Sunday, October 11, 2009

Respectable Sins - Judgmentalism (Ch 17)

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges

Chapter 17 - Judgmentalism
The sin of judgmentalism is one of the most subtle of our "respectable sins" because it is often practiced under the guise of being zealous for what is right...there are myriads of opinions of everything from theology to conduct to lifestyle and politics...but we usually assume our opinion is correct. That's where our trouble with judgmentalism begins. We equate our opinions with truth. (p141)
In this chapter Bridges looks at how Christians can elevate their convictions to biblical truth. Some examples he gives include: appropriate songs in church, appropriate dress, the decision to abstain from alcohol, etc, etc.
My point here is that it doesn't matter which side of an issue we are on. It is easy to become judgmental toward anyone whose opinions are different from ours. And then we hide our judgmentalism under the cloak of Christian convictions. (p144)
In Romans, Paul addresses the issues of a difference of opinion over which the Romans have been judgmental of each other - both the issues of whether to treat certain days as sacred and the issue of eating meat or only vegetables. Paul gives his opinion but he warns them about judging each other for the decisions they have made.
You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 11 It is written:
"`As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
`every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.'" 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. (Rom 14:10-13)
Bridges makes it clear that he is the not saying we should never question the practices and beliefs of others - for if their lifestyle or conduct is clearly out of line with Scripture, we need to address it. However, in doing so, we can still sin if we do so with a self-righteous attitude or harshness. We must not degenerate into character assassination.

He then deals with those who are often judgmental - what he calls a critical spirit - those who look for and find fault with everything. We all know people like this, and I think some parents or spouses can certainly act this way - nothing is ever good enough for them - they are grumblers.

At the end of the chapter he suggests that the best way forward is to hold our own convictions with humility. This reminded me of what he said in chapter 11 on pride:
I'm not suggesting that we should not seek to know the truths of Scripture and develop doctrinal convictions about what the Scriptures teach, I am saying that we should hold our convictions in humility, realizing that many godly and theologically capable people hold other convictions. (p92-3)
On matters that are not crucial to salvation, this is surely the only way forward: to respect one another in love, be willing to talk through our differences, be open to correction and always willing to change. On those matters that we do hold as crucial, we must still love those with whom we disagree and treat them with respect.

Some things to think about:
  1. What things do you tend to be judgemental about towards others?
  2. Are they things which you consider to be crucial to the gospel or are you willing to reconsider your position?
  3. Do you act in love towards those with a different position?
  4. Do you need to repent of your judgmentalism?

Next time: Chapter 18 - Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins

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