BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER
This past Sunday Pastor Raphael shared on the subject of hospitality last Sunday, based on Romans 15:7 that says “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” The principle that he was emphasizing was that we as a church should be demonstrating a culture of hospitality to all who visit the church because of the work of grace shown to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are other implications that can be seen by this principle, for example, the importance of not judging another Christian. There are two uses of the word used in Scripture. One has the sense of “discernment” — being able to distinguish one thing from another. I can ‘judge’ that a fruit is rotten by the taste and texture. In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Paul writes, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”
In this passage, Paul is emphasizing that a person who is claiming to be a believer in Christ but their lifestyle is contrary to the life of faith — the church has the right to call them out and remove them from the fellowship of faith. This is rarely practiced in the church, but that is the subject for another day. This act has a redemptive purpose in that it confronts the individual with their hypocrisy to the faith, and also protects the church family itself.
But the ultimate “judge” is God himself. Jesus said in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” The book of Revelation describes the Great Judgment Seat where we will all stand, and we are all condemned in our sins. We are all guilty! It is only those who sins are covered by the blood of Christ who will be judged as forgiven and accepted into eternal life with God. Those who refuse to accept the free gift of salvation will be judged as guilty in their own iniquities and will suffer eternal condemnation.
It is in this context that we are told by Jesus to not judge others. To take the place of a judge, determining if a person belongs to Christ or not, is to put yourself in an authority position that you do not have. God and God alone is the judge.
Which brings us back to the sense of hospitality mentioned by Paul in Romans 14 and 15. The exact opposite of judging others would be accepting them. The essence of the gospel is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) As those who have received this grace, we should thus extend that same grace to others. The reason is the reason we do everything — to give glory to God!
Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia. He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director of the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels. He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer.