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When It Is Okay to Judge

Confronting sin and enacting judgment within the church.


"When It Is Okay to Judge" is not the most inviting sermon title. For many of us, the mere mention of the word "judge"—especially in church—sends shivers down our spines and understandably so. I suspect each of us has had some painful experience of being "judged" by the church.

I was reminded of this on a ride home from the airport once. I got to chatting with the cab driver, who was surprised to hear I was a pastor. "I thought pastors were hard to talk to," he said. I took that as a compliment. So I said, "Hey, you should come to our church." He responded, "But I've been divorced. Wouldn't you judge me? You know, put me over in a corner with all the bad people."

We've all had—or know people who have had—these sorts of painful experiences with the church, and it turns our stomachs to think of inflicting that kind of harsh treatment on someone else, especially in the name of Christ. Compassion for people is one of the reasons we don't like the thought of judging others.

But there are other reasons we struggle with judging others. Of course, we live in a non-judgmental society, where tolerance is the watchword, and where the only thing that's okay to judge is judgment itself. This makes the idea repugnant.

But we also lack moral clarity to judge. What was clear for those a generation or two ago is less clear to us now. As one writer has said, "Where sin is concerned, people mumble now." We lack clarity of conviction, and so we don't speak in clear and articulate terms but rather mumble and hem-and-haw.

We also lack moral confidence to judge. I suspect most of us have a pretty acute sense of our own sin—that we're pretty messed up ourselves—and so we find ourselves rightly asking, ...

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Todd Wilson (PhD, Cambridge University) is Senior Pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL, cofounder of the Center for Pastor Theologians, and author most recently of The Pastor Theologian and Real Christian.

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Audio Sample:

Sermon Outline:


I. Conceit as the cause for Corinthian inaction

II. Corporate solidarity and mourning the sins of others

III. Severe mercy: Enact eschatological judgement ahead of time

IV. Spiritual integrity and identity: Be who you are!

V. Not a holy huddle but an authentic missional community

VI. What do we learn?