Friday, September 07, 2007

Judge By True Standards

Someone recently told me, "judge not lest ye be judged."

Truly, we Christians are commanded not to judge others, but is this commandment so black and white? While it is true that Matthew 7:1 states, ""Do not judge, or you too will be judged," immediately after that Matthew 7:2 says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Therefore we see that Christ does not merely tell us to not judge. He feels the need to clarify what this means. We are not to judge hypocritically because whatever judgment we proclaim on others, it will be applied to us as well.

Having said this, the question must be asked, "what if the judgment is just?" If the one who is judging is himself/herself innocent of the offence he is judging others on, then when the judgement is applied to him/her, will he not be found innocent? This is something to truly ponder about. Is Jesus really saying to us never to raise a judgement against anyone or is He telling us to be careful how we judge as not to be hypocrites?

Let us think of it another way; If no one ever judges the actions of another, how can an administration run efficiently? Organizations are based on a hierarchy; a system which sets certain people above others to judge their actions and lead them to right behaviour for the good of all. If this type of judgement did not exist, there would be chaos. If the Holy fathers of the church did not justly judge the heretics, where would we be today?

I think that it is too simple to say "do not judge" without qualifying what we mean by it. Too often we, in the church, use this quote as a scapegoat to avoid the real difficult questions of correcting our brother. 2 Timothy 4:2 states, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." We have the obligation to judge with righteousness those who attack the body of Christ. Truly, we must judge the sin and not the sinner, and always with love, however there must be checks and balances in the system.

In today's day and age we tend to confuse forgiveness and compassion with righteous judgement. For example, a clergy member may commit an act that, according to the canons of the church, expels him from the priesthood. However, in many cases, and this happens in many different religions, such individuals are allowed to remain as clergy under the guise that "the Church is forgiving." I think that one has nothing to do with the other. It is possible to love and forgive someone, while at the same time allowing them to face the consequences of their actions. Indeed, true love should insist on facing the consequences of one's actions and learning from them. Since when did the canons of the church state that if we forgive you, you get to stay in the priesthood? Never. One was always deposed for serious offences, but still remained a member of the church.

The protection of the laity from those who are incapable of leading them, should be the primary task of the administration. One can love and forgive someone, but at the same time demand that they are expelled from a position in which they continually hurt their congregation. Nice feelings and sentimentality should not get in the way of the proper order of the church or society. Compassion and forgiveness come in many different forms and it could be that we do more damage allowing our brethren to "get away" with certain offences just because we do not want to hurt their feelings. Let us not delude ourselves. Spiritually, we cripple them, the community, and the church.

Back to judgement...It seems that besides not holding others accountable, we tend not to hold ourselves accountable either. We always like to rationalize our faults and usually end up patting ourselves on the back for our "much greater" accomplishments that far outweigh our faults. This occurs because their is no one to correct or rebuke us either. And so the circle keeps on going and the community keeps on deluding itself.

Every once in a while there comes a person who is not afraid to speak out against corruption, injustice, and other forms of evil within society or even the church. Such individuals, because of their pure intentions and usual lack of tact, are usually mocked and laughed at by the majority. However, regardless of the method of delivery, what they are actually saying is true. It is we, as a society, who tend to focus on ridiculing the delivery and the way it is said because we cannot bear to listen to the content itself. Yet, it is the content that is important. If the content is just, then let us accept our brother's rebuke as a righteous judgement because God works through such people. If it is hypocritical judgement, let us ignore it and forgive our brother of his arrogance. Either way, let us not be black and white in our opinions. Let us see, and judge, things are they truly are and let us not be afraid to speak the truth. Jesus wasn't.

I will leave you with a quote from an author who I greatly respect; M. Scott Peck, M.D. Here he is speaking about the courage to "rock the boat" and be different than the rest of society; the ability to speak one's mind:
"Indeed, it takes great courage to be different, to dare to be oneself [Christian]. If we choose to think for ourselves, we must be braced for the backlash. We risk being seen as eccentrics or malcontents. We may be presumed to be on the fringes of mainstream society, regarded as different and abnormal in the worst sense of the word."

Are we prepared to be go "against the tide" even when it means disagreeing with others and proclaiming "judgements" that are perceived as arrogance instead of wisdom? It is a difficult question. The difficulty of the answer depends on the individual.


Roland said...


Another thing to think about is on who's authority we judge. For example, are we judging because we are better, or because Christ is better? For example, I have, in my life, been drunk before. But can I still correct my brother? Yes, I think so. But I do not correct them because I am better, or want to feel better, etc. i correct them because they will be judged against Christ, not me. If we use that standard of judgement, then it allows us to judge both others and ourselves without being pompous or puffed up. After all, Christians don't preach Christians and our righteousness. Rather, we preach Christ and his righteousness.

Roland said...

I also think "judge" has to be taken in a divine context. It isn't just about reproofing and correting. I don't think that correcting and pointing out faults to work on is exactly what Christ means by judging. I think it has to do with presuming to know the status of someone's soul before God. In other words, the sin of judgement is when we try to take God's place as that person's soul judge.

Dn. Theodore Paraskevopoulos said...

very true Ray. Thanks for the thoughts