Take 2: freedom from judgment

I would like to share and kick around some ideas that I’ve had regarding judgment.

First I tried to do it from the wrong perspective, and I failed miserably to share anything – instead, it turned into a debate about literal meaning of Jesus’ words and then went south from there.

First, I’m asking that we not debate this at all. I’m not asking if my thoughts are right in any absolute sense. Asking questions, asking for clarification is fine, but the challenge is that we keep this above concern over literal meanings.

By eliminating debate over literal meaning, I’m hoping we can learn things that come to us from deeper senses of the Gospel.

First, I’ll try to light the fire:

[quote=Matt 7:1-2] “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

[/quote]

[quote=Luke 6:37]“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

[/quote]

Clearly, God is telling us something about judgment. It is hard to hear, though, because in other passages we read, it appears we are given situations in which we are supposed to judge. So in terms of “do I judge or not” and “under what circumstances” that is not the issue here; that is for another discussion somewhere else. I’m saying “what if” you thought about what this could mean?

So whether we are allowed to or even required to judge, is not germane to this discussion. What I want to know is this: let’s explore the possibilities that not judging, even if taken to the extreme (against our own sensibilities) and see what we can get from that.

I ask you to reflect on each of the passages above, without necessarily trying to figure them out – sort of an Internet version of Lectio Divina. What sort of message does this convey to you, beyond “do not judge?” Do you feel any call to action after reading them? Points to reconsider? In other words, how do these strike you beyond the literal meaning? What if we could be absolutely free from any responsibility to judge – what would that be like?

Here are some thoughts I had. Your thoughts will undoubtedly differ. It is through comparing and contrasting our thoughts that we may have a much deeper view of what is going on here.

First, it occurred to me that judging goes far beyond judging other people. If we judge one part of God’s creation, then we have assumed position of judge over it all. For example, if some particular circumstances happen, what makes it a “bad” day other than your own judgment of it? So it rains, you may say, “I have to change my plans,” or if your car breaks down you may say, “I guess I’m not getting to the meeting on time.” Does that mean it’s a bad day, or a bad moment, or a bad week? In this sense, “bad” is entirely subjective. Say it’s a bad day, and it is – you have defined it as bad.

We say it’s bad because it shows us how limited we are in controlling our environment. We grieve the loss of our ability to follow the plans we have laid out. We find it “unpleasant” to experience rain. These things humiliate our pride and our worldly need for “comfort.”

But if we looked at what happened in a day to determine – by whether the day contained hardships for people we care about – whether the day is good or bad, then it seems interesting that we call the Friday before Easter, “Good Friday.” Given what happened on that day, maybe we should call it “bad Friday.”

I’ve decided that judging the past is just an academic exercise, but my answer shapes how I look at the world and directly effects my spirit. Then the world I have judged becomes the world of my reality. In an absolute sense, we cannot say, “it is bad that it rained.” The next door neighbor may appreciate the water he’s been lacking. So how can it be both a good day and a bad day in an absolute sense – it isn’t. The neighbor and I experienced the same thing – rain. One of us calls it good, and is happy, the other calls it bad and mopes around. Each of us defines and shapes our reality. Clearly we are not well grounded in Christ if we let the circumstances of the world lead us into judgment of things that don’t even have a conscience.

Next I have some thoughts on why it is that we are judged by our own standards, and what that can mean strategically in terms of seeking and finding peace and spiritual communion with each other and God.

But for now, I’ll leave this as the starting point. I hope this approach is more palatable to you who are reading this, than my last approach where I tried to “prove” that Jesus is commanding us not to judge, ever.

Alan

Since there are no replies yet, I might as well put a little more out there.

A few more disclaimers – to skip them and get to my ideas on judgment, scroll down past the line of asterisks.

Remember, as far as I intend to defend it in a court of law, you may consider all of this my imagination only. Pure speculation. That said, I have specific reasons for each of the things I think, and reasons I think it’s useful to look at them that way. It is an attempt to appeal to human empathy to convey messages that are too complicated or rich or otherwise for which the words are too elusive for me to put down, so that a linear-scanning consciously focused mind can understand.

Also, I’m an engineer, and do not claim to be a technician, or a physicist. For these purposes, by “physicist” I mean someone who tries to find the truth, how these truths relate to previous knowledge, how they relate to other truths that seem unrelated or contradictory (as in a Grand Unification Theory). Agendas and desired results can direct the focus of the work, but should theoretically not affect the findings.

An engineer takes what the physicist finds out, and says, “gee, I bet I can take their truth, whether it is absolute or relative or approximate, and make something useful out of it.” The engineer likes to see systems that are broken and redesign them to be better, more useful, and more reliable.

The technician takes the directions from the engineers and incarnates them into physical reality.

Of the three, the engineer is the one who is not focused on finding the absolute truth, but in how we can take what we do know or guess to be true and put it to useful applications, but needs someone else to actually construct and test his ideas because he doesn’t claim to practice what he preaches.

So the physicist seeks truth, the engineer seeks to take that truth – however partial it may be – and apply it, and the technician takes the engineer’s ideas and converts them into physical reality. You may consider my models here as glorified brainstorming, as of yet they seemed to work for me so I’m trying to redesign them so they’d be useful to an audience with points of view that don’t match mine exactly.


So let’s look at this statement from Jesus from an engineering point of view:

Now, I do wish to consider other opinions, whether popular or not, and see where that takes us. So from the objections I found in the previous thread, we have strong opinions out there, from spiritual “physicists” who seek to learn truth as taught by the Church, that this neither says, “you must never judge,” nor does it say that such judgment is not a willful act of God, in response to what we do. Nor does it specifically say that God is pleased or not when we judge in any given situation. These observations will help me reconcile my design model with the beliefs of my previous objectors.

Here’s a model I propose. Doesn’t matter at this point if it’s true; it only matters if it’s useful in helping us find our way to true love, peace, joy, and unity with God and other people.

What if Jesus was not actually giving us a command to never judge, but explaining to us, without detailing the mechanism, at least some of the results we can expect from judging. That result is that we will be judged. Doesn’t say who’s going to do the judging. I propose we look at that judgment as a direct result of how the act of judging impacts a human mind and heart. In that way, God is not intentionally punishing or rewarding us for our judgment – right or wrong judgment that is – but that we are designed and built by Him such that these mechanisms are part of our internal being, not an understanding of Divine Intervention at the time the judgment is made.

It’s kind of like saying that if I touch a hot stove, I’ll burn my finger. God didn’t come in and sentence me to having a burned finger, it’s built into the nature of the stove.

Let’s look at what happens when a person sees evil in another person, or in some concept or thing that is not human.

First, let’s say that our judgment consists of determining whether another person has evil in his heart or mind when performing the act we witness, or that there is evil guiding some inanimate object – such as the rain that one of us calls “unfortunate” and another calls “much needed.” To correctly make absolute and totally truthful judgment, I submit one has to know everything God knows as it relates to the situation. If we don’t, then we have made unsubstantiated assumptions about the thoughts of a person, or the nature of the rain. Basically we are casting judgment on God’s creations, whether living or inanimate.

So with all this, who does the judging, and how does it manifest itself, and why do we care? That’s the intended starting point for my next post.

Alan

Alan,
I don’t have a lot to offer on this just yet. but wanted to say I find your posts interesting. Like you, I am from something of an “engineering” background, though in my case I went to technical School and have an A.A.S. in Machine design - and then wound up in Quality Control and management. All of which is to say that I have that same sort of logical, cause and effect, seeking the root cause (meaning), mentality that I think you have as well.

I can also understand the difficulty in trying to express your ideas. I too have had little insights, gifts from God, that I just can’t seem to express in the human tongue. Instead they just seem to be little understandings that defy either dfinition or adequate and effective description.

Now - Where you are approaching the issue of Judgement, my intimation started from the other side…Forgiveness.

As I prayerfully reflected on the Lords prayer, and the section where we say…“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”, it struck me as odd that we always take a breath in the middle of this. It sort of creates this artificial seperation between the two pieces and breaking them apart in the minds of many people. But when one compares this petition, as a whole, to the other ones you quoted, the pattern emerges. The pattern that says, what you do will be done unto you…(Do unto others…)
If I were to try to “visualize” it in an analogy, it would be like our guardian angel recording every one of our decisions - our judgements - and then, at the end, when our (sinful) thoughts and actions are reviewed, we must (in all conscience) accept our own judgement (passed on others) upon ourselves. Thus - We will be forgiven with the same measure that we forgave others.

Each time we make a decision between mercy and condemnation, we are making that same decision on ourselves. Over a lifetime, a very specific pattern builds up. A pattern of repitition. A pattern either of Mercy or Condemnation. One of selfish or selfless judgement. In this I am reminded of the parable of the merciless servant in Mt 18:23-35 who, after having been forgiven by his master, refused to forgive a much smaller debt from owed by his servant. The result was…
…Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
So in the final analyis, we should expect no more than what we are willing to give. Mercy for Mercy, Justice for Justice, Condemnation for Condemnation.

Peace
James

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