Mondays are usually for letters from students.  Some are philosophical or theological; others, like this one, more practical.


Since coming to my Christian college, I've become much more serious about actually living my life for Jesus and to reflect Jesus.  My problem is that my college friends don't seem to be doing that.  I know we all sin, but it seems like they are missing the point of knowing Christ.  Salvation shouldn't be a "license to sin"!

These friends are spiritual leaders on campus -- chapel planning committee members, for example -- but they use foul language when angry, say horrible things about people they don't like, watch filthy television shows, and don't practice purity in their relationships.

What I am asking is how to handle myself around them.  I'm trying to be an example, but they pass it off by saying that I've been "sheltered.”  I'm afraid that if I talk to them about what I think, they'll think I'm saying I am a better Christian than they are, and that, of course, isn't true.  Am I being too judgmental? 


Are you too judgmental?  Interesting question.  Let me challenge the way you frame it.  Asking whether you are too judgmental implies that there is such a thing as a right amount of judgment -- neither too much nor too little, but just right.  I would put it differently.  There isn't a right amount of judgment, but there is a right kind of judgment.  So a better question for you is:  Are you I practicing the right kind or the wrong kind?

Actually there are several wrong kinds.  One wrong kind takes the attitude, "You're a sinner, but I'm not.”  We all have sinful tendencies.  I don't agree with you that everyone is equally afflicted by sinful tendencies, but it's certainly a bad idea to dwell on where we stand in the rankings.  Another wrong kind of judgment takes the attitude, "You're beyond repentance and you're going to hell.”  Our gaze can't penetrate deeply enough into the heart to know things like that.  I suppose many pious people would have said that Mary Magdalene was beyond repentance and going to hell, but her change of life was profound.

Scripture roundly condemns the wrong kinds of judgment.  On the other hand, there are several right kinds too.  We ought to be able to discern that certain lines of thinking are erroneous, and we ought to be able to discern that certain lines of conduct are sinful.  Otherwise, how could we direct our lives along the right path?  Similarly, we ought to be see the danger when people we know fall into these sins or these errors -- danger not only for them, but even, sometimes, for us or for others.

If you're practicing only the right kinds of judgment, and if you're practicing it not with self-righteousness but with a genuine desire for your friends' own good, and if you're not being catty, gossipy, or priggish, then you're not being judgmental in the bad sense.

Now let me suggest some other questions for you to think about.  Here's one:  Have you chosen good companions?  Frankly, the ones you have sound pretty tedious.

Another important question:  Have you been acting "holier than thou"?  I'm not saying that you are -- I'm only saying that you should make sure you're not.  For example, if your friends are be annoyed with you simply because you don't use filthy language, it's not your fault.  But if they're annoyed with you because you make snide remarks about the fact that they do, it is your fault.  Be sure you stay on the right side of the line.

Last.  I don't know exactly what you mean when you say that your friends don't practice purity in their relationships.  Do you mean that they've been sleeping with each other?  And do you know this for sure?  If you know it, then probably everyone on campus knows about it.  Considering that your friends are considered Christian leaders, their acts are not only grave sin but grave scandal -- not just in the modern sense of the term, "something that causes a fuss,” but in the ancient sense, "something that causes others to stumble.”  What this means is that you have something else to do besides being a good example.  It's dealing with their bad example.

For that reason, even if no other, I do think you should speak with your friends.  Explain to them "Look, this isn't only bad, it's harming others.”  Don't do it in public, don't talk with all of them at once, and don't get drawn into argument; speak with each one briefly, calmly, privately, as friend to friend, in love.  If they don't listen, take another friend with you and try again.  If they still don't listen, ask the minister of your college chapel for a confidential appointment, and explain the situation to him.  Leave it in his hands.  Then -- except for your prayer time -- put it out of your mind.

Be at peace.  It's okay.  That wouldn't be priggish, catty, gossipy, or "holier than thou.”  It would be loving and responsible.