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=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.”
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.