“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged"

...For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Matt 7:1-2).

This line of Scripture is one of the most misused there is in the whole Bible. It is usually trotted out when someone with faith objects to some immoral action. The accusation is that you are being 'judgemental'. Whether you are dealing with an adult child who’s living with her boyfriend or coping with an adult sibling who has announced that he is gay, we struggle with he dilemma of whether to allow the child or sibling to practice the immoral lifestyle in the family home. Do I have to let them spend the night? What do I tell my kids? How do I deal with this in a loving way? Can I truly love my neighbour while rejecting his immoral lifestyle? Is it any of my business?

The simple answer is to say "Jesus never judged anyone, he loved everyone and love and forgiveness are the path to the arms of our Lord".

This has been the trend for a number of years now. It's much easier not to make a fuss after all. But what about facing up to evil and standing up for what is good and right? Is that not Catholic? Is that not a far more accurate description of the actions of countless Saints and Martyrs?

"All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

Archbishop Fulton Sheen described this attitude like this:
"Our generation clamours for what the poet has called 'a soft dean, who never mentions hell to ears polite,' and our unsoiled age wants a Christianity watered so as to make the Gospel of Christ nothing more than a gentle doctrine of good will, a social program of economic betterment, and a mild scheme of progressive idealism" Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen; The Hymn of the Conquered [Our Sunday Visitor, 1933], p. 93.
So what did Jesus mean in Matt 7 then? Well, let's have a look at the text:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is 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 neighbour's eye."
Jesus was not telling his disciples that they could not ever judge the behaviour of others. Rather, he was cautioning them to live righteous lives themselves so that their judgement of others’ behaviour would not be rash judgement and their efforts would be effective in admonishing their neighbours.

"Judge not, that you be not judged." By itself, this statement could be construed to mean that one may escape even God’s judgement simply by not judging the behaviour of others. Of course, everyone is judged by God, so this cannot be a proper understanding. Jesus goes on to reformulate his statement in a positive way: "With the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." Jesus indeed expects his disciples to judge but he warns that they, too, will be judged in a like manner.

This is reminiscent of the line in the Lord’s Prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matt. 6:12). Much more than a simple warning that God will treat us as we treat others, this is an appeal to each of us to be as much as we can like God in the way that we treat others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus" (CCC 2842).

In the next two lines Jesus cautions against hypocrisy: "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?" Judging hypocritically is not effective. A petty thief admonished by a bank robber only scoffs at his admonisher.

Jesus then explains how to judge rightly: "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." Much to the point of this blog post, there can be no doubt that those final words—"take the speck out of your brother’s eye"—are, indeed, permission to judge so long as it is done rightly.

Other Bible passages which seem on the surface to indicate a condemnation of judging others’ behaviour may be treated similarly in their full context. The idea of rightly judging the behaviour of others can be found throughout the New Testament.

Jesus told the Jews, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement" (John 7:24).

He instructed his disciples what to do if someone sins against them:
"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 word may be confirmed 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." (Matt. 18:15-17)
One can only conclude therefore, that it is not possible to follow Jesus’ instructions without being "judgemental" of another’s behaviour.

Clearly, contrary to what many would prefer to believe, the Bible exhorts us to rightly judge the behaviour of others. Of course, the Catholic Church teaches likewise, only this week Cardinal Burke, who heads the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest legal tribunal that rules on canon law stated that Catholic politicians who support abortion should be refused Holy Communion in hopes of inspiring their conversion.

“There can be no question that the practice of abortion is among the gravest of manifest sins, a Catholic politician has been admonished that he should not come forward to receive Holy Communion, as long as he continues to support legislation which fosters abortion or other intrinsic evils, then he should be refused Holy Communion.”

Read more here.

So, when faced with the immoral behaviour of others, how can we be sure to rightly judge behaviour  In Jesus’ own words, we must start by taking the logs out of our own eyes—by making sure we are doing the best we can to live lives of good example. We must also strive to form our consciences correctly so that we know sin when we see it. Finally, we must not jump to conclusions about another’s culpability in sin. Doing all this will help to ensure that our admonitions are seen as the loving actions we intend them to be—meant to help our loved ones live their lives in ways that are pleasing to God. Only then can our efforts be effective in helping to take these ugly specks out of our brothers’ eyes.


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