Judging by Appearances

by Mike Ratliff

I have had a very interesting day today. First, my wife is out of town so I have the house to myself. Second, it’s about 7pm on Monday right now and I am working from my home office. I have several hours of work left over from my day job that I must get done tonight. I am waiting for a 4gb file to finish copying across a T1 so I can finish this. So, while I am waiting, I am writing this post. The reason I chose this topic is because of two sets of comments I received today on this blog. The first set I have flagged as spam, but in fact, the person who commented decided to call all Christians idiots, Jesus a jerk and God an tyrant. The language was 5th grade level trash talk. In other words, my natural inclination is to confront the blatherer about the level of either their maturity or IQ.

The other set was actually just one comment followed by one by me. Last week I made a comment on Slice of Laodica in a thread about a Walls Street Journal article that was very critical about Rick Warren, the Purpose Driven Church model and an organization called “Church Transitions.” Since I am very familiar with the PDC and how it is implemented I made a comment from my own experience. I didn’t really reference the article at all. Since I was the first to comment, what I said was not in reference to what anyone else had said. I simply made a statement about how those who are enamored with Church growth, pragmatism, the Willow Creek Association and the Purpose Driven Church are either spiritually blind or evil. The person who commented posted on the third chapter in my series, “Judge Not!” His email address was hosted by “Church Tranistions” so I assume he works there or is related to that organization somehow. In any case, he accused me of being hypocritical in my comment last week based upon the content of my “Judge Not!” series. That series makes it clear that Jesus’ command to “Judge Not” was an imperative to not judge others hypocritically. The person posting that comment suggested that I was basing my earlier comment on gossip, and that I should have tried to understand what “Church Transitions” actually does instead of judging a brother unfairly without knowing the facts.

Of course, as I said earlier, my understanding of the “Church Transitions” process is very deep. I have been on the receiving end of it twice. I have been a member of two separate churches in two states that have been “transitioned.” I left the second one before that really got going, but I made sure the staff at that church knew why I was leaving. I have had several members from that church contact me for more information since then. I wrote a 7 page paper that I gave my former pastor detailing the biblical fallacies Rick Warren used in building the PDC model. He ignored it though. That was one of the contributing factors in my wife and I leaving that church.

Is telling the truth judging unfairly? Should Christians blindly accept anything that other “Christians” say and do simply because they claim to be our brothers and sisters? I contend that those who cry foul when we do take stands against bad doctrine or pragmatism or humanism infiltrating our churches are the ones who are judging incorrectly. They are judging by appearances. In light of this I would like to include in this post a short lesson by Martin Luther.

Judging by Appearances

by Martin Luther

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment (John 7:24)

Jesus warned the Pharisees that they shouldn’t judge others by their own foolish thinking or according to their own opinions. Looking through colored glass distorts the color of everything. In the same way, the distorted thinking of the spiritually blind doesn’t allow them to perceive the truth accurately, even though they have the truth right before their eyes. Their hearts are bitter, and they burn with hatred. Like colored glass, their hearts color the way they look at others. They see people as enemies whom they resent and find repulsive.

In the world, no one sees anyone else through clear glass except for Christians, because their eyes are bright and pure. Christians see their enemies with the eyes of mercy and compassion. They don’t wish evil on those people. If an enemy is bitter and mean toward them, believers think, “This big shot is miserable. He is already eternally condemned. Why would I want to wish more evil on him? If he keeps going this way, he will certainly belong to the devil.” Christians have compassion on their enemies and hope for their salvation. Meanwhile, others only view their neighbors with hatred, envy, and pride. So it follows that they also view us as scoundrels. To the Pharisees, jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” In other words, he’s saying, “Look at what I do and who I am through clear glass.”

Our enemies will always criticize us. They will always look at us through colored glass. We must let it be. No matter what we do, they will still view us through colored glass.

So, what should Christians do when encountering bad doctrine, humanism, or pragmatism in place of biblical doctrine and humble, God glorifying preaching and worship? I believe we must rebuke with God’s judgement, never our own. Then, we must pray for those who are deceived by these things. Then, we must ask God to not allow us to get into distracting and unfruitful arguments that only feed the trolls.

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5 thoughts on “Judging by Appearances

  1. Whenever someone posts a comment on my site that goes against anything the Bible states I don’t even bother to respond to them…I just delete. I don’t know how Christian that is but I don’t want my site to be a place of debate. I come here because of the peace that I find here and appreciate the fact that it isn’t a debating “room”. I know that you take the brunt of the criticism and so I will continue to pray that God helps you to delete their comments and keeps your from injury to your spirit. God bless you, Mike.

  2. Thanks for your comment Sarah. I always appreciate your input. I feel the same way. The purpose of this site is not to generate divisiveness, but instead, to draw Christians to obedience to their Saviour, me foremost. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  3. We must speak the truth in love, which I believe you do, Mike. But it is an extremely sensitive issue, and all of us must endeavor to walk in the Spirit while we let that same Spirit use us. A soft answer turns away wrath. In the end it doesn’t matter if men criticize us or compliment us, how the Lord feels and His approval is not only the priority, it is the ONLY thing that matters.

  4. I hate the way I feel when I really get after someone even when I know what I am saying is right and a rebuke is needed. I believe that is my conscience. We should heed what our conscience tells us, but sometimes I think our enemy tries to pretend that he is the voice speaking to us. For some reason when I take on the PDC bunch it is very severe. I believe that it is a stronghold or pretected kingdom thing. Yes, Rick, God’s approval is all that really matters. Thanks for the encourgament.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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