The Gospel Reading of today has been increasingly problematic and
challenging for me.
“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.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
While the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
Then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
I think we all know the easy interpretation of the first three
lines, i.e., not to engage in unnecessary negative moralistic judging
of others’ lives. Christ tells us there is a self-interest
incentive in not judging – because we will be judged with
the same scrutiny as we have judged others. And, I think we all
know the easy interpretation of the last eight lines, i.e., that
each of us has many limitations and behaviors we need to change
and that we need to “remove our wooden beams before noticing
the other’s splinter.” However, I struggle with the
tension between a Gospel call not to judge – and, other Gospel
calls to Social Justice. I think it might be naïve not to judge
at all (using a 21st century interpretation of the word - judge.)
The first three lines – how can one live and not be judgmental?
In the 21st century world of Omaha (and everywhere else), one needs
to be judgmental in critical-thinking, decision-making, furthering
Social Justice, etc. We have law systems (with judges) to judge.
We have Christ’s example in the Temple with the moneychangers,
with many of his teachings with the Pharisees, with his healing
on the Sabbath, etc. –he mentored making judgments about situations
and doing something about them. My difficulty is with the interpretation
of the word: judge. I wish I had a better understanding of the early
use of the word when the Gospel was written.
I had an experience this past week which relates to this Gospel
Reading. I attended a public forum on immigration – with sharply
divided views presented. I am supportive of policies that support
the dignity of the immigrant. Am I to be passive and not respond
with judgment on this issue? I don’t think so.
I struggle with this Gospel Reading. We know not to do unnecessary
moralizing and “judging” of others – because we
never have the full context of their lives and know their situations.
We know to spend our energy on changing our behaviors versus finding
fault with others’ behaviors. But, I struggle with the tension
between not judging – and, furthering Social Justice.