When Christians Judge People Outside the Church

When Christians Judge People Outside the Church September 22, 2022

When Christians judge people outside the Church…

…well, we’re really just not supposed to do that.

Pointing, Finger, Gesture, Index Finger, Hand, Push

Image via Pixabay

The apostle Paul speaks to the matter in 1st Corinthians chapter 5.

There is significant sin going on in the Corinthian church, and apparently it is unrepentant.

Paul issues a serious correction, including a temporary removal of the offender from worship and fellowship (1Co 5.4-5).

Given what Paul has to say about gentle restoration of sinners elsewhere (Gal 6.1), it is safe to say that the call for expulsion from the church in Corinth is more severe because a) the sin was so grave; b) the sin was unrepentant/celebrated; or c) likely both.

In the rebuke, Paul writes:

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1Co 5.12-13)

The context is about church discipline. So when the sin is serious enough, and/or when the sin is not being taken seriously, apparently it is appropriate to remove someone from fellowship.

(Paul’s next letter to the Corinthians contains a follow-up to this story (2Co 2.5-11), with Paul urging restoration and reconciliation with the sinner, also teaching us that any such removal should be temporary, and with a heart to invite them back in time).

But back to 1st Corinthians for a moment, and Paul’s final statement:

12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside.

What?!

Do you think most Christians know this?

Because it seems like we do a looooooooot of judging those who are not Christians.

Like, it’s sort of one of the things we are most known for.

But don’t Paul’s words just make so much sense?

“Don’t judge non-Christians. We do have to judge one another at times, because we have an agreed-upon moral standard to hold each other accountable to, but not non-Christians.”

This is because, of course, non-Christians have never made any pretense of following Jesus or believing in the Bible.

Why would they, if they don’t believe in Him?

I literally could not follow the Koran less, and I do not worship Allah, because I am not a Muslim.

It would be very strange indeed if Muslims were constantly yelling at me for being a bad Muslim.

I’m a terrible Muslim. Because I’m not one at all.

So why would Christians get mad at people who don’t know Jesus for…acting like people who don’t know Jesus?

We can, at times, call fellow Christians out – because we are all on the same page. We’ve all agreed to follow Jesus, we’ve all agreed to abide by His Word, and so we have a responsibility to hold one another to account because of that.

But for those outside the Church?

Paul says God will handle them. They are not our job.

Judging them is not our responsibility.

When it comes to sin, our main job is to focus on ourselves, first and foremost, and after that, to lovingly and gently hold one another to account and help one another find the good way (Mt 7.1-5).

As for those outside the Church, judging them is not our job at all. We can leave them in God’s hands.

We certainly should still proclaim truth and share God’s Word, but we do not judge them.

Surely we have our hands full enough with what we are called to do, namely, dealing with our own sin, rather than taking on what we are clearly told to not do.

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