One day the telephone rang at the church office of a congregation of the church of Christ and the woman calling was seeking assistance. She explained to the brethren that she needed to travel to a city of a distance of some 100 miles away in order to be with her family, but that she had no money or way to travel. The brother that talked with her by phone explained that he already had some work commitments, but that later in the afternoon if she had not found help that they would be able to take her. Later that day a couple who were members of the church took the young woman to the town where she said that she needed to be. During the two hour trip the brethren listened to her talk about her life and also communicated with her about the importance and value of the church, the gospel, and other spiritual things. After some time of conversation the young woman finally said, “I don’t go to church because when I go the church members judge me.” The brethren that were taking her to the other city asked, “How are they judging you? They are judging you concerning what things?” She responded, “About my life and what I do and I don’t want to live by no rules.” The brethren patiently listened and kindly said to her, “You do know that the world does not function like that. There are standards of behavior and everyone must live by some rules or authority in this life and in the spiritual life also. That is how life works.” They drove on and the young woman insisted that she did not want to live by any rules at all, but simply do what she wanted to do. The brethren could see that the young woman wanted to blame the church for the personal choices that she was making in life that were not in accordance with societal norms or the Word of God. It is true that members of the church are not perfect (1 John 1:7-9), but the church cannot be blamed for the sins of one in the world that does not desire to conform to societal or biblical standards. What should people understand and do?
First, there is the need to understand that the Word of God judges and that Christian do not. When a Christian is simply citing a verse of Scripture or a principle found in the Word of God this does not mean that the Christian himself or herself is judging. The word of God (Jesus) is that which judges; “He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him, the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
Second, there is the need to understand that there are different words translated “judge” in the New Testament. Sometimes the word “judge” means condemn and it is true that the Christian never has the right or the power to condemn anyone. Only God has the right to do that. Sometimes the word “judge” simply means to make a determination between two or more things. In this case the Christian can read the Word of God and knowing the truth see or understand the difference between what the Word says and the actions of someone’s life. Seeing the difference between what the Bible says and how one is living is not condemning, but it is simply judging or determining from the facts that a life is not conforming to the will of God as revealed in the Bible. However, a Christian does have to be careful to not move from simply seeing and understanding to becoming a condemning judge of someone.
Third, there is the need to understand that no one can be their own law or standard, or as it could be said, do what one wants to do with no respect for the earthly or spiritual law. There are consequences in the physical world if one tries to be their own law and there are spiritual consequences also when one has no respect for the will of God (Romans 13:1-7, John 12:48).The young woman that needed a ride and was being served by brethren needed to understand these principles. As they arrived to the town some two hours later and after much conversation the young woman did agree to meet with the preacher in that town in order to try to better understand the Christian life and understand who really judges.