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Every month I answer questions about music and media in a magazine column read (mostly) by churched teens. When I suggested that a concert featuring an openly gay band spewing pro-homosexual lyrics from stage wasn't exactly appropriate entertainment, I didn't figure it would generate much controversy. I was wrong.

Amid a flurry of PC buzzwords, a reader named Becky scolded, "There is nothing wrong with opening with a gay band. It's great that they are open about their sexual preference. Being gay does not make them different in a bad way, or bad people. Maybe we need more gay bands to be open so then there won't be as much homophobia. I think we need to keep an open mind and respect others' preferences and style and even learn a little from them."

A girl named Vickey stated, "I am really upset about your comment on homosexuality. You make it sound like it's a horrible thing. I thought that if you believed in Christ, you were supposed to love your neighbor and not judge people." Yet another parroted, "I think you should remember the verse about not judging others."

Students of scripture realize that the same Jesus who said "Do not judge or you too will be judged" (Matt. 7:1) also commanded, "Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment" (John 7:24). In order to make a "right judgment," believers must judge. The reason this can seem confusing is that there are two meanings of judge. One means to condemn, the other means to evaluate.

While we are forbidden to condemn someone in a big-picture sense (that's God's job alone), we are required to evaluate. Without "judging" in this context, we'd be unable to discern the difference between the atrocities committed by Adolph Hitler and the humanitarian efforts of Mother Teresa. The medical ethics of Jonas Salk or those of Jack Kevorkian. But somehow, teens have gotten the idea that loving people means never evaluating or criticizing their actions, whether the offense is some form of sexual sin, plagiarizing a term paper, petty thievery or lying to avoid consequences.

Speaking the truth in love—now that's real love. It's how Christ dealt with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). He forgave her and told her to leave her life of sin. He didn't say, "I'm okay. You're okay. It's just an alternate lifestyle." But many teens ignore God's desire for us to lovingly confront sin. They instead pride themselves on being "open-minded," "tolerant" and "respectful" of immorality. This raises the question, How long will it take some youngsters to go from respecting sin to experimenting with it?

"Tolerance" and "love" are two very different things, a truth young people must grasp. We're called to love all men in the name of Jesus, not ignore immorality in the name of diversity. Sin is a big deal to God. So much so that He allowed Jesus to die on a cruel Roman cross to rescue us from its grip. Glossing over evil—whether our own behavior or something the entertainment media has produced—is to say in essence, "What you did is really of little value to me. God, my view of sin is different from yours, and frankly I'm not that disturbed by it." Though it is of utmost importance that young people learn to reach out in love to everyone, it is equally vital that they not take an apathetic, tolerant approach to sin of any kind.

Published January 1996