Judging and de-friending (part 3 and final)

Posted: July 12, 2010 in Me and people

A while ago, there was a lot of fuss about the well-known Atlanta pastor, Andy Stanley, who was seen in a theologically questionable group’s meeting (Emergent movement –which in itself may be worth of a whole separate blog entry).  Many said:”Ha!!, we knew he had an emergent agenda”, “ he is watering down the gospel and associating with so and so..”, “he is leading people astray” ..and so on. This Atlanta leader’s reputation was being tarnished and some bloggers were even recommending banning and boycotting his books. Later, I heard that he was actually just trying to hear and understand what this group stood for and believed and that he had just accepted an invitation for breakfast. I don’t know this pastor’s heart or what went on in that meeting. All I can say is that of all the many books, sermons and comments I’ve heard from him, never once has he strayed from the core Gospel. In fact, he continues to grow his church and reach out a group that otherwise would not be in church.

But the question is, what would the right thing to do in that situation? The truth is, we don’t always know the facts and our judgment can sometimes be clouded with gossip, misinformation and erred interpretations.  I personally have chosen, after making several mistakes in this area, to follow the following guidelines:

1. Know the facts: Not everything people say is about others is completely true; I need to know the facts, research and understand what others stand for. I don’t believe it unless I can hear it by myself. In the case of Andy Stanley and The Emergent movement I have found that many people who are quick to judge and condemn don’t even know what this movement stands for and what beliefs and practices actually makes this movement so dangerous. Also, a person hanging out with another person or sharing stage in an event or conference doesn’t necessarily mean full endorsement of positions. If hanging out with the wrong crowd was enough reason for disqualification, how qualified would Jesus be?

2. Differentiate between Core vs. peripheral values: If after reviewing the facts you come to the conclusion the person you are evaluating indeed did or said something that you don’t agree with (and stands unequivocally for them) , a good rule of thumb is to differentiate between core values (I.e.: Jesus the only son of God –equal part of the trinity and only way of salvation through repentance and new birth, the absolute inerrancy of The Bible etc) vs. peripheral values (how to worship, type of music, method of teaching, views on women’s roles etc). The first –the deviation from core truths is, I believe, closer to what the Bible refers to  as ‘false teachings’, heresy or bad doctrine. The second kind –the compromising in peripheral values or debatable minors, is often a bit grayer area and to some extent negotiable.

3. Take the right action: What does the Bible tell us about dealing with people who have compromised peripheral values? Weather is a debatable statement or sinful action, anyone who compromise peripheral values is still a brothers in Christ (Assuming the core values are shared). In this case, some verses to consider may be:

i.      James 3:2: “We all stumble in many ways…”

ii.      3 John 1:11: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good…”

iii.      Romans 12:9: “…Hate what is evil [the actions, not the person]; cling to what is good.”

iv.      Prov 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm”

v.      Prov 12:26: “A righteous man is cautious in friends…”

Just follow what is good and don’t follow what is bad; simple. At the same time, understand that we all make mistakes we can still look at good things and examples we can follow from that person. Ruling out a whole relationship based on one action of this kind, can lead us to make big mistakes breaking restorable relationships, missing out on good things that people may have and if you turn the table around and put yourself in that position, you may even end up arguing that your 8th amendment has been violated (Cruel and unusual punishment) J; either way, grace and mercy seem to rule. If making a mistake or saying something questionable was enough reason for disqualification, I would have to un-follow most of my former pastors and leaders,  parents and even myself.

Now, if you have determined with substantial proofs that someone has indeed gone against and away from the core truths of the Bible and the Gospel, then I guess we can say we have a case of a ‘false prophet’ or heretic. To this, a few Bible verses give us some light:

–          Your business: Be aware, Don’t follow false doctrines, stay in studying and growing in The Bible (Jude 1, Acts 20:28-35, 1 Tim 1:7, 1 Tim 6:20; Acts 17:11) and, perhaps, warning others about this false doctrine is in good order as well (1 Tim 4:1-6)

–          God’s business: Leave judgment to God (Philippians 3:12-21, 2 Peter 2)

Even in Mathew 18 when Jesus is addressing the ‘what do when a brother sins against you’, the last resort after talking and getting others involved with no positive results is ‘treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector’. And, how are we supposed to treat non-believers? With even more love, mercy and grace. It is the fallen who may need more help and prayers.

In conclusion, As Christians, we are to be an example to the world of fair-minded judgments, loving merciful actions and unequivocal stands for what is truth. Let’s change the reality of this sad quote: “Most churches are better spreading gossip than spreading the Gospel”. We need to make sure we do a fair judging, before even considering de-friending.

PS: Back to Chris Tomlin and The Varsity. After a few minutes of nice conversation about worship, Passion and his new church plant (Passion City Church) and a couple of,  perhaps-out-of-place comments in my part (“Your church may be the first church plant that won’t have to worry about finances from the beginning..!”), we parted ways and our quick friendship came to an early end.

  1. […] have likewise enjoyed considering serious issues in Christian life like judging, conflict , devotional life, and ”coincidences” from the […]

  2. […] As I noted in the previous post, maybe there are actions that Chris Tomlin could have done that day we met at The Varsity that would have led me to decide: “I won’t listen to his music anymore” , However looking tired and jet lagged was definitely NOT one of them. (==> click here for the 3rd part) […]

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