment or working on their sunday sermons....

....We are hosting a religion and immigration conference this weekend at FIU with an organization called CEHLIA. They are believing Latino theologians, social scientists and historians dedicated to doing history and theology from the perpective of the poor. About half the group is Catholic and the other half are anabaptists, Presbiterians and one Episcopalian. One of them, Juan Martinez, is from Fuller Theological Seminary, -- All academics, all pacifists, all enthusiastically planning to voite for Barack Obama and, as far as I can tell, all committed to loving obedience to Christ.

I spend so much time relating to my good friends on both the right and the left that I wind-up dizzy and cross-eyed most days (oh wait, maybe that is the rum!?).

i'm on my way to tonight to pick them up and take them to the Vineyard service (yesterday we did both Cuban and Nicaraguan Catholic mass) and after that, we are headed to someone's house on the water to pop open a bottle of Flor de Cana and light up some cigars.

Brian Emmet said...

NT Wright makes the point that "judgment" often functions in Scripture, esp e.g. in the Psalms, as God's vindication of his people: Israel repeatedly asks the LORD to judge, i.e., to find in favor of his people as over against their more powerful and oppressing enemies. This does not directly apply to the passages in Matthew 7 ("Judge not, lest you be judged") and Paul's letters that we've been discussing, but it does form part of the background for a discussion of "judgment."

Jose, happy to discuss my "bad" comment with you--I really didn't mean all that much by it, other than reacting to your use of "Jesus versus Paul" language (which I do think is a bad way to exegete Scripture). However, this does not mean that we shouldn't be more attentive than we tend to be to how Scripture uses specific words--so I think I agree with you far more than disagree.

Hey, I'm looking forward to a time when I can have some rum and stogies with you guys! That might go a long way to straightening my thinking out, eh?

John the Musician said...

It's a scientific fact that Cigars and rum raise a persons spiritual maturity by 15 points on a scale of 1 - 10.

Sarah said...

John the Musician. I guess that's why Jesus didn't smoke cigars and drink Rum -- because he didn't need the spiritual maturity boost? :)

John M. said...

Oops! There it goes again. It was NOT Sarah who said that, it was me. Every time my daughter uses my computer this happens. Sorry!
John M

smokin joe said...

oh! I thought my daughter Sarah had checked in a left some thoughts.

So...does anyone have any more to say about how to distinguish between redemptive discernment and harsh judgment?

Brian Emmet said...

So no one wants to speak in favor of harsh judgment?

Brian Emmet said...

I'm not sure the right distinction is "harsh judgment" vs. "redemptive discernment". Let's stipulate, as the lawyers say, that "harsh judgment" violates the way of Jesus. "Discernment" doesn't quite get us where I think we're trying to go, which has to do with truth-telling. How do we communicate The Truth in a way that is discerning (sensitive to the Spirit and the person), not judgmental, but which carries with it the right kind of "edge"--"When they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said 'Brothers, what must we do to be saved?'" (Acts 2). I think discernment is the process and the gift to recognize when it is God's time to tell someone the truth, or at least that aspect of truth that the Spirit seems to be indicating is needful right now.

I guess all I'm really saying is that we cannot allow an appropriate distatste for judgmentalism to keep us from speaking "hard words" when called for.

steve H said...

Amen, Brian. I don't know what you want to call it, but there is a necessary and proper sort of judgment that is something more than discernment. To use a statement out of context: "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." It is not our job to condemn (for people already are condemned, John 3), but the truth spoken in love is not condemnation.

smokin joe said...

right... I agree Steve (and Brian). Therefore, when Jesus tells us "Do not judge" ... I think it likely that the word he is using refers to what you just called "condemnation" ...but not to loving communication of moral or ethical truth.

I could give some personal illustrations about some of my promiscuous young friends on the campus (heterosexual). I decided to form a friendship with them and to deliberately avoid making judgments (internally or otherwise).

Eventually, in two cases, they came to me in tears about pain their lives due to serial dysfunctional relationships. In both cases, I was gently and lovingly able to share the truth with them about the damage that comes from frequent fornication with multiple partners. Although they are still wrestling with the issue of behavior change, they both acknowledged the wisdom and truth of my counsel, and interestingly enough, have started attending churches and seeking greater knowledge of God.

My inner attitude did not condemn, but neither did I compromise truth ... I "evaluated" or "discerned" a problem in their lives and I waited until there was sufficient trust in the relationship that they were open to my input. I gave the input out of my desire to see healing (it is not the well who need a physician but those who are ill).

However, as I personally have wrestled with this command of Christ and applied it to my own life, I have become more sensitive to the enormous amount of "condemnation" that exists among Christians.... I mean ENORMOUS ... and from people who are not qualified to cast the first stone ...

In my opinion, this is one of the giants that is keeping Christians in the U.S. from being missionally effective ... which, as you might guess, is why I brought it up.

steve H said...

I just finished a quick read of John Carter Cash's "Anchored in Love" -- a biography of his mother. I also recently read Steve Turner's authorized biography of Johnny, "A Man Called Cash." Not too long ago I read Johnny's 2nd autobiography "Cash."

These books were inspiring and, in places, disturbing (saddening; depressing even) in others. They are remarkable for the candor.

In the context of this discussion, I bring this up because John Carter Cash demonstrated remarkable honesty about both his parents' and also his own weaknesses and addictions. I appreciated the fact he did not make excuses for failures. And yet he also consistently communicated love, acceptance, and faith.

I suspect that Johnny and June's facing up to huge weaknesses contributed significantly to their ability to influence others with their love.

At the same time, I find myself crying out for continuing and deep personal transformation from the inside out -- transformation that the Cash's did not seem to find. (I was left with hope that John Carter Cash may, however, find fuller transformation.)

This whole area is so huge! I have no grounds for throwing stones.

smokin joe said...

hey Steve, your email was moving for me. I started to respond earlier, before I left the house, but was interrupted by an IM conversation with a graduate student, who became my friend last year. She is in a foreign country on a research fellowship and was asking me for emotional support and prayer. I had a chance to share some good 'truth' with her ... all a fruit of what we are talking about in this discussion.

Which one of the Johnny Cash books would you recommend? I want to buy it for a friend of mine's birthday (Ed Biggs) in August ... he loves Johnny Cash.

I have more to say later about your heart cry for spiritual formation--and Jesus-centered virtue ... that is an extremely important topic!

steve H said...

I think the Turner biography would be a blessing to Ed, Joseph. I found a 3 CD abridged version that was read by Kris Kristofferson. I enjoyed that so much that I bought the book.

John M. said...

Hey, you all were able to have a great discussion without me! Imagine that?!

I decided not to say anything because I got behind initially, and never really caught up with the discussion. When I did read comments, they were so well articulated I really didn't have anything to add. Besides that, I really wasn't in a "judgmental" mood.

Great job!
John M.

smokin joe said...

thanks John. Steve has particularly made a valuable contribution.

I have talked way too much in this thread, probably because I have worked really hard on this in myself and have become very passionate about it. But let me add one more thing.

Edward Demming, the U.S. management guy who taught the Japanese "Total Quality Management" after World War II once said that in order to improve a system (thinking of business management systems) one must first analyze the system and fully understand it.

His second point is that one can never fully understand the system from the inside -- one must critically analyze from the outside.

Here is my point: this issue of Christian judgmentalism (or whatever you want to call the 'krino' judgment that Jesus discourages) looks VERY, VERY different from the outside, than it does from the inside.

From the inside, it is like the picture frame that hangs at a slight angle on the wall...after enough time passes, no one notices. But from the outside, it is a major "put-off" for secular people. And most insiders are not even aware of it or only dimly.

This was the same problem that Nicodemus and his friends had in Jesus' time. This was why Jesus basically told him in John 3, that where Jesus was going (in John 4), Nic could not follow without a profound paradigm shift.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, how do you parse our culture's elevation of "tolerance" as the highest form of virtue (accompanied by a concommitant reaction against anything and everything perceived as "judgment" or "being judgmental") with an appropriate commitment to practice, and then hopefully gain the opportunity to speak, the truth? Is it simply that Christians are perceived as being wildly inconsistent--e.g., hammering people for sexual sins but ignoring materialism, consumerism, etc.? Focusing on abortion but ignoring homelessness? Or does it go deeper?

smokin joe said...

yes, yes, and yes...

It seems to me that our culture reacts to judgment from the church because ... there is a lot of "krino" judgment in the church... with all the qualifiers and caveats we have appropriately identified in this discussion ... Jesus still said "don't do it."

But on the other hand, tolerance is a "pluralist" virtue... "live and let live" ... we can rise to a higher standard and beat the culture at its own game by choosing agape love rather than tolerance ... although I think there is valid place for tolerance ... such as tolerance of opposing political views in a democracy. Respect and/or civility are also good words ...

Tolerance means I basically ignore my young friends promiscuity and decide it is their business not mine ... agape means that I hurt for them and pray for them ... and actively work to build up the trust level with the hope that I might offer a word of counsel and healing at the appropriate moment. If the appropriate moment never arrives, I just pray for them and choose not to hold a negative, demeaning opinion of them.

I'm off to homestead to hang with the homies and practice agape love "which covers a multitude of sins" ....

Laurel Long said...

I am fascinated by this discussion because I have always been one who endeavors to figure things out; whether it pertains to people or situations. I hope this is an attribute that reflects a desire for wisdom, but I fear that it is a reflection of my insecurities (of which there are many). It is probably a little of both.
Would you guys like a real live specimen with which to work out your opinions?
I will be the guinue pig. Recently, I lost a friend, or at least, I thought she was my friend, to cancer. I created a blog that would serve as a catharsis for those who felt they needed to vent after her death, but I also provided a private location for those who could not respond publically. Of course, this is not available. There were many who had unresolved issues with my friend. The blog illustrates some very interesting responses to my very raw and vulnerable discourse. Instead of using hypothetical situations and scripture as a foundation for your discussion, use my Confessions and angony as material; it may be a very fertile resource. I am not afraid of critism. One of my fears is that I wrote what I did because I judged her or that she judged me. If either one of us is guilty then our relationship was doomed with absolutely no chance for reconciliation.
You guys are using theology as a base for your discussions. I am providing the same kind of situation that is illustrated for us about the harlot whom Jesus asked, "where are your accusors?"
If you would like to accuse or excuse me after reading my blog, please let me know.
I keep dreaming about her. She was someone whom I loved very deeply.
If you are interested you can go to WWW.laurelsperspective.blogspot.comMine and other's comments are there for you to review and evaluate. Let me know if you have any trouble locating this blog.
Just Thinkling,

steve H said...

I'm Steve Humble (Winchester, KY), Laurel. We've met, but don't really know each other. I do appreciate the times I have been around your husband.

Thank you for the invitation to look into your heart and emotions through the blog. It was a bit like walking into a "holy place."

At this point I have no critique for you.

I know that grief (whether the grief of losing a friend because of conflict or because of death) is the most painful thing I have faced. To lose someone through death without being able to get reconciled from conflict has to complicate the pain and the grieving process exponentially.

I doubt that there are wrong feelings when it comes to grief -- there are simply feelings (most of them hurtful). Whether to express them or not and to whom and when could be different questions, but in a time of excruciating grief I didn't find myself much interested or able to evaluate those sorts of questions. I just had to deal with what I felt and what I said and whatever consequences came of them.

I know the Lord did not approve of everything I said. I also know that he did not condemn me. Neither did my family and true friends. However, there were a few who left the church here, in part at least because my wife and I grieved "too long" over our son's death. By God's grace, I don't hold it against them. All the same I would not now trust them the way I thought I could before.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, Laurel--Brian Emmet from Arlington, MA. I just turned 56 in March! Thank you for the gift of your honesty and vulnerability. The death of your (former?) friend was clearly deeply painful; I have neither the desire nor ability to "judge" anything, and don't actually feel that any "judgment" is necessary. I'm grateful for your willingness to share this part of your story.

John M. said...

Welcome! John Meadows here in Lex. KY. Vicki is my wife. We "know" each other from way back. Sadly, it's only a "knowing" from being in meetings together, although I've had a chance to know Billy on a slightly closer basis. I'm so glad to hear from you. You and Billy have my utmost respect. I haven't visited your blog yet, but I appreciate your willingness to share.

To everyone. I'll be out of town until June 14th. I may or may not have internet access. I'll see all of you when I can.

Laurel Long said...

Thank you Steve, Brian, and John for thoughtful responses.
Theology, (judgement theology) is something that can bind us or grind us. Let's all endeavor not to judge which may constitute a "best practices" policy,and trust that each will warn the other when the signs of judgement may be emerging from our hearts. It is a difficult subject, one that leaves us intermanably introspective.
Jesus is the most brillant person I know. He is the only one who has the right to judge and will probably do much less of it than we think.
You are still welcome to visit my "confessions."

smokin joe said...

Leaving aside the topic of judgment for a moment, I would like to request prayer. My mood tends to track along with Deb's chemo schedule and energy level. She had chemo today and is quite fatigued tonight. I find myself reacting in anger to situations frequently and feeling rather discouraged--even depressed. I am having a hard time pulling out of the negativity.


steve H said...

I didn't find this yesterday, but am lifting your name before the Lord as I write.

Laurel Long said...

You and Debbie are in our hearts. We completely understand how the "unexpecteds" in our lives can sabotage the life, love, grace and peace of the Lord.
Don't be ashamed of being angry. You should be! Anger is a healthy response to what you are dealing with, but don't let it sap the strength you need to be there for Debbie. As long as you facilitate your anger you can ward off debilitating depression. God can handle our outrage and He is not intimidated by it. Our beloveds are worth a little outrage!
Please forgive me if I sound preachy, incensitive, or instructive, I am only wanting to identify with your "irreconcilable situation."
You two are heroes no matter what!!!!!!!

Brian Emmet said...

b52emmetGrace and peace to you both, Joseph and Debbie. You are deeply loved.

smokin joe said...

thanks all: your prayers and encouragement are much appreciated ... I am living through something like a "perfect storm" where a number of issues have converged to make life complicated. Debbie has been doing her best to put a smile on my face today. its amazing that she is getting chemo, and she is the one encouraging me!

I'm off to South Beach with my son and another believing grad student to 'hang-out' with other graduate students. that ought to cheer me up...

Robert said...

Being a late responder, I want to express appreciation for all wrestling with a significant topic.

Recent encounters with those in my sphere of influence make the subject ever so real. Professing Christians living together but not married with one about to deliver a precious life...she is not married. These are folks who respect me and welcome me with hugs. Something rises in me that suggests that I inform them...and then constraint that says love them where they are. If I judge them...I potentially lose the opportunity to speak to them when they are ready to ask questions. They are already dealing with conflict in their souls and likely experiencing conviction by the Holy Spirit. Do I pile it on or wait for the sacred moment when they ask "what should I do to be saved?" Because they acknowledge some suggestion of faith does not mean that they have understood what it truly means to be a follower Jesus. Until that happens, the subject of obeying His commands does not register. My options are to give answers to questions not being asked or waiting for timely moments when I intersect the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. After four decades of attempting to be faithful to the Gospel, I have pretty much concluded that giving answers to questions that aren't being asked produces little. Leading people to where they don't want to go doesn't work either. Loving people, praying for them...and being close when they ask the important questions is what has worked for me. Meanwhile, I have to struggle with when I am not saying enough. Did I miss an opportunity?

Matthew 9:12-13 speaks..."It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

It was in the context of this setting that Jesus was reproved for his associations. I prefer to face the challenge of being slow to judge than walk away feeling good about myself because I have banged the gavel. I wonder what Whitfield would say after delivering the message "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I have to ask myself if I lack courage...or does the current postmodern culture require a different response?

Now in the church where people clearly know better...that is another topic.

smokin joe said...

I totally agree Robert.

I also liked the reference to Matt. 9:12-13. In the light of Jesus' statement that it is the sick that need a doctor, and his story about the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one lost sheep... why do we spend 90% of our time (if not 100%) with those who are at least relatively healthy?

steve H said...

I deeply appreciate what your response reveals concerning your heart and wisdom, Robert. Thank you.

Laurel Long said...

When I went back to school 5 years ago, the Lord gave me a mandate: this is such an imperious concept but it was more than a concept; the Lord's instructions acutally became an evagelistic tool. He instructed me to "glow in the dark, love people, hug people,smile at people,professors as well as students, be a friend when you can, and never be ashamed of who you are, but keep your mouth shut; make them beg. Whoever begs, gets the full story." Fellow students were drawn to me, and a few "beggars," both professors and students actually forced me to give my testimony, several have become dear friends. Love is so easy when it comes to loving those on the "outside," love only becomes a challenge among ourselves. There was a song that impacted me more than any other during my early days as a Christian; "They will know we are Christians by our love , by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love." Like a good post modern Christian I can't remember where this verse is but I think it is in the SEmron on the MOunt. I hope I am not an embarrassment to my husband, who, I am sure, knows exactly where this verse is located.
Robert, I think you are demostrating the power of this verse. No need to preach, just love. Love has a power of its own, let it speak for itself!!!!
I am so impressed with what you are doing.

Brian Emmet said...

Laurel, where have you been all our (blog's) life? I appreciate your input and can get some sense of why Billy married you... and you him.

Robert, I was helped by what you wrote also. Proximity without judgment--then truth without measure! Or something like that...

John M. said...

Hey everyone, I'm almost in the bayou, in Houma, LA with Vicki visiting her brother and his wife. Refreshing cultural change without learning a new language. Because of the strong Roman Catholic influence on the Cajun culture I have met Southern Baptists in the last 24 hours who are non-religious and drink alcohol -- rather freely I might add. Will the day of wonders never cease? This would not happen on the Bible Belt Buckle. I guess we've gone South of the Bible Belt!

Great posts everyone. Thanks Robert and Laurel for your wise, insightful words. One dose of real experience really helps take the judgementalism out of us. It's so easy to generalize and judge issues and hypotheticals. But when we're looking at real people in real life in the eye, it puts a different spin on our idealism.

Joseph, I haven't been here since you posted about Debbie and your emotions. I ditto Laurel. We love you guys. You have our support and prayers.

At this point I can't access my email account. If anyone talks to me there and I don't answer, that is why.

Laurel Long said...

You very sweet young man! I have been right here just doing what most women do; loving my husband, my children and grandchildren, going to work every day, integrating into my community, looking for opportunities to enlarge that circle of love and looking for ways to contribute to others out of reach, like this blog.
Sometimes, I like to interpret myself in mathematical terms, mostly because math has been such a challenge for me; just like my life!!!! If you consider a number that has a zero in it, say 1034. The zero is a "place holder," I like to pretend I am a zero,it has value but no volume, its value changes from time to time. We all are a zero sometimes and we are all a 9 or 10 at times; maybe next year I will be the "9" in 1934. I am perfectly content with this. I am speaking metaphorically of course. It keeps me humble and disciplines my ego appropriately.
I am here and will not go away as long as I am of value: 1,2, 3, 4,
6,7, and especially zero, etc.

Laurel Long said...

Do you have any idea of much fun we could have with the Bible, Belt, and Buckle of your post? I will resist since you are visiting family, and need to demonstrate appropriate respect.
I am, however, laughing to myself even as I am resisting the temptation. We are all fodder for humour and comic relief. why do you think late night comedies are so popular There is nothing that is off limits to their satirical presentations. If their is no humour in our daily mundaness then, oh my goodness, we would be sick beyond remedy.
Have a wonderful vacation. and have some fun!!!!

Brian Emmet said...

New post up...but that does not require us to stop this conversation.