Summary: God calls us to encourage one another and hold one another accountable to pursue our love relationship with Christ.
Many non-Christians mistakenly assume Christianity is just another religion. This is partly because many Christians have taken a religious approach to the Christian life. Rather than focusing on a growing love relationship with Christ, they focus on “dos and don’ts,” and proving they are right by pointing out how everyone else is wrong.
Many churches are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for; for criticism and condemnation, rather than concern and compassion. Taking a religious approach, believers often focus on how the world is wrong and they are right. But Paul tells us that judging the world is not our concern as believers.
“I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.” - 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (The Message)
Because religion always involves playing the “comparison game,” if religious Christians are not focused on criticizing or condemning those outside the church, they will turn on one another.
“But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another.” - Galatians 5:15 (Amplified)
Whether believers seek to prove their spirituality through comparing themselves to unbelievers or to fellow Christians, the result is the same - a noticeable hypocrisy, as unbelievers see Christians claim one thing and live another. No wonder a USA Today poll revealed that 72% of unchurched Americans say “the church is full of hypocrites.”
What God desires is that our church be a transformational community, where we each help the other become more and more like Jesus.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” - Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” - Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
We are to encourage each other toward Christ-likeness by speaking the truth in love.
A majority of unbelievers say they have a problem with Christians, but they have no problem with Jesus. So it is important for our church family become a real community that reflects Christ-likeness!
As we think about how we need to reject religion for real community, we need to understand how God wants us to relate to one another in love, and thus become the transformational community that He calls us to be, encouraging one another toward Christ-likeness and presenting the kind of witness to a lost world that is real, and not hypocritical.
1. A principle to apply - vs. 1-2
In this day of “tolerance,” it’s become popular for Christians to quote the first part of verse one. They insist that believers need to have a “live and let live” philosophy in our relationship with one another.
But God calls us to encourage one another toward Christ-likeness and to hold each other accountable to cultivating our love relationship with Christ.
Now, we need to acknowledge that forming opinions of others, judging others, is a part of everyday life. Whenever we meet someone, it is natural to “size them up.” Jesus calls us to do what we naturally do in our relationships with one another in a constructive way, rather than a destructive way; in a positive way, rather than a negative way. As we have seen, we are to let God judge the unbeliever, but we are to judge, to hold accountable, to encourage one another as brothers and sisters in Christ toward Christ-likeness. We can judge without being judgmental.
So Jesus isn’t forbidding judging, but He is forbidding a religious approach to judging (notice verse 2a). Jesus is referring to pointing out faults in others in the effort to cover up our own faults. He is referring to practicing religion in our relationships with one another, rather than seeking to foster our love relationship with Christ. This is made clear in verses 3-5.
Because of the confusion regarding our Savior’s statement here, we miss a significant principle that we need to apply. Which is stated in verse 2b: “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Ken Sande calls this principle, “The Golden Result.”
“The Golden Result is a corollary to the Golden Rule, which calls us to do to others as we would have them to do to us. The Golden Result says that people will usually treat us as we treat them.”- Ken Sande of Peacemaker Ministries
This principle can be applied negatively or positively! The way we judge one another can either help our church be a critical, condemning community or a caring, compassionate community. We can help our church be a place where people move toward healing, wholeness, and Christ-likeness, or a place where people are made to feel they don’t measure up to “our standards.”