Thursday, August 7, 2008
August Parish Newletter
From the Disk of the Pastor
Dear Friends in Christ,
So often we hear the passage: Judge not that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1) This is one of the most abused and misquoted passages in Scripture. The passage is taken from the Sermon on the Mount and is about the false judgement of the Pharisees. It is not a command against all judgement. In fact Christians are commanded to make judgements. St. Paul tells us: And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. (I Corinthians 5:2-3) Here St. Paul is making a judgement and commanding that the Corinthian congregation likewise judge and condemn an unrepentant sinner. (There is a veiled reference later in Paul’s writings suggesting that this man may indeed have come to repentance and been reconciled to the congregation.)
Nor is this only to be found in Paul. We find Christ Himself commanding Christians to make judgements in Matthew 18:15-20. "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them." In these verses Christ explains about those who sin against us. First we must make a judgement as to whether they have sinned. Second we must judge if it was an accidental sin for which the person was repentant, though they may not even be aware that they sinned, or if it was a sin for which they were unrepentant, and thus endangering their salvation. Only in the later case would one confront their brother for a sin. Then one must judge their brother’s response. Did he come to see his sin, or were they defiant? Finally, the Church itself is called upon to render a judgement in the matter.
What are the implications of the false understanding of Matthew 7:1? If we take this as a command to render no judgements, a Christian could never serve on jury, as a judge, or as a prosecutor. Further, a Christian could not even vote, since to vote requires one to render a judgement. Often that judgement involves who one considers to be trustworthy. A Christian parent could not even discipline their children! Disciplining one’s children requires that one judge their behavior to be wrong. Simply put, one cannot even function in day to day life if one cannot render judgements, including judgements on the behavior of others. This is not to be seen as wrong or sinful, rather, it is to be seen as a commanded by Christ, St. Paul, and numerous other Biblical writers. We must be careful to render our judgements on the basis of known facts. In fact, Christ is warning us, in Matthew 7:1, against making false judgements when we don’t know the facts, or on the basis of assumed facts. But when the facts are known to us, it is Christ’s will that we make judgements based upon His Law.
Rev. Jody R. Walter