Posted on Fri, Aug 02, 2013 at 01:29 p.m. (EST) & 10:59 a.m. (IST),  AUG 2013 Edition

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“Pondering Pope Francis' Formulation: 'Who Am I to Judge Gay People!

Ramesh C. Reddy

Pope Francis said, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them [gay people]?”

Before the Evangelical community is quick to respond negatively to Pope Francis’ statements, we need to try to understand what he really meant by   ‘who am I to judge them [gay people]?’

Pastor Hugo Cheng of Oakland International Fellowship reminded me that ‘to judge’ can have different meanings so I set out to ponder the meaning of ‘to judge’. Since, I cannot speak with Pope Francis before writing this column I can only hypothesize what he meant by, ‘who am I to judge them [gay people]?’, and come to my own conclusion whether his statement is biblically sound or not.

If he meant ‘it is not my role to condemn them but love them as Jesus loves us sinners and tell them ‘Go and sin no more’, then he is absolutely right in his question of ‘Who am I to judge them [gay people]?’

If anything, he will be following Jesus’ teaching in John 8 regarding Jesus’ interaction with the people around the temple courts, the teachers of the law, the Pharisees, and the adulterous woman.

When the teachers of the law and Pharisees were shaming and condemning the woman for her sin of adultery in front of all the people wanting her to be stoned, Jesus was not at all happy with their actions. So, he made a profound declarative statement in front of everybody by stating, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. (John 8:7b)

It is interesting that Jesus gave that order because by giving that order, He was actually judging the woman’s sin without condemning her.

An act of adultery is sin because the Ten Commandments say, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) However, Jesus also knows that the people, the teachers of the law, and Pharisees are not sinless either:  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Jesus did not want the woman to be shamed and condemned like they were doing to her because Jesus is not about condemnation but about conviction of the heart. The condemnation type of judging is never acceptable to Jesus. Hence, He even says, ‘Judge [condemn] not, and you will not be judged [condemned]’ (Matthew 7:1)

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”(John 8:10-12)

In John 8:11, it is very interesting that Jesus did not just leave the woman with the words, ‘Then neither do I condemn you’! If Jesus had ended the statement there, then he would have been supporting her sin indirectly by not speaking out against it but Jesus spoke out against her sin lovingly by calling sin for what it is: sin. Again, it must be emphasized that Jesus was about convicting peoples’ hearts of their sin but not making them feel condemned for their sin. This is evident by, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” This type of judging by Jesus was a restorative process instead of a condemnation process.

In the same way, if  that was Pope Francis’ motive in saying ‘Who am I to judge them [gay people]?, because Pope Francis wanted to imitate Jesus’ actions, by not condemning gay people for their sin but convicting gay people of their sin so they can leave that lifestyle, he should be applauded.

However, if he meant, ‘If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, it is not my place to judge [speak out against the act of homosexuality of ] gay people’, it is very, very troubling for different reasons.

 As the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who look up to the teaching of Pope Francis because they believe he speaks the message of God to them, he will be leading them astray from the teachings of Scripture especially those who do not read the Bible themselves but take Pope Francis’ word as coming from the Word of God. There is an utter danger here if Catholics who follow his teachings all of a sudden think, ‘Oh, our Pope says it’s not his place to judge gay people so we too must accept them as they are in their sin without expecting change!’. This is not the way of the Lord Jesus and His Word.


Scripture is very strict about sexual sin:  "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) This is not just limited to the sin of homosexuality but all sexual sin.


For those of you that think this passage is only for those who are not married and engaging in sexual sin, think again because there are other passages that explicitly speak out against the act of homosexuality where there is no repentance involved. Remember Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery but Jesus also did not support her actions. Instead, He told her to go leave your life of sin.

We are all asked to do that and Pope Francis should not shy away from Romans 1 regarding his clergy who may have sinned sexually or Catholics he knows that have sinned sexually when it relates to homosexuality. The practice of homosexuality is very serious in God's eyes.


 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired.      As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women   turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other.  And the men instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned  with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a  result of this sin they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.” (Romans 1:24-28, NLT)

Scripture judges us on how we live our lives.


"For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12-13, NIV)


We can choose to change with the Lord's help or  continue in what we are doing ignoring the Word of God. The choice we make will determine who we are serving.

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!" (Joshua 24:15-16, NIV)            

Anything or anyone we give more allegiance to than the Lord whether it is a person, object, or sin becomes an idol in our lives that we exchange horribly in place of the Lord. That is a terrible place to be in. No matter how many times a person sins and his/her sin is brought before him/her, if the person  confesses and  repents of their sin, their is forgiveness available. 


"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are --yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV)


The danger occurs when we convince ourselves what we are doing is not wrong and deliberately sin. This is what the majority of the homosexual community has done.  They don't believe what they are doing is sin and if anyone calls it sin, then they are being judgmental and homophobic. That's not true from the analysis above.


"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of  raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26, NIV)


Here it is talking about what happens when we live our lives however we want to without having an attitude of confession and repentance when we have done wrong. Let us call sin what it is sin remembering our High priest is there to forgive us when we mess up.


"If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:6-10, NIV)


Catholics or anyone should not get the thought that if they speak out against sin, they are being judgmental in a condescending, condemning way. Speaking out against sin is not the type of judging Jesus spoke about as evidenced by the analysis above. Also, Jesus never spoke out against speaking out for right.


“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? (Luke 12:57)


But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)


So, if Pope Francis knows of those who have accepted the Lord but are practicing their act of homosexuality, it is his duty to judge those inside the church. If someone says they are a Christian but decide to live their life against the teachings of the Bible, Pope Francis has every right to judge them in the 'speaking out against the sin and loving the sinner way.'  If he does not want to do that that is troubling.


Judges, prophets, apostles, and most of all Jesus spoke out against sin to the point that many felt His teaching was hard to follow and left. This did not stop Jesus from speaking out. Mostly the prophets and apostles were ridiculed, threatened, and even some killed because they spoke out against sin or judged sin of the people giving them the Word of God regarding sin. The ridicule or threats did not stop them from giving the truth in love.


We too should do the same. Especially, Pope Francis should speak out against sin in mercy and grace instead of being silent whether it is the sin of homosexuality, abortion, adultery, euthanasia, etc, because he is seen as a spiritual leader who espouses to believe in the Bible as the Word of God


Let us not think that we sin when we judge according to Scripture as long as our judging is not in a condemning, condescending way but in a right way. You should never ever let the media or others make you feel like you are being judgmental when you speak out against what is sin. This is not just in the case of homosexuality but all kinds of sin. We should speak out against it when we know it is happening but also love the sinner even if they don’t feel loved.

My hope is when Pope Francis said, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them [gay people]?” he meant it as the first hypothetical scenario which should be applauded instead of the second scenario which is troubling.

Ramesh C. Reddy can be reached at and will publish all letters to the editor in due time!

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