Arrogance and judgment

Arrogance is a bad thing.

So when a friend of mine (if he is still a friend) accused me of it last evening, I have to say that I was, and remain, troubled. Arrogance keeps people from seeing the value of Jesus because they’re too wrapped up in the false gods they create for themselves (and may even name “Jesus”). It’s one of the ways by which people ignore God for the sake of their own intelligence, ability, good looks, or whatever. It can leave people looking not to Jesus, but to each other or themselves.

I need prayer on this one, though, as I still don’t honestly see the arrogance in what I said and did (I’ve reread the transcript). The problem comes down to my being “judgmental”. Now, I can go off on a rant here, but I’ll try not to, instead I’ll look at a few pertinent scriptures and try to come to an understanding of what judgment is.

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? James 4:11-12

This seems rather clear. Now, what I said to my friend was that he should probably agree with the definition of a given action of the Church he is performing an action in, or else he seems to be saying something he does not believe, and is thus lying. So for example, if I were to be ordained as an Anglican priest, I would be implicitly agreeing to the doctrine of the Church I am choosing to be ordained in. Thus I would be less than honest were I to teach against that doctrine immediately after getting ordained.

The accusation of lying is a major thing, and can easily be seen as fitting as “speaking evil” against my brother. Also, it seems that if this is the case, I am judging him, and thus speaking against the law. I do not think that this is the situation I was in, because I spoke directly to the person involved, with only the intention of dissuading the course of action if that was what he meant. Indeed, if my understanding was incorrect, or my reasoning about why this was a lie was wrong, I believe I’d simply back off. That said, if I begin to believe myself somehow superior to my friend due to this difference of understanding, I could see how I would be then arrogant and judgmental. After all, the most common way I, as a sinful person, make myself feel better is by thinking evil of those who are around me, thus puffing myself up. I think that is what James is here writing about.

What James is not writing about is the question of discernment, rebuke or correction, all of which are admonished on the Church, and on specific believers (see 1 Cor 5:11-6:8, Luke 17:3, Hebrews 3:13). I will readily admit that I am not in authority, so I do not have the right to demand a course of action (though I believe I have a duty to express concern about a course of action if it seems dangerous). This must be done carefully, however, as the temptation for me to sin is here very very great .

That said, there is a very important series of verses that may bear on the situation:

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 1 John 5:16-17

Here, I think is the point at which I may have been most in error. That said, I do think that willful lying with a church decision, may be close to a “sin that leads to death”. This is of a different order than say, a lie done in love for the benefit of another(still sin, still wrong, but probably not leading to death), or say failing to give money to someone who asks (which can show a lack of love, but still not leading to death in itself).

The difference is that the former willful sin seems to be primarily for the benefit of the person sinning, not for the benefit of anyone else. It seems designed to state acceptance of things they do not accept, and in so doing leave the door open for other similar actions. If it is not wrong to imply agreement to what you do not agree, you can continue parsing your own definitions with little or no reference to those who are outside of your parsing, to the end that you think you never lie, while you’re leading many others to think you believe things you do not believe.

This is especially pertinent as we are promised tribulations as believers in Jesus Christ. The world hated him, and if we follow Him, they will hate us. If we have a method of redefining things in our heads, we can avoid tribulation and suffering simply by choosing to redefine things. This does not give glory to Jesus. We can give the impression that the promises and practices we do as a Church are bereft of independent meaning, and thus cause others to ignore Jesus (who is the meaning of all we do in the Church).

Am I out to lunch here?