Saturday, January 16, 2010


My dear friend Fran generated a discussion on Facebook this morning about judging, the problem of judging. On that topic, there is no more misused and abused passage of Scripture than Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that you be not judged." Of course this is clipping, or proof-texting. In other words, it is an illegitimate and unreasonable way to apply Scripture. Let's look for some context: "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:2-5).

It is an indisputable article of Christian faith that you will be judged. Each Sunday and on solemnities we recite the Credo and say: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead..." Judging, one respondent wrote, is a condition of life; we have to judge. He is correct that judging is not the problem because it is an inevitability. So, what is the problem? We must concern ourselves with the criteria by which we judge. We must judge with compassion, with empathy, with sympathy. More importantly, we must judge according to the truth and in accord with all the factors that consitute reality (i.e., the world as it is and not as we wish it to be). It is right and good that we take comfort in scriptural reassurances, like "[a]bove all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). I don't know about you, but I am kind of counting on that! I have my heavenly defense all planned out: I am going to fall prostrate, as I do before the altar, along with my bishop, fellow deacons, and priests each Good Friday at the beginning of that moving celebration, and throw myself on the mercy of the court.

We have all heard and read the slogan- Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is certainly a defensible stance, but it should not be a defensive stance. I can judge an action as wrong without condemning the person who acts. Look at the case of Pat Robertson's pronouncement on why Haiti had an earthquake. It is an inaccurate and foolish. I don't believe it for one moment. That is a judgment I feel perfectly justified in making. I also think Rush Limbaugh's overly poiltical response utterly lacking in humanity, both for Pres. Obama and the people of Haiti. When Bill O'Reilly is raking you over the coals, as he did these guys last night, for a lack of compassion, you're in trouble!

Another friend, earlier in the week wrote that he was "convinced that if Jesus were to meet Pat Robertson, he would slap him upside the head." I am convinced of no such thing. I am convinced that if Jesus were to meet Pat Robertson, or Rush Limbaugh, He would look on them both with great compassion. Like me, every hair on their heads is numbered and they are both loved just as I am loved.

As Christians we are not called to live in the realm of abstraction, which results in a lot of useless hand-wringing. Asserting that we ought never to make judgments is pointless. Let's show this without getting too deeply into logic (reading a lot of W and David Stove these days): To call me judgmental is to judge. Conversely, to decide not to judge is also a judgment. In the words of that great Rush song, Freewill, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."


  1. I am sitting here dumbstruck after reading this. That this came after that Facebook discussion... wow.

    You say so many important things here, I do not even know where to begin.

    I will say that this struck me in a particular way: "As Christians we are not called to live in the realm of abstraction, which results in a lot of useless hand-wringing."

    How true is that. I spent a lot of time there, sometimes I still do. The words of the Rush song are so right.

    The other thing on my heart is a judgment that I leveled earlier today, I must go reconcile.

    God bless you Scott. Thank you.

  2. Dear Scott:
    Thank you for this important reminder that judgement belongs to Christ. Like you, I disagree with Rev. Pat Robertson's comments but I believe they arise from increasing senility. Whatever prompted them, it is the Lord's domain. I can only strive to be merciful and compassionate in my life as Jesus was in his. Surrendering ourselves to his love and care means daily striving to turn every area of our lives over to him, including the human tendancy to judge.
    God bless you Scott for encouraging us to align ourselve, with His love and care.
    In Christ,
    Deacon Greg Kirk

  3. Dear Greg:

    Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. However, lest what I posted be reduced to something banal it is important to point out that precisely because we follow Christ we must judge, just as it is an inevitability that we will be judged. Hence, I do not suggest leaving judgment to Christ. As I wrote, what is important when I judge, which is an inevitably of my life, is the manner in which I judge and the criteria by which I judge.



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