Below is the third post from Pastor Bob in an ongoing blog series designed to help Christians think through the issue of homosexuality in a careful and Biblical way. For more on the reason for this series, click here.
Question 3: What right does anyone have to judge homosexuals?
It might be the most quoted verse in the Bible: “Judge not, lest you be judged.” These words from Jesus in Mat. 7:1 are often invoked when a discussion turns toward the issue of homosexuality. Even Pope Francis hid behind this phrase in 2013 when he was asked about the issue. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” the Catholic leader said.
The logic seems to go like this: since I am an imperfect person who makes mistakes, and since God himself will call to account every man, woman and child on the final Judgment Day, then I have no business making any moral judgments about anyone at any time, including those engaged in homosexual activity.
Does this logic hold up? I suggest the answer is no.
First, it should be acknowledged that it is impossible to live a life free of moral judgments. In fact, when someone complains that it is wrong for someone to call homosexuality a sin, the complainer is making a judgment. To criticize a person for being “judgmental” is itself a statement of judgment. You can’t call someone judgmental without yourself being judgmental. The only way to avoid judging is to hold the absurd position that absolutely every behavior, every point of view and every attitude is totally acceptable.
Second, the person who says he won’t judge homosexuals will very likely not delay to judge the sexist or the racist or the greedy CEO. You won’t find anyone borrowing the Pope’s reasoning so they can assert, “If someone is a misogynist and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Why? Because we know misogyny is wrong, and that it is right to judge it accordingly.
People have the right and freedom to make whatever moral judgments they want to make, but to simultaneously pretend on selected occasions that you are not being judgmental is illogical and disingenuous.
Third, the Christian is actually the one on the shakiest ground to say, “Who am I to judge?” because the Bible calls the believer to make moral judgments. That’s why the tendency in some pockets of the church to embrace homosexuality is so troubling. For example:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness,” Paul says in Gal. 6:1. How would it be possible to restore a person caught in a transgression if you couldn’t even make the judgment that a transgression existed?
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone,” Jesus says in Mat. 18:15. How would it be possible to tell a brother about his fault if you couldn’t even make the judgment that a fault existed?
“Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue,” we are told in Prov. 28:23. How would it be possible to rebuke a man if you couldn’t even make the judgment that there was something to rebuke? Incidentally, the person who “flatters” is the one who would say to the active homosexual: “Everything’s OK. God would never deny you the love that you seek. And who am I to judge?” But the person with the courage to offer a rebuke, according to this proverb, is the one who would find favor.
Of course there are certain provisos that need to be taken into consideration:
First, this is not a call to judge people on matters that the Bible doesn’t address, such as whether to put your kids in public schools or whether to have a glass of wine during dinner. The Bible does not speak against these activities, so don’t judge people for them. But homosexual activity is different – the Bible speaks clearly against it. (See “Answering questions about homosexuality #1” for further explanation.)
Second, this is not a call to make judgments about a person’s eternal destiny. A person engaged in homosexual activity could be a genuine Christian who happens not to be walking with Christ at the moment. God has promised to finish what He started in that person, so you can be sure that God will call him/her back to fellowship in His timing. Also, we have no idea whether a person might repent and come to faith in Christ near the end of life, so we have no right or authority to assign all homosexuals to hell. This is the occasion when the question, “Who am I to judge?” truly does apply.
Third, this is not a call to vent anger and hatred toward people you don’t like, or to go on a fault-finding mission with everyone around you. Moral judgments should always be made with gentleness and great humility, in the sobering knowledge that you are probably prone to even worse sins than the person you are confronting. (1 Cor. 10:12).
So, who are you to judge? You are a moral being created in the image of a moral God; the law of God is written on your heart, and on everyone else’s heart too; and Christian, you are a member of the faith community, with genuine moral responsibility to those around you. Therefore, you are not only permitted to make moral judgments, you are responsible to make moral judgments. The Bible says homosexual activity is a sin, so call it what it is. As Jesus said in John 7:24, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”