“It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge, and my job to love.” –Billy Graham
Surely, anyone who has been a Christian for any amount of time, and probably the majority of the world, knows who Billy Graham is. He is loved and honored as a great preacher and evangelist; but, like all men, he is not immune to failure or being inaccurate. What may tend to happen, when we speak on any particular topic, is fail to explain ourselves as accurately or completely as the topic may deserve. In doing so we may be misleading or confusing to our listeners sending them away thinking something very different than what we attempted to communicate. This is an obstacle for all those who desire to obey Jesus and be a messenger of the Gospel. However, this blog isn’t about the ability to communicate effectively. Although effective communication is important, this blog is specifically about the misconception that surrounds the truth of judgement and our role and responsibility with it.
This quote, along with many other modern teachers to one degree or another, has enabled the Christian church today to be opposed to the idea of judgement, or more accurately: biblical judgement. There seems to be a haze of confusion about what we, as Christians, are bound by our conscience to do; we are to help other Christians and be helped by other Christians in the aid of purity, holiness, and obedience to the word of God. This judgement that we are bound to enter into is for the wonderful purposes of sanctification and not separation; love and not licentiousness. However, these biblical realities have been eroded by post-modern Christians. This command has been substituted with a willingness to allow any and all sin to abide, unrepented of, in the life of other believers because of an inclusive ideology or a fear of being offensive.
Matthew 7:1 may be the most misquoted verse in the entire bible. “Judge not” is what we hear. How ironic it is though, that these words are most often used by those who instinctively know that what they are doing is against some law. However, just because it’s quoted often, doesn’t mean that it’s used accurately. Rather than commanding people to refrain from judging one another, Jesus is dealing with an even more pervasive evil. An evil so sinister that, because of our sin, we have completely turned upside down what our Lord has taught us. This evil is our inability to see the sin within ourselves and instead, quickly and happily, call others out on the carpet and condemn them for their sin. What we’ve done is ignore our sin by refusing to allow anyone the privilege to bring to light the darkness that we allow to fester within our hearts. And we’ve dulled our senses to sin, being unable to recognize it, because of our desire to make people feel comfortable which, unlike real genuine faith, causes no change. Our Lord forbids a condemning, eternal judgement, reserved only for himself; never once did he forbid judgement among the brethren for the sake of their obedience to God.
The reality of the Christian life is one of inseparable unity with other Christians. We have our phones and our social media accounts; with these we feel content and connected. But the bible calls us to a life of love with people, some of whom we may not have much in common with. But when they are seen as people who have received the grace of the Lord and they are heirs of the same grace and life as you, then you begin to have a profound fondness and love for them. Seeing them drown in sin that offends God and brings reproach upon the church, and destruction to their own life, will cause us to weep. It is this real and tangible love that forbids us from simply passing by our brothers and sisters who are in sin, and do nothing. Fear is not longer a factor because love for God and love for brother becomes of paramount importance. The judgment our Lord speaks of is one of total humility. One where we must renounce all sin, not just the sins of our brother. We must condemn all sin and we must begin with our own. We will never be able to accurately and compassionately condemn the sin within others without condemning our own.
A weighty joy in the life Christians is to bear with others their burdens. This doesn’t always mean pointing out the sin in others’ lives, but it certainly doesn’t exclude it. We can walk along side, hand-in-hand, the struggling and weak, as other struggling and weak believers, keeping one another accountable with charitable judgement.
Billy Graham is correct, the Holy Spirit does convict; God does judge; we do love. But this quote alludes to a human nature that is intrinsically good and is more tolerable and loving than God himself. It makes God seem like one who is only out for vengeance and, therefore, the only true love you could ever receive is from other people. It also suggests that since the Holy Spirit convicts, other Christians have no business in pointing out sin as if the only way to please God is by some ethereal voice telling you that what you’re doing is offensive. In reality, there is no love on earth, but that which has been extended to us by God himself. And if we must trust our own testimony of what the Spirit of God has convicted us of then we will minimize most of our sin and confess nearly nothing, because darkness despises being brought into the light.
It is love that motivates us to help our sisters and brothers more fully know and love God who is the only true source of love in this world. If we do love other saints, we will humble ourselves, refuse hypocrisy, and guide them toward holiness by way of loving, and guiding judgement.