Friday, February 22, 2013

Judge Not Lest You Be Judged

If I had a dime for every time that some atheist, agnostic, or "I'm spiritual, not religious" person quoted this brief text from the Bible completely out of context, believe me I would be a very wealthy woman. It has become the anthem of anyone who doesn't want to be corrected, the single pull quote used over and over again to try and justify the doctrine of "tolerance" and excuse anyone who doesn't want to have to do the very difficult work involved in parsing out what is right and what is wrong. Since it comes from the Bible, a Bible that these same people scorn and reject I might add and have never read in any depth at all, and carries the weight of the authority of Jesus Christ himself, they view it as their trump card against Christianity - their way of trying to shut up those who might suggest that there are behaviors that are good and behaviors that are evil.

Yet this is a very immature and overly simplistic understanding of what that statement meant and what Christ meant by avoiding judgment.  Christ clearly did NOT mean that we should never judge behavior. In fact, in Matthew chapter 18, Christ provides detailed instructions on how it should be handled when we see someone do something that is evil.  We are to first confront that person privately, then bring a witness with us if he will not listen to us.  Then, we are to bring it to the Church and if he will not listen to even the Church, then we are to treat him as we would one who is completely outside of the Church - a nonbeliever.

For those of you who disagree with me because you prefer to continue using this passage incorrectly - you just judged my work as being wrong. You have just made a judgment. You have just violated your own principle by deciding that something I did was wrong, thereby establishing that there must be an action which is wrong and one which is right. Ponder that for a bit, and ask yourself by what authority do YOU make judgments? By your own? If so, you have no right to tell me what to do since you are not an authority over me and my own authority is equal to your own. By God's? You must first believe in Him and know Him to claim His authority as your own.

It is the duty and the obligation of a moral people to determine the difference between what is good and what is evil. To ignore this duty, to pretend that evil and good don't exist or that they can't be known, is to permit evil to flourish and eventually to allow the total destruction of society.  Judge not lest ye be judged does not mean that we are to sit back and permit everyone to do whatever he or she pleases. It does not mean we should not have laws, or judges, or penalties for breaking the law. That would be anarchy, which gives rise eventually to tyranny.

Judge not lest ye be judged means that though we may and ought to judge a person's behavior as being good or evil, we are not to judge them personally.  We do not fully understand their motives, nor see into their heart. We have no right to say this person is evil nor do we have a right to say this person is going to hell.  God will judge that, because he does know their motives, their hearts, and their history.  He will take all of that into account on the final judgment day and pass a just sentence for each person based on His knowledge. It may be that some of the worst criminals imaginable wind up in heaven because of their circumstances, and we should rejoice at the mercy God shows them for nobody needs more people in hell.

It isn't arrogance to make value judgments about behavior. It isn't arrogance to say that this is good and that evil. I do not speak on my own authority at any rate. I speak on these matters by the authority given me by Jesus Christ as handed to me by the Catholic Church, the appointed guardian of the faith. It is Christ who has given me the instruction to speak the truth, even when it is not welcomed. It is Christ who has told me that I must correct my brother when he errs, and pray for him when he does me harm. It is Christ who has said that good and evil exist in this world and it is my duty to learn to distinguish between the two and teach others to do likewise.


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