The Gospel St. Luke 6.35
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind; Shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
In the happy-clappy world of some so-called “modern” churches, the message of the Gospel is all about the “good news”. Indeed, the definition of the word “Gospel” is itself “good news”; so this interpretation isn’t really so strange, is it? But all too often, these “modern” churches focus only on one idea; that Jesus loved everyone, so we all should love one another as well.
And in doing so they ignore two very important facts of the Gospel; that the Love of Christ was displayed in many different ways; and that some of those ways might, or should, make us feel occasionally uncomfortable. We see one example of this message in today’s Gospel lesson; when Christ warns us about our human tendency to be judgmental of others.
Now a person who is said to be judgmental is someone who is “inclined to make judgments, especially moral or personal ones”. As this definition implies, such a person often bases their judgments on personal bias and emotion, rather than on objective reasoning. Likewise, such a person is not always inclined to examine their own behavior to determine if he or she is really qualified to judge others in the first place. This is the warning that Christ imparts to us today.
Now first of all, let me say that it would be very easy to make such moral or personal judgments, particularly with all the rampant immorality we see in the world today. It is “legal” to murder infants. “Political Correctness” has run amok; to the point that even some fundamental Biblical teachings are now being labeled as “hate speech”. The traditional family is attacked from every side; through our movies and television shows; and by groups who seek to subvert parental authority in our schools. In light of this, how can we not be outraged? How can we not speak out? Isn’t it our responsibility to fight against these offenses?
And of course, the answer to these questions is; yes, we should fight; and fight most fervently and enthusiastically. But the real question here is; do we have the right to make such moral and personal judgments? Do we have the right to be judgmental? Well, to answer that, let’s look at the two key words contained in this question; “right”, and “judgmental”.
Now we derive the word “judgmental” from its base word “judgment”. But there are very significant differences in the definitions of these two words. Whereas the word “judgmental” refers to the moral, the personal, indeed the emotional, “judgment” is defined as “the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely”. Emotion is not eliminated, but it is limited, and the two key words here are “objectively”, and “wisely”.
Now let’s look at the definition of the word “right” as we are using it in this context; “a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral“. A JUST claim; a claim guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness. So, in other words, in order for us to be validly judgmental, to make a moral or personal judgment, we must first be able to form an opinion objectively and wisely and with as little personal bias as possible; and to do so guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness. Sounds like a pretty tall order, doesn’t it?
And who of us can say that we are qualified to do so? Who of us can say that we have always judged others for reasons based on truth, reason, justice and fairness? Who of us can say that we have judged others objectively and wisely? Who of us can say that our judgments are always free of emotion and personal bias? “cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye “. Who of us doesn’t have a beam in our eye?
OK, so it sounds next to impossible for us to judge others, right? And to a certain extent, this is true; for the Lord God Himself is our Judge. It is God alone who can make moral or personal judgments, objectively and wisely; and since He is the source of all truth, reason, justice and fairness, well, we can pretty much assume that He’s got that covered as well.
But what is not impossible for us is to follow the words of Christ. Remember, Jesus has told us, “The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master”. But in order to attain this perfection, we must first do a few things ourselves; Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; And of course, there is the tough one, but is it of the utmost importance; cast out first the beam out of thine own eye.
Why is this so important? Because it is only in this way that we can be qualified to present ourselves as living witnesses to the Faith. It is only in this way that we can confidently admonish those who have strayed from the Faith or who have denied it altogether. It in only in this way that we can then see clearly to pull out the mote that is in our brother’s eye. It is only in this way that we can bring others to God.
So now you might be thinking “that still sounds too hard; so I’m going to just stop “judging” other people, and keep showing up here at church as often as I can, and be done with it”. Well you know it’s not that easy! Remember this verse that I lead with today; “For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again “. I quote from the Revelation of St. John; “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot; so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3 v 15 & 16). In other words, we’re going to “get” as good as we “give”; and we will not be rewarded for taking the “middle”, or “politically correct” way.
We may be admonished from judging and condemning others, but we cannot get away with simply dismissing them either. As Christians, we have a duty, a responsibility to witness Christ to others. We are called to proclaim the Gospel to any and all. We are called to reach out to our brothers and sisters and children and friends who have strayed from the Church. We are mandated to admonish sinners and to educate them about the Church’s teachings on morality. This is not being judgmental. This is one form of the mercy that Christ has commanded us to show. It is one form of the mercy that Our Heavenly Father has shown to us.
And so we undertake as our task today, to ask God to cleanse our hearts and minds. We ask Him to help us see and admit our own faults, our errors, and our sins. And we ask Him to give us the strength to acknowledge our human failings; so that we may worthily confess them, and purge them from our lives. We ask Him to help us cast out the beam that is in our own eye, so that we may see clearly and therefore be qualified to lead our brothers and sisters to God whom they need so dearly.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.