“You can’t judge me!” It was a church member who was saying that as the pastor gently explained that their unseemly behavior at the previous board meeting had been unacceptable.

“Judge not” has become the rallying cry for tolerating bullies and terrorists in the church because, well, it just doesn’t seem right to “judge” others.

Never mind what the scriptures actually say about who we’re supposed to be judging:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

1 Corinthians 5:12 (emphasis added)

To be clear, those outside the church are “judging” us, in large part because we’re not judging each other and holding each other accountable to orthopraxis, that is, Christian behavior! As leaders, we’re commanded to judge those in the church and there are many examples throughout the New Testament. Annas and Sapphira were struck down dead for their hypocrisy. The man sleeping with his step mom was thrown out for his behavior. Corinth was called on the carpet for their Lord’s Supper practices. The first deacons were judged by the whole church as being fit and qualified to run the food pantry. Jesus judged the religious leaders for their hypocritical leadership, and he called his closest three apostles into account for their bickering about who would be top dog in the kingdom. Beyond that, there’s a good bit of Paul’s letters that gives us the measures by which we are to judge: the fruit of the flesh and the Spirit come to mind. 

If we don’t clean up our own house, how will we ever be viewed with enough respect that anyone outside the faith would want to be a part of the kingdom. The early church thrived in part because it didn’t tolerate bad behavior … “If you won’t work, you don’t eat,” “Be angry, but do not sin,” “Submit to one another in reverence to Christ,” and the list just keeps on coming. Indeed, Jesus even gave the criteria for throwing people out of the church in Matthew 18:15–17 (yes, disfellowshipping someone was JESUS’ command) and shows up as a church practice in Titus 3:10 (one of my FAVORITE orthopraxis verses): Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. – that’s the definition of disfellowship. 

The mantle of leadership doesn’t come without significant responsibility, and being discerning about the leadership qualifications for potential leaders, and making judgments about existing leader’s behaviors, is one of those responsibilities whether we like it or not. Honestly, if we’re not able to tolerate the heat, we must not accept the leadership positions. The church simply cannot afford it anymore.