The Church must be judgmental. It has no choice.
The Church believes that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. He made that claim in rather stark fashion in the book of John. Now, I know there are some Christian scholars and others who lessen this claim. They argue Jesus may have never made such a claim that it was only His followers who later added this bit of belief. They base this on the assumption the New Testament documents evolved over a great deal of time and each particular community included exaggerations of what Jesus said or did to get across that community's perception of Jesus--not necessarily what Jesus said Himself.
This was the agreed upon consensus in scholarship which I was taught in college and seminary. However, a recent book by Scottish Scholar Richard Bauckham titled: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony challenges those very assumptions. Admittedly, I have not read the book. I have it on order and it is scheduled to ship April 10th. I am anxiously awaiting its arrival, but not so anxious to wade into its 550+ pages! Those who have read it say, Bauckham is very thorough. What would ever give a person that idea? :-) If Bauckham is correct, then the scholarship I received is quite overthrown, and the Gospels are not the stuff of legend. They are the stuff of eyewitness.
Even regardless of this bit of academia, the Orthodox Church has held fast to the belief Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He was/is God incarnate.
Think about that deeply, my friends. If Jesus is God incarnate--God come to earth--then doesn't it stand to reason His teachings should be taken quite seriously?
And if Jesus renders a judgment, should the Church not follow that same judgment?
I have heard more than a few folks say Jesus came along and destroyed societal boundaries--social constructs put in place by humankind and the organized religion of Jesus' day. I agree. I cannot dispute this, but Jesus did not leave us boundary-less. He drew some definite lines in the sand. He flat out said there were certain things which were sinful. He flat out said there were some things that should be done lest God's judgment fall upon a person.
Case in point: in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus tells a parable of judgment. There is no escaping the nature of this parable. It is quite straight forward. He tells His followers it is paramount to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. The sheep who do this will enter into paradise with the Master. The goats who failed to do this will depart from the Master in eternal separation. A judgment is rendered upon those who fail to care for their neighbor.
Now, there are hardly any folks around who dispute Christ's call to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, etc. Most of us know deep down this is the right thing to do, and we must make no apologies when we render judgment against those who call themselves Christians yet fail to follow this command.
When the Epistle writer and early Church missionary Paul penned the words in Galatians 6 concerning the works of the flesh:
19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
he made it quite clear we were to avoid such things. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
So, what should a congregation do if it sees such things within its midst? What if it sees enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions happening amongst its members? Should it simply allow people to be people and continue to commit such things?
Or, should church leaders and pastors render judgment? Should they say, "These things are sinful. We are called to live differently."
I think you know the answer.
For to be non-judgmental means one condemns nothing. One allows any behavior, individual or collective, to proceed unchecked.
I think you can see the consequences of allowing such a thing to happen, and if you are honest with yourself, you know those consequences are not good. Therefore, the Church must be judgmental. Christians must be judgmental.
However, they must not cross the line into judgmentalism. That subject is tackled tomorrow.