Planet Fitness is a gym with over 1000 clubs nationwide. They are known for having crazy low monthly fees and a catchy tagline…”the judgment free zone.” Advertising as a gym where anyone can work out without being judged has attracted thousands, including me. As someone who enjoys working out, nothing is more frustrating than walking in a gym and watching meatheads put on a show for themselves in front of the mirror. And when the meatheads aren’t lusting after themselves, they are awkwardly staring at you for not having biceps larger than your head.
Everyone wants to be in a “judgment free zone.” Planet Fitness hasn’t stumble on something new. They are simply leveraging a core value of American culture. You don’t have a right to speak into my life and I don’t have a right to speak into yours. Even Jesus tells us not to judge.
But does he really?
I want to get to the premise of this post. Here it is. God is ok with Christians judging. I will go a step further. Unless Christians lovingly step in and correct other Christians, they can’t become the people God created us to be.
This topic has several layers. I am just addressing one layer…how Christians can correct other Christians towards Christ.
The problem with judging is we have no framework for what it really means or how it plays out in real life. I believe if there were more examples of healthy correction towards Christ, we would be more open to it. But when so many people have been wounded by judgemental Christians, the easy solution is to throw it out completely. Judgment free zone.
But Christians need Godly correction. It is not only acceptable in God’s eyes. It is commanded (1 Cor. 5:12; Gal. 6:1). So, I want to provide a guide for correcting others towards Christ. No, this isn’t comprehensive. But, hopefully, the principles that follow will give us some framework for stepping into difficult conversations.
Let’s get started.
1.) There is a difference between judging and being judgemental.
The banner verse for the “don’t judge me” crowd is Matthew 7:1. “Do not judge others, and you too will not be judged.” This is also the banner verse for the “reading the Bible out of context” crowd. In this verse, Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge. He is telling us not to judge hypocritically.
Look at verse 5. Jesus never says it is inappropriate to address a speck in our brother’s eye. He says we aren’t in a place to deal with our brother’s speck until we deal with the log in our eye.
In other words, we can’t judge others for the same sins we are committing. This is hypocrisy. It is self-righteousness on full display. Before we rebuke someone for sin, we must do work on our own heart. The first difficult conversation must come from within.
There is a difference between judging and being judgmental. Judging simply means to make a correct decision. It is healthy, transformative, and from God. Judgementalism is prideful, painful, and from Satan.
2.) Before we judge, we must be fully aware we are just as deserving of judgment as the person we are correcting.
The word here is humility. We judge other Christians understanding our weakness and brokenness. First. If we approach someone thinking “I am going to show them why I am right and they are wrong” pain is sure to follow. And not just pain for the person we are correcting. Pain for us too (Gal. 6:1; 1 Cor. 10:12). Self-righteousness is a toxic cancer that corrodes the heart. Quickly.
We should never judge or correct without first acknowledging our need for correcting and judging. No one is perfect. No one.
3.) If correcting another Christian hurts them more than it hurts us, our heart is probably not in the right place.
A few weeks ago, I met with several pastors in the Jackson area to pray for our city. Before we prayed, one of the guys expressed anguish over a difficult conversation that was going to take place later that day. He was visibly emotionally. The conversation was absolutely necessary. But this pastor wasn’t looking forward to it. He asked us to pray specifically for his meeting before we prayed over the city. And we did.
This should be our attitude when it comes to correcting another Christian. Stepping into a difficult conversation shouldn’t excite us. It should burden us. Correcting should be saturated in prayer.
People who enjoy pointing out flaws and stepping into difficult conversations aren’t aware of their own sinful nature. And these people almost never correct in a way that points the other person to Jesus.
4.) Correcting another Christian should always point them to the cross. Always.
To build on the previous point, the point of correcting and stepping into difficult conversations is rooted in the gospel. Nothing else. If our intention is not to lead the person we are correcting towards the cross, we are going to inflict an enormous amount of pain.
We must check the motives of our heart. Then check our motives again. If we can’t, with certainty, conclude our potential correction is rooted in love, it is better to stay silent.
5.) Correcting ≠ Lecturing.
Another huge mistake when it comes to correcting. I will be honest. Even if someone has good intentions, there is a 99% chance I tune them out if I sense they are lecturing me. Maybe that’s wrong. But it’s the truth.
Lectures, generally speaking, aren’t transformative. They are one-sided. They give the impression one person is totally wrong and the other person needs to hear the right way. Lectures involve a superior party and an inferior party. And maybe lectures are helpful when one side is clearly superior. My teachers in college had superior knowledge about engineering. It benefitted me to listen.
There is no superiority with morality. We all need the same thing to the same degree. Jesus.Click to tweet
But there is no superiority in the area of morality. We all need the same thing to the same degree. Jesus.
So, what’s the alternative? Approach the person we are correcting with a humble heart. Ask questions instead of giving answers. Again, the point is not simply to give our two cents and move on. The goal is to direct the person to Christ.
6.) “I am uncomfortable or offended” is not grounds to correct someone.
Many Christians get into trouble here. They are exposed to a new stance on an old tradition. They read something that infuriates them, frustrates them, or saddens them. While I am not dismissing our feelings and emotions, feelings and emotions aren’t grounds for correcting. There must be a filter to process the words we hear and read. That filter is God’s word.
Take this to the bank. If we rebuke someone without a strong foundation for our correction in Scripture, we will end up wounding the person…even if we have good intentions.
“I don’t agree…” or “My opinion is…” are not adequate catalysts for correcting someone we believe is in error. We must always go back to God’s word. And this must be blanketed with prayer and input from other Christians. Not until then are we in a position to correct.
7.) Always correct or rebuke privately.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.Matthew 18:15
Correcting publically rarely leads to transformation. And those who correct publicly are almost always trying to wound another person, probably as an outpouring of being wounded themselves. Public correction elicits shame and is a breeding ground for bitterness. It is not a breeding ground for transformation.
So, if we have an issue with someone, the correction should take place in private.
8.) Never correct with second-hand knowledge or perceptions.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.James 1:19
Two years ago, a church leader wounded me to the point that I almost left church ministry. The man corrected me committed a huge error (one that, unfortunately, I have committed myself more than once)…he drew conclusions based on perceptions (what he saw) and conversations with others (second-hand knowledge). To top it off, his remarks came in the form of an e-mail. Not once did he approach me. Not once did he give me the benefit of the doubt. Not once did he ask for my side of the story.
I am convinced that my deep wound would only have been a slight cut if he had talked with me first. When it comes to correcting and judging, it is imperative that we gather first-hand knowledge. Don’t assume. Don’t listen to others. Gather the facts by talking with the person.
How many bitter prodigals would be productive forces for God if this principle had been applied? My heart breaks thinking about the warriors God’s kingdom has lost because another Christian used perceptions and second-hand knowledge as the foundation for correcting.
Let’s not draw conclusions without first-hand knowledge.
9.) Words are a powerful force. They can wound lives to the point of death or they can bring life never before imagined. We must use words carefully.
The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.James 3:5
I plead with us to consider the words of James. I often wonder why God allowed us to have such a powerful tool to use however we see fit. Words wound. And, at times, they kill. Not physically. Worse. They kill the soul. They destroy our meaning and purpose.
With our words we can choose to bring life. One encouragement can preserve a life. One conversation can alter a trajectory. When it comes to correcting, we must take this responsibility seriously. We have the power to give life or take it. And as followers of Jesus, we are in the business of giving life.
Pray. Wrestle. Filter through the Word. Pray more. Talk with someone else.
Too many Christians have been wounded by other Christians who didn’t take this responsibility seriously. Enough is enough. It’s time to use our words to bring life, not destroy it.
10.) Correcting ≠ divisiveness.
This is, perhaps, the most dangerous misconception in the American church today when it comes to rebuking and correcting. On more than one occasion, I have avoided a difficult conversation because I did not want to be “divisive.” Or maybe I didn’t want to be labeled with the morality police. It’s probably some of both.
Let’s just get this out there. Correcting and divisiveness are not equal. Yes, self-righteous people have created division because they corrected others out of impure motives. But, in its purest form, Godly correction strengthens the body of Christ, not divides it.
So, we must stop using the unity of the body as a crutch for refusing to step into difficult conversations.
11.) Questions to ask before correcting another Christian.
Am I reacting out of anger or frustration?
Is it my place to correct this person or am I acting as the morality police?
Have I earned the right to correct this person? Do I know their heart and motives?
How would I want to be corrected if someone approached me about the same issue?
Have I filtered my concern through God’s word, prayer, and other Christians?
Am I looking forward to this confrontation or am I agonizing over it?
Am I correcting this person with the ultimate goal being their transformation in Christ?
Have I spent time dealing with my heart?
This post has stirred in my mind for months. It wasn’t until one of my subscribers recommend I write about it that I decided to move on forward. Godly correction is essential for the body of Christ. I have people in my life who point out inconsistencies in my teaching, parenting, ministering, etc. The circle of people I allow to speak into my life is small. But their impact on my life is huge. No one is perfect. Everyone has blind spots.
On the other hand, there is no place for wounding Christians with judgmental words. This must stop. I am not the expert on correcting. But someone must start the conversation.
Let’s keep the conversation going. What principles are important to consider when correcting other Christians?
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!