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Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook

I feel like I need to get something off my chest.

It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.

You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:

Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?

I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.

Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?

Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!

What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?

Whenever I hear that, I feel like saying, “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”

Think it through.

Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.

Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

moral hook

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100 percent agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:

1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe.

Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are.

Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans.

But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.

2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place)

Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christian friends. Is that a surprise, really?

I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live?


3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy

People don’t line up to be judged.

If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

4. Judging outsiders is un-Christian

Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others.

Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us was saved by the good we did but by grace.

So what can you do?

1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them

Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.

2. Empathize with non-Christians

Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are, you might be doing exactly what the non-Christians in your neighbourhood are doing.

Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.

3. Hang out with non-Christians

Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence.

As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith.

I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.

4. Pray for unchurched people

How many unchurched people do you pray for daily? How many people you disagree with do you pray for daily?

It is impossible to hate someone you genuinely pray for daily.

5. Live out your faith authentically

Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.

I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.

And then the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.

What do you think? Scroll down and leave a comment. 🙂

Want Practical Help?

If you want more on how your church can relate to a constantly changing culture, I wrote about it in my new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow.

The new Team Edition is now available featuring 8 videos that can help optimally frame the conversations for your team. And if you buy the Team Edition before May 31st, 2016, you’ll get access to a private Facebook Group for Team Edition leaders hosted by me.


I’m on a sabbatical in May, and (for the most part) running past articles that have slipped off the main stream but in my view can still help leaders. I actually lost this article from my site two years ago in a site redesign. Fortunately, had also featured it and it’s great to be able to re-run it on this site. 

In many ways, the thinking in this post is similar to my argument in my #1 most-read post of all time, Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian.—Carey

Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off the Moral Hook


  1. J9 on September 4, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    This was a great read. I’m a Christian and I am talking to someone who told me he grew up in church. I believe that was when he was younger his mom probably brought him to church all the time. But he smokes marijuana and because of that my parents and my sister think he is a bad influence on me. He lives in Jamaica currently which is where I am originally from. I initially told him when we started talking that I wasn’t really looking for a relationship but he was very persistent. So I agreed to talk to him, thinking that nothing was really going to be coming out of it. But I think he fell in love with me even though we only met once for less than five minutes. I know the Bible says that as Christians we should not be unequally yoked, but I feel like my family is judging him way more than they should. Like they are trying to force me to stop talking to him and I’m really upset about that because I am 31 years old. I have not been very good at expressing my feelings about the situation and my dad said he wants to have a heart to heart talk with me again. I’m praying for direction on how to handle the situation. I have been praying about the situation on the whole, but I feel like because my sister had a long-distance relationship before, she feels that I just don’t want to listen.

    • Robert MacElderry on September 5, 2020 at 7:48 am

      Y’all should have a conversation together. Dad, friend and you. Face to face. Then Dad will be better equipped to give his adult daughter his blessings and advice.

      • J9 on September 7, 2020 at 6:28 am

        I’ve tried in the past to get my dad and sister to talk to him on video but they kept saying they didn’t want to. The family and I had a talk last night and the pushback was just too much so I decided, albeit a really hard decision that we shouldn’t speak anymore. I said we both still have to work on ourselves before we can commit to being in a relationship. I’m sure he’s heart broken too. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings so it was really hard. It may take some time but I’ll get over it eventually.

  2. Katherine Fee Golden on February 10, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you for posting it. I have often thought that we spend too much time judging our neighbors and not enough time raising up our neighbors (me included). I was pleased to have biblical context to refer to on this subject. I look forward to reading more of these articles. ~K

  3. Paula jay on July 27, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Wow so many different points of view…are these own opinions or facts from Abba Father. Prayer is very important very. It says in scripture to pray without ceasing. Prayer is one of our spiritual weapons. Prayer changes things moves on ones behalf.. Causes you to become close Abba Father it breaks chains and barriers….power of prayer is no joke. If My people pray repent….then i will hear from heaven and heal their land…point being one faith one Abba Father one belief not many its one.. One voice one church.. We need to get it right and whats right is the word of YHWH. Seek first the kingdom and Abbas ways not ours… I wondered about judging and was afraid i judged… When we judge its to rightfully discern and not condem… We dont know the hearts of each person hec we probably dont even know our own hearts.. Thats why we have the Fathers spirit to help us in things such as this.. Rightfully discerning… Love ans sin must be spoken of. Correction must be made…. Within ourselves as believers and non believers because we are not perfect thats why we must die to ourselves daily.. We judge out of love for correction not from stupidity and worldly hypocrites points of views..only what Abba FATHER say is what matters. Our opinions are irrelevant. We are not tje creator we are the created. The enemy has to keep the church divided because if we are as one like we are meant to be he and his nasty filthy demons will be torn to pieces and we would be in authority as we should….
    Stop fighting amongst one another and come together as the body of CHRIST and fight this spiritual wor if faith.
    💕from love with love💕
    Be blessed brethern

    • Lo on April 20, 2020 at 10:40 am

      We’re not called to be friends with non believers and I would say that’s even not a wise thing to do, because you tend to take on the issues of the world. What’s things called love? Is it truly love if you don’t show people the Way? I’ve heard of people telling non believers the right Way to live and they literally repented once they saw it was truth. I tell my mom believing family they should forgive all the time…it’s because I live them, but I did have to judge the matter before I came to that conclusion. I learned myself to forgive before I came to Messiah, so it’s not impossible to do some Godly things because all man has the light of God at some level. I guess for me I don’t like the love people show in churches…it seems plastic…I know people are trying but maybe it’s that they are seeking to do things out their flesh and not from Holiness. Holiness seems to be put on the back burner in the church, but if we are holy, love will naturally follow. I keep coming to this term church for those who don’t like church, because what it is is people don’t want to be judged, but then that’s not actually biblical. Jesus went around telling people what to do and how to think, and if people chose that Way, they would receive life. I do not see this kind of love in the church…I see “I like your outfit”, “your hair looks great,” I’ll ask you about what’s going on in your household and if you tell me you’re out of food I’ll say “I’ll pray for you”, but won’t give you five dollars to buy some food. No that’s not love, it’s social niceties and even non believers do it. Id like to think the prophets and apostles were much more bold than these watered down Hillsong churches. Modern churches invite people into your churches and do nothing to show them the unholy vs holy…that’s not love, that’s a boys club. I don’t really think the Father is that please in general, but it’s a good thing we’ve been quarantined so then we can figure out more of what the Father wants.

  4. John Snow on July 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I agreed with everything..except when you said Jesus is not the only way. John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. It’s very clear throughout the bible

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 22, 2019 at 6:04 pm

      Hey John, I totally agree that Jesus is the way. (As in the only way.) The exact quote from the article is: “I believe Jesus is not only the way, but that God’s way is the best way.”

      So sorry for any confusion.


      • Chelsea on February 8, 2020 at 1:43 pm

        Great article! I say this all the time to my brothers and sisters, we cant hold them to the same standards. The Holy spirit convicts not us so we need to let them work out their own salvation with fear and trembling if they so choose until that day let them see our light through our life style.

    • Sue on December 7, 2019 at 7:49 am

      Pleas reread I Article. He aid it only is Jesus the only way but Gods way is best

  5. Mercedes on June 22, 2019 at 12:13 pm


  6. Robert MacElderry on October 31, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Unfortunately, we now have to ask for clarification on what someone means by judging. If we are going to point to 1 Corinthians 5:12 we also need to read the verses before where Paul says “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people, I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the Covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.” Paul made a judgement that among people outside the church there are immoral people. Paul did not contradict himself but many have interpreted one verse as do not judge those outside the church. Just love them. The reason a simple subject gets so far off in the weeds is that people try to apply meanings to words or actions that are not defendable. Next Sunday stand out in the parking lot and take notice how many people lock their cars. Why? Because immoral people may try to steal things. And in my judgement, and probably theirs as well, it is wrong to steal. For me that was at least 100 judgements for the day.

    • a strong independent waman on April 29, 2020 at 10:34 pm

      good job rob you just mansplained to a very intelligent woman! way to summarize the article and show us your smart brain! shut up please we read the article 🙂

      • Robert on April 30, 2020 at 6:43 am

        Strong independent waman, my comment, and critique of judging, was directed to the dude named Carey who wrote the article. But as a very intelligent woman you already knew that. Now that we have the ad hominem attacks out of the way and since you interjected yourself into a comment that was not intended for you please share your thoughts regarding my comments on judging that were directly opposed to Carey’s.

  7. Ben on October 1, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    You can’t preach the gospel without preaching against sin. Jesus started His ministry by telling people to repent. Repent from what? Of course, sin. This article implies that we should not be telling people to repent, because then we’d have to tell them that they are sinning, and we can’t tell them that they are sinning because then we’re holding them to a moral standard that they don’t claim to follow. Sorry, but what you’re saying here is the antithesis of the gospel message.

    • Stephan on March 20, 2020 at 10:15 am

      Jesus did not preach to repent from sin. The word repent in its original context means to change one’s mind. Jesus preached to turn from believing in your works (self-righteousness) to trusting in His work at the cross as atoning sacrifice for the world. As He was asked to tell them, what works God requires of them, He said “to believe in the One He sent”. If we could turn from sin, why would Jesus had to suffer on the cross?

      However, it is right to make your sure the unbeliever recognizes He is a sinner in need of the Savior Jesus Christ. But repentance is not turning from sin.

  8. The First Excuse: Morality - The Conservative Spot on September 1, 2018 at 9:35 am

    […] of the church. There is an article from “Church Leaders” written by Carey Nieuwhof titled “Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians off the Moral Hook”. If you get time please read it as he lays out a convincing argument why Christians should refrain […]

  9. Jojo Ruba on August 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Just wondering what William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr and Corrie ten Boom would respond to your assertions that they were busybodies who shouldn’t have interfered with what non-believers of their day were doing. Slavery? Racism? The Holocaust? You Christians need to mind your own business and stop telling non-believers what to do!

    I’m so glad they wouldn’t have listened to your advice.

    • Sunny on May 12, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      Honestly must be shown what are you saying non christian practicing what first mr i need to clarify something after reading tis and scrolling through ushmm-jews in new testament dont get me wrong most of the things are found in christian than non christian so pliz read back.

    • Sylvia on May 27, 2019 at 9:37 am

      It’s not about minding our own business, but about minding our own business FIRST. I don’t think a single person has come to understand the work of Jesus on the cross by being told what they’re doing wrong. Jesus spoke about God’s love and compassion first, and then gave instructions on how to live *possibly to those who had cone to believe).
      Too many Christians want to find what’s wrong in the world without working on what’s wrong with themselves. The log in my own eye should keep me busy…I believe that this verse is saying when we’re perfect, then we can judge others.

      • Robert MacElderry on May 27, 2019 at 1:59 pm

        Sylvia, I think you are confused. “Too many Christians want to find what’s wrong in the world without working on what’s wrong with themselves.” is a judgement. Shortly after the “Do not judge” statement of Matthew 7:1 Jesus tells us in verse 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs” which requires making a judgement. From John MacArthur Study bible “Censorious, hypocritical, self-righteous , or other kings of unfair judgements are forbidden: but in order to fulfill the commandments that follow, it is necessary to discern dogs and swine from one’s own brethren.”

  10. Heather on August 8, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Unfortunately many people identify as Christians, but in reality many live lives that in no way resemble a life following Christ. Also many who call themselves Christians do not follow the Christ of the bible (God Himself Who came in the flesh).

  11. David Schreiner on April 19, 2018 at 11:05 am

    In other words, we CAN have the expectation that unbelievers should live according to God’s righteousness because God has placed within them the law of conscience. Now, we know that they are unable to keep this law, as even believers are incapable of keeping this law in their own strength. But we are all RESPONSIBLE for keeping this law, even unto perfection. That’s the point of the Gospel. Jesus did it for us. But knowing our responsibility to keep the law and our inability to do it is basic in understanding our need for a SAVIOR. I hope we haven’t forgotten that Jesus came primarily to save us from hell. Opening sinners’ eyes to sinfulness is NOT being judgmental.
    On the other hand, you’re right. I don’t expect any of us to be able to live up to a Godly standard outside of being connected to the Vine.
    God Bless

    • Amber J Unthank on September 21, 2020 at 1:56 am

      Love your article. I am a non-believer by the way. I have been married for 8 years and have 2 kids. Lived in “sin” before marriage but had no money for a wedding and parents were poor at the time. I don’t drink or do drugs and I have never broken the law. I am not scared about when I die. I worked in heath care for 20 years as a nurse and was also in the Navy. I am finishing my social work degree currently at a religious college. I am the only non-believer in my class but I am able to have conversations with others and not be upsetting to believers or rude. Just because I don’t believe doesn’t mean I want to change anyone else or make a person feel bad for having faith. My husband believes 100% but doesn’t conform to a church. He wants to find one that gives a more positive message instead of teaching fire and brimstone. Your article is great because it is not judgemental towards others which is why I am ultimately a non-believer. Great message about your beliefs. 👍🤗

  12. David Schreiner on April 19, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I disagree with one of your underlying principles. Romans 2, which is a screed against hypocrisy primarily, would seem to begin with an agreement to your point, namely “do not judge”. Though Paul is speaking here to those who have the law (Jews) and their attitudes towards those who don’t (Gentiles), you and I would probably agree that we could extrapolate that to apply to Christians and non-Christians. But Paul’s overall point here in the beginning of Romans is that ALL of us are responsible to God’s law, whether we have the written law like the Jews, or the law of conscience, like the Gentiles. All of us break God’s law which brings condemnation and, like it or not, damnation (gah! How dare he use such divisive language!). Jesus point was the same as Paul’s when He told us that “unless we repented we would all likewise perish”. Unbelievers eventually must come into confrontation with their own wickedness to be converted to Christ. There is a difference between being judgmental and bringing the light of truth into a dark place and revealing the sinfulness that already exists there. If we are not willing to be a part of that process, with grace and mercy as our guide, then we are not willing to be part of the Gospel.

  13. Jack Johnson on April 12, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Let me offer everyone a different perspective. I was raised christian, but now call myself an atheist. It was a transformation that took about 10 years.
    I came across this article on my Facebook feed and thought it would be interesting to check out.

    The one point I would disagree with is the “Praying for unchurched people.” Seriously. Please stop. There is absolutely nothing more morally judgemental / condescending than hearing someone say, “I’ll pray for you.”

    With that one phrase, you’ve passed a moral judgement on the ‘unchurched’, and told us directly that you disapprove of us and the way we are living / raising children, etc. Also, if you say “I’ll pray for you” in the context of difficult times, this is a signal to us that you care enough to empathize with our plight, but not enough to actually do anything objective or tangible.

    Please don’t do this.

    • Todd W. Zastrow on April 13, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      The point in question does not say anything about telling people that we’re praying for them. It simply says to pray for them.

      • Jack Johnson on April 14, 2017 at 10:05 am

        If you can keep it to yourself, go right ahead. I have no issue with people talking to themselves in their head. However, while the main purpose of prayer may be to help others, it never demonstrably does that. Prayers benefit only those believers who say or hear them. Prayer gives them comfort. It lets them think they have some control over a situation that may be out of their hands. It’s the last resort of people who have run out of ideas, and the first resort of people who never bothered to think about how they could actually fix the problem at hand.

        As a thought experiment, I’d like you to consider the usefulness of prayer. For the sake of argument, I’ll assume God exists, and that he is omniscient and omnipotent.

        Is prayer going to bring to God’s attention a need of which he was not previously aware? Is it going to convince him to do something he was not already going to do? Both of these are impossible with an omniscient deity. On the contrary, if God is all-knowing, he already knows everyone’s desires without needing to be told. Likewise, long before any believer ever begins praying for him to take a certain action, his infinite mind will have tabulated every possible reason for or against taking that action, judged the consequences of doing it versus not doing it and run down all the innumerable ramifications of each decision, and finally settled on the verdict that he knows will best achieve his goals. It seems arrogant to think that you would change his plan. A prayer for God to do something he was already going to do is unnecessary; a prayer for God to do something he was not already going to do is futile.

        • Todd W. Zastrow on April 14, 2017 at 10:39 am

          You and I disagree about the concept of prayer. And that’s fair. Why in the world would I expect you to give any credence to the fact that I choose to seek out the guidance of an entity in which you hold no belief?

          That being said, I’m not debating with you on your beliefs vs. mine. I’m simply saying that you argued against something that was never presented in the article.

          For what it’s worth, I agree with you. It can be very condescending to proclaim to someone who does not please that “I’m praying for you”.

        • Josh on June 30, 2019 at 4:30 pm

          You saying prayer isnt necessary isnt true… Yes, God already knows our needs before prayer. The bible says that. However, the bible also says The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16)…

        • Jennifer on February 1, 2020 at 10:13 pm

          Prayer is not only and always about changing what is physically going on. Many times prayer works inside of the spiritual realm which can lead and change the course of direction in ones perspective and can then be manifested in our physical visible realm. Just cuz you cant see a prayer being answered the way you expect, does not mean that God has not answered the prayer. And for you to say that prayer is unnecessary is wrong. Because ultimately what God wants for all of us is to return to Him, and to reach out to Him in prayer. By doing this it shows that we acknowledge He is God thus it makes Him happy. As a parent we want our children to acknowledge what we do for them and how much we love them, and when they do this, Loving parents reward their children with what they know is good for them. If this is so for the majority of parents, then what more then for our Creator. God created us in His own image and likeness, but the problem is that satan infected us with the disease of sin. You can choose not to believe it or accept it for what it is….which is Truth! But regardless of what your choice is, we are still living under the providential care of God. And to better understand what that is I would say to look up His sovereign (decretive) will, His revealed (preceptive) will, and His dispositional will. In the meantime, I will pray for you, and for me as well, because that is the best I can do in this situation. 🙏

    • Heather on August 8, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Please don’t see prayer as a way of a believer passing moral judgment. I pray for my believing friends as much as my non-believing friends. It has nothing to do with judgment. It has everything to do with seeking God for the needs of all that I love.

    • Cathy on January 13, 2019 at 4:57 pm

      Hi Jack.
      Really appreciated your answer and comment

      Was wondering if it made a difference if people offered tangible help… A comforting word and hug, a warm smile, a rub on the back or even ASK “Can I pray for you, because I know when I do not have answers I find He can do what I cannot?”

      What do you find the most powerful ? Or authentic? I am struck daily by people’s battles and just want to love them…. With authentic love not a platitude …love your input on this


    • Robert on July 20, 2019 at 5:58 am

      Your disapproval of people praying for you is judgemental. Matthew 7:1 has become so twisted that we make judgements telling people to not judge us.
      I find it rather humourous.

  14. Michelle Thomas on September 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    I love this post. I will be re-blogging this.

  15. Uber Genie on July 8, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Amazing! An Evangelical who has actually read 1 Cor 5:12,13!

    My Jerry Falwell Liberty edition of the New Testament actually has these last verses deleted!

    Great message. My favorite phrase, when I’m out with non-Christian friends and they let slip out their latest escapades and then turn to me and say, “Oh I hope what I just shared was not offensive,” I reply, ” I don’t have a dog in that hunt!” It is a curious enough response to get them to ask what I mean and then I tell them something similar to your post.

    If there is one PR message that could flip around the strawman representations of Christians in Western culture, it is this message!

  16. Richard Williams on June 14, 2016 at 10:09 am

    I think we are not meant to “judge” people in terms of punishing them for doing wrong and we are not meant to expect people not to sin, however how are we to communicate with people that they are in sin and need a Saviour without talking about it? And how are we to stand against injustice without talking about sin?

  17. Bill on May 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Carey while I agree with your main point that we should not expect non-Christians to behave as Christians, I have a concern with what you wrote. You said “Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian” which is not true. In Canada 67% identify as Christian, in America 83% identify as Christian and in Europe 72% identify as Christian. That is most of the “western World” All these stats are from reputable sources. We as Christian have a bad habit of thinking we are the underdog and our values are threatened by the rise of other faiths and by the gradual secularisation of society. We are not we are still the dominant faith in the west even over disbelief. To say otherwise is rather duplicitous. Seeking to look like the beset upon which we are far from.

    • Heather on August 8, 2018 at 9:15 pm

      Unfortunately many people identify as Christians, but in reality many live lives that in no way resemble a life following Christ. Also many who call themselves Christians do not follow the Christ of the bible (God Himself Who came in the flesh).

    • Aaron Clausen on June 28, 2020 at 10:26 am

      The fiction that Christianity is under attack is necessary to keep churches cohesive. Christianity has been dominant in the West since Theodosius the Great closed the pagan temples. Since then, at least in the West. Christianity has been undisputed master of faith, and evangelism has by and large become an incestuous feeding frenzy between various churches.

  18. Jay Jones on May 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    I agree with everything in your article, however I believe there’s a slice of this discussion not being entertained… that is the role of Christians in society in general.

    We are not “of” this world, but we are “in” it. While we mustn’t take to the Internets [sic] to defame the ungodly for their ungodliness, we do need to work to craft a better society for Christians to live in, and one that doesn’t further promote ungodliness as a norm. Three Hebrew youth took a moral stand for righteousness in an act of civil disobedience, and it wasn’t wrong.

    And remember also that the morals we stand for aren’t just “Christian” morals, but morals that society used to embrace… regardless of whether they knew they came from God or not. So, to draw attention to morality can be a productive thing, if it’s done with grace.

    My concern with this one, (well-articulated) side of the discussion is that we would oversteer to the side of complacency in our effort to not appear “judgmental”. We can try so hard not to be offensive to the world that we lose our saltiness and our light. For all of our efforts to not offend, darkness will always take offense.

  19. patrick wagner on May 14, 2016 at 4:26 am

    “The central teaching of Jesus on love of enemies, forgiveness and care for those at the bottom was supposed to make scapegoating virtually impossible and unthinkable. Scapegoating depends upon a rather sophisticated, but easily learned ability to compartmentalize, to separate, to divide the world into the pure and the impure. Anthropologically all religion begins with the creation of the “impure” and very soon an entire moral system of tabos, punishments, fears, guilt’s and even a priesthood to enforce it emerges… We rather easily displace our fears onto other people, other issues, other places and other times. Anything seems better to us than bearing the burden of “me-fear-here-now-myself”. The most effective and common way to turn social hatred into social harmony is via a scapegoat. It works so well, it gathers the community so quickly, that is has perdured through most of human history.It gives us a sense of order, control and superiority, which is exactly what the ego wants and the small-self demands. “[Richard Rohr]

  20. 6-String Salvo, May 13, 2016 – Mike Lee on May 13, 2016 at 4:33 am

    […] 2. Thought there were some good reminders from Carey Nieuwhof about why Christians should let non-Christians off the moral hook. […]

  21. […] leaders. I actually lost this article from my site two years ago in a site redesign along with another one I just re-published. Fortunately, had also featured it and it’s great to be able to re-run it on […]

  22. Mark Moore on May 12, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Sounds like this guy has actually talked to atheists instead of writing a screed off the top of his head. Kudos.

    One thing he misses though is that the deplorable morals of Christianity is the reason most people leave Christianity. Jesus plans to torture billions of people for practicing freedom of religion. How much more immoral can you get?

    Most atheists I know left Christianity when they read the Bible and were appalled at God’s immorality – murder, slavery, misogyny, torture, child rape, child murder, genital mutilation.

    Pastor, I think you are on the road but you have a way to go. Take a good look at your God’s behavior. Don’t just read the love parts. Don’t apologize away the parts you don’t like. Imagine you knew someone who acted just like God acts. Imagine he lives down the street. Would you want him around your kids? Remember the 42 children killed by bears? Remember the virgin girls given to the army after the genocide of their town?

    You are on the road, just keep going.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Mark…great to hear from you and thanks for the engagement. I agree with you that the scripture is multifaceted and for sure, a 1000 word blog post doesn’t deal with every issue. I recently did a 7 part series on some of the toughest critiques of Christianity and scripture. I think Part 4 on Why God Kills Innocent Children In the Old Testament is bang on to what you’re pointing out if you are at all interested in listening. Here’s the link: Mark, there are no easy answers for sure. But I appreciate the dialogue and do confess that in my life the reasons for belief have outweighed the reasons for not believing. Although there are clearly good reasons (as you point out) for not believing. Thanks.

      • Richard Williams on June 14, 2016 at 10:13 am

        There are no good reasons for not believing, what are you talking about? Certainly there is ignorance about why things are as they are. That is what you should be dealing with. At least the link you posted attempts to deal with that, but perhaps there is more for you to look into yourself. The context of Scripture deals with these issues, although people are often blinded to it.

  23. Todd W. Zastrow on May 12, 2016 at 10:42 am

    This is excellent.

  24. Paul Gillam on May 11, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    I’m leading an ongoing discussion with some congregation members on being a witness, with one aspect being the importance of relationships. I’m going to point people to this post. It will be very helpful. Especially the quote, “if the church loved the world like Jesus did, maybe the world would come running to Christ.” The great thing is that they get it and are discovering ways to show that love in practical ways. Exciting. Thanks for the post.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks Paul. That quote haunts me. I want to live that way.

    • donjonesmd on May 16, 2016 at 8:04 am

      I think we once again stand in danger of pushing the pendulum too far in either direction. On the one hand, we can be obnoxious followers of Jesus who drive people away by our rhetoric. On the other hand, we do see many who left Jesus when he talked about what it meant to be a true follower of Jesus and the cost. For example in John 6 because of Jesus’ teaching we read “as a result many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him any more” (John 6:66). I’m trying to think through the ministry of Jesus and find illustrations of those “who came running to Jesus.” I find Jesus pursuing individuals – woman at the well, Matthew the tax collector, Zacchaeus, etc. There were those did like to hear his teaching/preaching and sought him out to be healed and for free food, etc. But I find many leaving him when they were called to be a disciple. I could certainly be missing something (it’s a Monday morning), but who do we find “come running to Christ?” Not trying to be difficult. I hear this a lot. So interested in the discussion. Thanks. (I do know the story of the Prodigal Son/s, but looking for actual illustrations in the life of Jesus).

  25. Robin Jordan on May 11, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    In the 1960s California psychiatrist Eric Berne published Games People Play, in which identified a number of psychological games that people play and pastimes in which they engage. One of these psychological games and pastimes is “Aint It Awful.” Aint awful about young people these days….” and so on. Aint It Awful is a psychological game and pastime to which Christians for various reasons are drawn. People play psychological games and engage in pastimes because they provide psychological advantages and benefits, including reinforcing a particular view of the world. For many Christians Aint It Awful reinforces the view that the world is a bad place filled with bad people and therefore I should avoid involvement with the world as much as possible, including interaction with the people in it. It enables Christian to avoid the anxiety associated with interacting with people different from themselves. It maintains a distance between Christians and people different from themselves, provided justification in their minds for not interacting with each other, and keeps the psychological game and pastime of Aint It Awful going. Non-Christians also play or engage in Aint It Awful. “Aint It Awful how judgmental Christians are…” “Who would want to become a Christian” and so on. If Christians are serious about the Great Commission, they need to stop playing psychological games and engaging in pastimes like Aint It Awful. This includes “Aint it awful about Christians who don’t take the Great Commission seriously…..” If Christians change their attitude toward non-Christians, they may in turn influence a change in the attitude of non-Christians about them, at least in the attitude of non-Christians who are not invested in a hard-core game of Aint It Awful about Christians.

  26. Daniel Walker on May 11, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Thanks Carey. I’m actually planning to preach on the role of judgment in Scripture and in the life of believers. You articulate so well what has been churning in my heart. Very thankful for you and this timely post.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 12, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      So glad to hear that Daniel. Go church! Thanks for tackling a touchy subject.

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