the critical eye

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?” 

I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.

What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?

Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?

Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.

For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV

Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.

God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.

In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.

Use this scripture to guide your thought process:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG 




14 Comments on “the critical eye”

  1. 1 @sarahmae said at 11:10 am on December 3rd, 2012:

    This is so so so good. Yes. Thank you for posting it, I will share it.

  2. 2 serenawoods said at 2:48 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    Thanks, Sarah Mae. 🙂

  3. 3 Alisha Sullivan-Hickey said at 11:26 am on December 3rd, 2012:

    So wonderfully true 🙂

  4. 4 Wendy C. Wood said at 11:29 am on December 3rd, 2012:

    Love it!

  5. 5 C Adams said at 12:11 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    This brings to mind a portion of a book that unfortunately, I don't remember the title of. The author was discussing our concentration as Christians on certain sins, to the point that we are (paraphrased) "not sinning as if we are". For example, if we constantly rail against some certain sin in which we don't participate, we are not sinning as if we are doing that very sin, since it is occupying our thoughts as much (and perhaps more) as if we were actually participating in it. My own example of this is my intolerance for those who are intolerant. It's a bit of a catch-22, but worth considering in this discussion.

  6. 6 serenawoods said at 2:49 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    Good point, C Adams. 🙂

  7. 7 Mike said at 10:52 pm on December 14th, 2012:

    Sometimes our self-righteous rants against certain sins are an indication that that sin is actually our own weakness. Our condemnation of others is really a self-righteous attempt to prevent ourselves from falling into the same sin, thinking we will be able to achieve it by our own effort. So many times I have seen people (including myself) eventually succumb to the sin they so strongly and publicly condemn. When Jesus said 'he who is without sin cast the first stone' he wasn't meaning sin in general; the rule was that the accuser and executioner could not be guilty of the same sin as the accused. The men had to leave the woman alone because they realised, by Jesus' standards, they were all adulterers. Yet Jesus was the only one qualified to absolve her, as he was the only one without sin. So this does not mean we cannot speak against sin, nor rebuke those who sin; we just need to remember we are all simply beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. We shouldn't rebuke someone of sin unless we are prepared to journey with them as they seek to find, by god's grace, the path of victory over that sin.

  8. 8 Jeremy Walker said at 12:54 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    This is an awesome post, Serena!

    After my affair had been found out during my first marriage I got hammered by a few people in my church about my sin…this was even after I had resigned from the staff of the church and left. Weeks later I remember receiving a call from a guy that was so angry that he was almost hyperventilating over the phone. I won't go into the details but the gist of his call was to tell me that I needed to look at moving out of town…he was so adamant about me leaving that he apparently talked to one of his friends in a town 4 hours away, and this friend was going to give me a job on the spot….all I had to do was find a place to live. The fact that i grew up in this town and my family was there had no effect on this man's passion to see me gone. It was just really crazy.

    I've watched from the outside as my ex wife from my second marriage has been judged for her adultery against me…the thing that keeps me from joining in (and at times it was really hard not to join in) on the judgement is honestly remembering what I went through. Beyond the judgements I felt rejected and worthless. It's important that we try and stop making people feel like that.

    We all fall short….
    My recent post 1 Year….

  9. 9 serenawoods said at 2:51 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    Jeremy, I can understand how it felt to have someone try to make you disappear. I was offered money to leave my home town, too. I think people are still angry that I didn't take the money and disappear. People do some strange things.

  10. 10 Sarah Lee said at 3:46 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    Thank you. A million times.

    My recent post Is paying your child for chores setting them up for disappointment as adults or a way to teach them the value of money?

  11. 11 dawn said at 6:06 pm on December 3rd, 2012:

    You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy.

    I like this part 🙂

  12. 12 Mike said at 7:23 pm on December 14th, 2012:

    Still trying thought to work out how your response deals with 1 Corinthains 5. Paul's command is clear and specific: sexual sin must be dealt with in the church, and the action he commands is very strong. Regardless of whether some people have misused or abused the call to discipline, the command is still there in scripture. So, do we apply it, or do we ignore it in the name of 'non-judgmentalism'? Grace is not grace unless the horrific, destructive nature of sin is seen; the fact that apart from grace and mercy our sins deserve the wrath of God and eternity in Hell.
    I am not interested in what makes me beautiful. I want people to see the beauty of Jesus, in his mercy shown to sinners.

  13. 13 Sandy said at 12:26 am on January 4th, 2013:

    Serena –

    Thanks for your writing. I have been divorced for 2 years and I am currently with the man that I had an affair with. I would be curious to hear more of the journey that you went through in your second marriage. Were family members cold and indifferent? Living in the same town, did the process of seeing "old" friends ever become easier?

    I appreciate your willingness to be so exposed about your life. Thankfully, I had some amazing supports in my life during my divorce and even now. I can't imagine how I would have ever made it through without them there and then realized that there are many people who are out there with no support.


  14. 14 serenawoods said at 11:22 pm on January 5th, 2013:

    Sandy, I'll answer this in a blog post. 🙂

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