Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

The Difference Between Sincere Concern and Judgement

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Will Montague via photopin cc

I was at a women’s conference this weekend with some wonderful ladies. One of my friends and I had a great conversation about the difference between sisters showing sincere, genuine concern for another sister and simply passing or holding onto judgement. It was a great chat and she and I came to the conclusion that this is often and issue of the heart, and therefore there are a few points I’d like to share on this topic.

We should have concern for each other. As sisters in the Lord, we certainly should care about what another sister is going through. When we see her struggling, hurting or going through trials, we should be moved to compassion and be compelled to help if possible. What that help looks like will depend on the circumstances, but often the help we give is in the form of advice and counsel. Hopefully we seek to help with exhortation and edification from God’s Word. Sometimes it can be in the form of words of affirmation, and others times there is a call for loving and carefully prayed-over rebuke. Whether or not we should care is not the question. We ALL should care about our sisters. Sometimes we feel we have the answers. Sometimes we’re right that the answer we have is a good one. Regardless, we need to be aware of our own hearts.

Definition of Judging: I want you to understand that there are different definitions and uses for the word “judge.” Here are some of the definitions:to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose, to approve, esteem, to prefer, to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure to dispute.” 

This can often lead to confusion in the Word. Sometimes God tells us to judge and sometimes not to judge. We need to look at language and context to make sure we are understanding it correctly. We judge all the time. A judge is someone who is determining what is right. We judge whether or not this or that is correct, right or good. We are called to do this. We are also called to judge whether or not sin is present and not to judge others when we ourselves are guilty of the same sin. So what kind of judging am I talking about? I’m addressing the issue of judging what is not sin but rather passing some sort of sentence or classification of someone based on that person’s choices, preferences, decisions, etc. In other words, it is having a heart that looks down on another believer because our opinions, preferences choices or convictions are different. This kind of judgement is never encouraged in the Word.

1. What’s the difference between judging and offering genuine concern?

It’s an issue of the heart. It’s all about the heart. If we are dealing with an issue that is not necessarily a sin issue, then we need to be very careful about allowing our hearts to cross over into judgement. There’s one easy way to determine whether or not our hearts are in the right place. We ask ourselves, do I think I’m a better Christian because I don’t do what she does? Do I judge her Christianity based on her choices in non-sin issues? Am I looking down on her?

Looking down on a sister is wrong. We are not to do it. We are supposed to be walking in love. I can genuinely feel concern for a sister, and I can not agree with her decisions, without having a heart full of judgement because I will remember my own humanity. I will consider that we all have shortcomings. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have areas of struggle. We are also all works in progress. God is molding us day by day. We are in different stages of our walks with the Lord. The point is, we are the same. We are equal in the Father’s family. Even if my sister makes a lot of bad decisions, or what I perceive as bad decisions, she is no less a daughter of the King and fellow heir in the kingdom. She is no less beloved of the Father. She is no less justified.

I will also guard my heart against judgement by remember that God has gifted and called us all differently. What may work for me may not work for another sister. God has made us with different personalities and the ability to minister to different types of people. He never intended for us all to look or sound the same. He made us unique and colorful. He loves his daughters….ALL of them! We need to look on our sisters in the Lord as He Himself does. We need to appreciate them for what they bring to the body. When we see ourselves as different, better or above other believers, we are allowing our hearts to harden and become cold. God is not pleased.

2. Is this a sin issue?

Not every struggle is a sin issue. We need to remember that sometimes the issue isn’t sin at all. The problem is we often have in the church is one of people trying to force their personal convictions on others. As sisters in the Lord, we can be very strong when it comes to our opinions. Perhaps the Lord has put a conviction on our heart that may be less than black and white in scripture. We should always obey what the Lord has put on our heart to do, but that doesn’t mean we pressure others into following us. If it’s clear in the Word, that’s a different story. Some issues that may arise where this is a concern would be over healthy eating habits, whether or not to drink alcohol, what to watch on television or whether to watch it at all, homeschooling versus public education, clothing choices, head coverings, etc. We need to be very careful that we are not judging or looking down on a sister who does not share our convictions, but rather to walk in love and respect.

Let’s consider for a minute the issue of food. There are plenty of opinions on what people should or should not be eating. There’s no doubt that much of what we eat today is unhealthy and full of chemicals and such that was no where on that Garden of Eden diet that Adam and Eve enjoyed so long ago. Many are becoming more educated on the issue of food, what’s in the food, what foods provide to our bodies, etc. and in doing so are becoming self-made experts on healthy eating choices. I think that’s really cool. I have several friends who are really into health, and I love being able to go to them with questions. They are so helpful in providing good information on everything from vitamins and herbs to healing the body with natural resources. I see it as a type of ministry, to help others.

Here’s the catch, however. With all of this emphasis on eating healthy, it can open the door to some serious judging. It’s important that we always remember that it is not what we eat that makes us “better” or “worse” Christians. The Bible does not put a strong emphasis on food, except for the several times that Paul exhorts the church NOT to judge on the basis of what someone eats. Do not look down on them. Do not be deceived into thinking a person who eats pizza everyday and weighs 400 pounds is any less of a Christian than the one who runs ten miles a day and eats a vegan diet.

Now, should you be concerned about a friend who weighs 400 pounds and eats pizza or fast food for every meal? Sure. Of course. It’s very unhealthy. So how do we offer this concern without judging? First of all, we make sure our friendship is based on something deeper than mere niceties. We are sisters in the Lord. We invest in one another. We don’t just smile at them from across the sanctuary every week and then walk up to them one day and exhort them to change their eating habits immediately. We build a relationship. We listen to them. We try to understand where they are coming from and how they are struggling. We show COMPASSION. We are not flippant. We do not dismiss their feelings, nor their struggles. We treat them with honor, respect and affection. We see them as equals in the Lord and we certainly recognize that we, too, have areas of struggle. Once our heart is in order, we can help our friend. We can minister to her and bless her.

3. Do I judge based on my own opinions?

Another way in which concern can cross over to judgement is when a sister does not follow or take our advice. We are so confident in our opinions. When a sister is sharing her trial, we may have an idea of what she could do to resolve the issue. There’s nothing wrong with offering advice, when we feel led by the Spirit to do it and feel it is a good word and good timing. If, however, our sister doesn’t take the advice, we need to not judge or look down on her. We need to, instead, continue to pray for her, love her and be okay with it. Just let go. We might be wrong. We might not understand the full scope. God may be leading in another direction for reasons we can see. Offer advice, but don’t judge if it’s not received the way you want.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:11-17

4. Am I the right person to help?

It’s always good to ask the Lord if you are the right person to help your friend. You know, sometimes there are reasons God may use someone else to minister to that sisters. Perhaps He knows you will struggle with having a judging heart. Perhaps He knows you won’t be able to understand where the sister is coming from or going through. Perhaps He has a plan to use someone else that will be more effective. If you feel God telling you not to intercede, obey. There is a reason. If you are not called to minister to this sister, then make sure not to carry judgement away with you. Simply put it behind you and move on in love, unity and peace. God has called us to be one, just like Jesus prayed.

5. Walk in love.

It is so easy to judge. As I write this blog I’m reminded and convicted of times I have entertained a judgemental heart. I have allowed genuine concern to move into judging, placing myself somehow above my sisters in the Lord because I do this or that. I think we need to be very careful. This is the heart that tears us apart rather than brings us together in unity. We need to love one another. We do need to help one another, but our hearts have to be in the right place. I’m no better a Christian than you are and you are no better than me. Whether or not we see everything eye to eye is irrelevant. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not of our own works. We are equal members in the family of God. We are holy because HE is holy. We are righteous because He is righteous. Let us walk forward in love and support of one another with sincerity of heart.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8

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Church Partiality: When You Don’t Even Know You’re Doing It

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photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

Remember Rachel and Leah? No, not the sisters from the Old Testament account, although with an extremely similar background. Our Rachel and Leah are two Christian women who both start attending a new church around the same time. They are both eager to get involved and make meaningful relationships within the church body. They are both friendly and outgoing. I’d like to say that they both found what they were looking for in terms of relationship opportunities within the church, but that’s not the way it plays out for many Rachels and Leahs.

What we actually see with Rachel and Leah is quite a different experience altogether. You see Rachel is flocked and flooded with attention, offers of fellowship and the admiration of even the leadership of the church. She and her family are talked about favorably and asked to be part of ministries not long after arriving. Rachel is a lovely person, inside and out. She is admired for her healthy lifestyle, her family’s financial situation, her many beautiful children and her sense of wholesomeness. She has a sweet countenance as well, and there’s no doubt she is a beautiful woman of God.

Leah, on the other hand, despite her efforts, has a much more difficult time making friends in the church. Sure, she is welcomed and treated kindly. She receives hugs after service and casual chit chat, but that’s where it ends. While she has tried to make deep and meaningful relationships with other women in the church, they always seem to be engaged elsewhere. They seem to have no time to fellowship with her. Just when she thinks she and another are growing close, she finds out this sister has had a birthday party and not invited her. Yet, Rachel was invited. Leah loves the Lord too. She s married but has struggled with infertility so she has no children. Her family struggles financially. They are not very health focused and Leah is overweight. She is a very sweet woman who offers kindness and grace to all. She knows the Word well and walks with the Lord steadfastly. She too is a beautiful woman of God.

Now that we’re familiarized with Rachel and Leah, let’s talk about the other people in this story. Let’s talk about the church body who welcome Rachel and Leah in with open arms, but then proceed with what can only be described as partiality. I put forth that most of these brothers and sisters in the Lord are good-hearted, honest and loving people. I assert that most of them have dedicated their lives to loving people the way Jesus did and does. You may be surprised to read this, but I honestly feel that most of the people in the church who show partiality are sincerely unaware of what they are doing. They are blind to it. They may not even recognize it when someone reveals it to them. They just don’t see what they are doing.

Even though we know we are new creatures in Christ, we also must realize and come to terms with the fact that we are still sinful human beings who are forced to struggle with the flesh until we are with Jesus and made like Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can have victory over the flesh, but there is always some of that “Adam & Eve*, fallen human flesh left in us, and there are times when we are in error, and even in sin, without being aware of it. That’s why God tells us to examine our hearts.

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:28-32

Partiality can be a hidden trap; a disguised snare. Why do so many fall into this trap? The reasons vary, but the most common would be that it is perfectly natural for us to be drawn to a person who shares our interests and passions, has a similar lifestyle, or has the kind of life we wish that we too possessed. It is natural for us to want to befriend someone who does well in life, who is beautiful and lovely to be around and who we admire. Isn’t that the truth? It’s natural. It’s just the way we are, and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with drawing near to someone whose presence and company we enjoy so much. She needs friends too.

The problem is that sometimes we are leaving the Leahs out. We are so drawn to Rachel, that Leah is left isolated and alone, without anyone pursuing a friendship with her. We need to open our eyes and our hearts to this tragedy that is occurring so frequently within the body of Christ. It ought not to be this way. Listen, there may be many reasons you feel drawn to Rachel, and perhaps there are several reasons you find it more difficult to be close to Leah. Maybe Leah’s lifestyle isn’t as attractive. Maybe she hasn’t come from the perfect background. Maybe she doesn’t work out ten times a week. Maybe Leah is poor and will always be poor. Maybe she isn’t a fertile Myrtle like Rachel. Maybe Leah just isn’t as funny, as pretty or as cool by the world’s standards as Rachel. In the Lord’s eyes, is she any less worthy of love? Is she any less needful of true friendship, discipleship and fellowship? What do you think?

The truth is partiality in the church is something that often times goes unnoticed and usually goes unaddressed. I think more often than not we just accept it as the way it is, or we don’t see it at all. Men do it too, in different ways. Men admire other men who are successful, good-looking, athletic, popular, etc. Meanwhile, there are other brothers being left out without real relationships. It’s so sad and yet so common.

I also want to be clear that the Rachels out there are not bad women. They are usually very sweet, kind and sincere sisters in the Lord. They are not usually seeking this attention, nor are they trying to take attention away from others. They are simply attractive people for a variety of reasons and therefore draw in the admiration of others. The Rachels out there can actually be quite helpful in ministering to the Leahs. If you think you might be a Rachel, pray about using your “popularity” within the church to include anyone who may be more of a Leah. Reach out to her. Don’t just sit back and receive from others. You be the one to seek out that lonely lady who, for whatever reason, has not been blessed with your ability to make friends easily. You can do this Rachels, but first you too need to recognize and acknowledge that this is really happening.

So what do we do to make people see? How do we make them understand? Here are some questions for all of us to ask ourselves. Be honest with yourself and examine your heart, as the Lord commands in scripture.

1. Who are your closest friends in the church? Take a few of your best friends and describe them. What do they look like? What are their talents and hobbies? What is their lifestyle like? etc.

2. Are there any ladies in your church who seem to not have any close friendships? This may be tricky to answer. Sometimes a person may appear to have friends, but they only have casual friendships and no close relationships. Choose one or two of these ladies and now describe them the same way you did with your friends.

3. Take those descriptions of your friends and the potential Leahs you thought of and now put them side by side. While we don’t normally want to compare people, in this case it is revealing to compare these ladies (for your own eyes only). How are they similar or different? Meditate on this for a bit.

4. Do you have close friendships within the church? Do you find it easy to make friends? Do people seem to pay you a lot of attention? Perhaps you are a Rachel. Pray about how you can use this to minister to women who are struggling in the body. Pray about how you can leave your comfort zone and reach out to someone who may desperately need a friend like you.

5. Are you lonely, even surrounded by a hundred women at a women’s retreat? Do you feel that you have been passed over for deep, meaningful relationships in the church? Do you feel like Leah? Sister, ask the Lord to fill you with hope and joy. He has not overlooked you, nor will He abandon you. Be honest with the women around you about how you feel, and perhaps you will be the brave one to break some of the chains of partiality that go on in the church. You can be the one to open their eyes. Just remember that most are good-hearted, sincere people who have no idea that you have been left out. With humility and love, share from your heart. If you still are unable to find a good friend, perhaps it’s time to pray about finding a new fellowship? Regardless, you also have a calling. You know what it feels like to be a Leah. Seek out other Leahs and minister to them. I guarantee you that you are not alone. Other sisters are suffering in silence too. Keep a watchful eye out and make an effort to reach out in friendship to others who may need a friend too.

Many people will read this and dismiss it. They will see it as irrelevant or just unfounded. They will deny that this is an area of trouble in the church and that the Leahs are just being too sensitive. They will accuse the Leahs of just not trying hard enough to make friends. Is that sometimes the case? Sure. Sometimes people have tried to reach out, but for whatever reason a sister is closed off. This happens as well. We are called to reach out in love to every sister. We do our best and leave the rest to the Lord.

However, we are also called to examine ourselves. Pray about whether or not you may be showing partiality to a brother or sister because of the way they look, the money that they have or their lifestyle that you admire. Remember that it’s natural to feel this way, but God is calling us to a higher love. He is calling us to a deeper fellowship, and He doesn’t want any of his daughters left out.

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