Thursday, February 27, 2014


"You are just trying to condemn me." These are words I've both heard spoken and seen written more and more of late. It is the response heard often to some behavior being called wrong. I understand the sentiment when said by someone who is reacting to a person who is saying, "X behavior is wrong," and it is simply something they just don't like or it is said to someone with whom they have an ax to grind.

I even agree with the legitimacy of the charge when said by someone who is reacting to a person who might be saying, "X behavior is wrong because the bible says so," [In their opinion] and their manner or method in saying it is hateful, disrespectful, and TOTALLY LACKING in any of the virtues that are known to be associated with the Holy Spirit who produces things like, love, joy, peace, and a host of other qualities. That person is guilty as charged in my humble opinion.

So, YES, "condemnation" IS PRESENT in both of these two scenarios and whether the behavior being challenged is right or wrong is the least of the problems in such encounter. Those kinds of "in-your-face" tactics by Christians may call attention to bad behavior, but they do little for the promotion of the truth, or more importantly, do little to promote the reality of the One who Is Himself, the Truth and the Life. In simple terms, it sure isn't Christ-like.

What I'm addressing however, is when a Christian is honestly saying they believe behavior X to be sinful because the bible says so, and they do it with the utmost respect, gentleness, and even concern, and the charge of condemnation is STILL laid at the feet of the messenger. This, even when it is delivered it in the context of teaching scripture or affirming what is simply a personal opinion about certain kinds of behaviors, is the blow back I'm seeing more and more in the present day.

For example, I was asked the other day if I believed sex between two consenting adults was a sinful act. My answer was and always is the same when asked about any particular sexual behavior, "I believe any sexual activity outside the context of vows taken by a man and a woman in marriage, even when it is of the mind only, 'misses the mark'  [the biblical meaning of the word sin] as an activity." 

This is spoken while fully admitting sin in my own life, neither condoning nor condemning any action in the life of another, and is only an attempt to say what I understand to be a standard found in scripture that identifies God's intention for Kingdom living.

My belief about any kind of sexuality behavior [or any other behavior for that matter] I always hope, will be viewed as being given with neither an in-your-face attitude nor an assumption that I have all the truth on any given subject. I'm open to learning from people and sources where disrespect and condemnation are both disallowed. But I must reserve the right, and even the responsibility, of deciding and teaching what I see as the biblical standard for Kingdom kids, myself included. 

So, what DO I desire or hope for, you might ask, when I'm sharing or teaching a standard for behavior or view my on a matter that I personally believe I've found an answer for in the scripture? I've been doing this for over fifty years remember.

From other Christians, I would hope for two things actually. I would hope that they would hear me, but always ask two questions of themselves. Question one would be, "Is this view or standard TRULY biblical?" Question two is, "Am I WILLING to deal with any wrong in my behavior?"

Question one would be important because as believers we are to be ever increasing in our understanding of scripture. It is not to be assumed that ANYONE is speaking biblical truth just because of a position or title they hold. A growing maturity on any Christian's part demands that they give an ear to Kingdom principles as they find them in scripture for themselves even above the advice or standard of any person they admire or, for that matter, the culture in which they might live as a citizen.

So when sharing with others my view particular view even as a pastor, I wanted to always remember that whether they receive it or not is ultimately between them as a servant to their Lord. No other Christian is obligated to me, but they are obligated to the One who paid their redemptive price and is their Lord.

If a Christian DOES NOT see what I've said to be the true biblical standard, which would be fine because they are under no obligation to agree with me, I would assume they could give their own understanding of that particular matter from the text of scripture.

If they find themselves admitting the standard to be biblical however, the second question comes into play.

Question two is asked knowing that gentle correction is the work of the Holy Spirit and our attitude as believers is to accept His correction in our own lives, even if it comes through someone else. This is keeping our conscience clear before the Lord. It's what Paul the Apostle meant when he said, "So I strive to always keep my conscience clear before God and man. [Acts 24:16] We will, as someone said, "be bugged by a guilty conscience, and keeping it clear enables us to have an enjoyment of our relationship with God."

No one is saying we are to become obsessed or neurotic about keeping a clear conscience, but we will want to resolve issues as they pop up. But even this is ultimately between a servant and their Lord and is out of hands of any other single believer. 

But this is exactly opposite to the attitude the world in general takes about personal issues like these. To refuse any standard, to demand a right to do as they wish, or to say there is no such thing as a standard other than what makes me feel good, are all ways a non-believer may choose that can make them capable of having a violent reaction to ANYONE who might believe or teach otherwise. Kingdom living is at odds with the world around us and to think otherwise is to be ignorant or naive or perhaps both.

I will conclude with this brief summary statement.

I believe we are not to compromise or water down what the Bible clearly says on true biblical issues, and yet we're not to forget that our audience is human just as we are. If some Christians think differently about some issues, live with it. They're not your servant.

If the world [non-believer] gets very annoyed at a standard we hold to and which has been delivered in a loving and gracious way, that is an issue between their conscience and God with eternal ramifications that are out of our hands entirely.

I believe being angry at EITHER is beyond the pale. Being shocked or even surprised by either is silly and a bit naive. But being condemning of either is just wrong.


Aussie John said...


No good wasting words: "I believe being angry at EITHER is beyond the pale, but being shocked or even surprised by either is silly and a bit naive. But being condemning of either is just wrong."


Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I don't generally find myself getting upset by things, but I have to say, the attitude or spirit of so much of what I'm reading on blogs today is so far from anything that shows any kind of respect that it's shocking to me.

I guess we are of a different age. But you know, the Kingdom ethics don't change that much do they! Maybe we'll ALWAYS be out of the "cultural Christianity" loop, you and I!

Anonymous said...

I have found that praising, commending and thanking people for good deeds done is a far better strategy in bringing about behavior modification. Condemnation only seems to perpetuate the situation and leads to the hardening of attitude.
Respectful warnings are likely to be heeded if they are accompanied by a sincere relationship and with reasonable information of the consequences. My grandmother could hit me between the eyes (figuratively); I'd take note, and then come back for more discussion.