Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

the nature of condemnation

1/6/14

 

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3. By one's good example to render another's wickedness the more evident and censurable (2632)

 

He that believeth on him is not condemned : but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18  To approve, select, or pronounce an opinion of right or wrong (2919)

 

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged : condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned : forgive , and ye shall be forgiven :Luke 6:37  Pronounce judgment against (2613)

 

Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself Titus 3:11 Self condemned, judged by the heart  (843)

 

The word "condemnation" generally evokes a seriously negative emotional response. No one likes to be condemned or censored by others. Yet, the act of condemning forms a very large part of our emotional lives. For a variety of reasons we humans have a great propensity to look outside ourselves to detect faults in others and to think and verbalize negatively about those perceived faults.

 

I think the reason for this penchant is twofold. First of all, by condemning others we avoid evaluating our own thoughts and actions, bringing them under self scrutiny and being forced to change ourselves. Secondly, men often labor under a religious heritage which encourages each individual to fight against outside evil forces. In addition to any call to relinquish evil in my own life, I am required by the standards of righteousness to identify, neutralize, or even destroy those other human beings who are seen as evil.

 

Quite naturally, given these two imperatives-  change me or fight against others- most choose to emphasize fighting others. Changing me is too painful, and it's easy to convince myself that everyone else needs to change a lot more than I do. If others are really the bigger issue, it makes good sense to focus my efforts outside me. Right?

 

Those of the Christian persuasion will recognize that the Bible has a thing or two to say about condemnation. On that basis, the church claims a divine mandate to condemn others and even to punish their own members after having first openly condemned them. The church offers a prescription by which anyone can become the divinely ordained judge of all others. That prescription elevates me in the eyes of God Himself and concurrently hands me the requirement to note and denounce the faults in others. It's a great formula for an ego trip, and I have often fallen under its allure myself.

 

It's interesting to read the few verses I listed above as they speak of condemnation. The numbers in parentheses show the Greek word in Strong's Concordance from which the KJV renders the English word "condemn". For me they represent a challenge to how the church promotes condemnation in its membership.

 

In our normal vernacular, the act of condemnation paints a picture of scathing words and accompanying acts of retribution- shunning, imprisonment, or physical violence. The word condemnation is rarely limited in our mind to merely noting a fault in an effort to correct it. The very nature of condemnation involves belittling the condemned one and causing them pain. Any encouragement of improvement in the condemned is minimized if not totally absent. The religious may deny this in their practices, but our attitudes and behaviors often confirm that causing pain is much more the issue than bringing about change.

 

As I consider what the NT in particular says about condemnation, I must wonder if we fully understand how condemnation was supposed to work. Were the early saints called upon to verbally harangue sinners, making them feel small and unworthy, so they would be led to live differently. Was that a workable way to transform hearts and lives? Could employing harsh words and harsher actions be the instrument of effective instruction and needed change? If so, what was new about that approach? That reflected human nature 101, going all the way back tot he Garden of Eden, when man first acquired the ability to judge and condemn his neighbor.

 

When Jesus is said to have condemned sin in the flesh, does that necessarily mean that he verbally denounced mankind's misbehavior and threatened some sort of divine retribution as a consequence? As noted, even in Strong's, one possible meaning is that the example of Jesus' life and personal ministry can "condemn" by causing us to contrast our own lives and motives with his and conclude that we need to re-evaluate. Condemnation does not require verbal criticism and violent threats as we humans so often practice. Divine love can and does "condemn" non-verbally and draw us to correction by the force of exemplary conduct and not threats of retribution.

 

The condemnation of God and Christ need mean no more than that their majestic nature and actions stand in marked contrast to those of the carnal minded man and therefore draw critical attention to the negative effects of such thoughts and actions. That attention doesn't even have to exist in the mind of God. It works without outside compulsion in the mind of the sinner.