The Real Problem with Judgment; Or, Listen to Isaiah the Prophet

Bible-Verses-About-Judgment

Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!

By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Judgement, it seems, is under judgment yet again. I’ll leave what brings this up to you and your web browser.  Take a look.  It seems that, as a society, we’re hurtling toward the place where it is never right to judge anyone else, except in those cases where those who consider themselves “right” (amusing irony) judge those who are obviously wrong (bitter irony). (This is, as a good friend of my often notes, intellectual fascism.)

It seems, however, foolish to make the claim that we will not judge.  This happens each day, in ways small and large.  Parents, employees, coaches, and teachers make judgments all the time.  So do judges.  And politicians.  And everyone else with a pulse.  What is more, moral judgments are constitutive of an examined moral life. These judgments can and must be communal as well [see what trouble the Israelites find in the desert when the community judges wrongly].

The real problem with judgment, then, isn’t the judgment itself, but how it is manifested.   In other words, the real problem, it seems (at least biblically speaking – and that’s rather important!) is when our judgments begin to affect the way we treat others.

To put it more plainly: to disapprove of a decision made by another and articulate this in the public or private square appears to me to be the root of civilization.  Being a Christian, however, obligates me to treat with charity, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness all those I meet, especially those who I have judged.

The real danger of judgment, then, appears to be the effect that it has on my own soul: the natural inclination to push others with whom I disagree outside the “camp” as it were.

In fact, to live a life rooted in the Gospel actually pushes us past and through judgment: the Good News is nothing so banal as “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but rather something more explosive: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And this brings me back to the above-quoted portion of Isaiah 49: as the Lord calls to set prisoners free and for those in darkness to show themselves, we are not called to consider why one or another is a prisoner, or why this one or that one had lived in darkness.  No: the Lord is much more concerned with the day of salvation than with what put us in this mess in the first place.

Human to judge, divine to forgive.

It’s a good thing that Jesus is both, isn’t it?

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