Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Judgment and forgiveness

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." - Luke 6:36-37

These verses from St. Luke's gospel are among the first tossed around when the Church makes a stand against the decadence of modern secular society. "Who are you to judge me? The bible says 'Judge not lest ye be judged!'" How do you respond to that? That is what Jesus says in the bible. Does this mean that anything goes, and we are to sit idly by and say nothing?

What does it mean "to judge?" It means to form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration. One who makes estimates as to worth, quality, or fitness. Here is the difference for the follower of Christ. To Christians, all people by virtue of their being created in the image of God have an inherent dignity and nobility. It is worth that is given them by God and cannot be diminished in any way by another person. When we judge a person, we are not making a comment about his or her actions, rather we are coming to a conclusion about their person, who they are, based on our knowledge of their actions. That is an assault on their dignity.

So, are we as Christians to sit idly by and say nothing of immoral behavior? Of course not. Christ calls us to discern the will of the Father and inform our consciences. The Church puts forth the teachings of the Apostles as given to them by Jesus himself and these are our guide to living good and holy lives. When one of our brothers and sisters sins against the Church, it is our duty as Christians to inform them of the nature of their actions. This is not judging them but teaching them, for if you were really to judge them unworthy, it is doubtful that you would care enough about them to have concern for their souls.

The key to all of this is found in the first sentence, "Be merciful as your Father is merciful." While we may not like what another person is doing, we must always remember that they are created in the image of God, God who is merciful, God who treats all with the dignity and love of a first born son. When you think about it, that means that when we judge someone who is created in God's image, we are judging God, and that is a big no no. It is important to remember that in judging someone we seek to diminish their dignity, which in turn diminishes ours, i.e. we are judged. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Stop judging and you will not be judged."

So we must correct with love and compassion. We must be patient. And above all, we must be merciful and forgiving.


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