Rectory notes October 2020 – Three short words
How often in a typical day do I ‘judge’ someone? Many times, probably. There’s the car driver who’s too fast / too slow (compared to my own perfect speed, of course). There’s the inconsiderate neighbour – not that I’ve ever been one myself. The Government gets a good dose of my judgements on their decisions. And the Opposition. And the judgemental person on social media. I could go on.
Three short startling words of advice Jesus gave us: ‘Do not judge’. Is this perhaps his most overlooked instruction? Yet it’s one I see increasingly as being of the highest value, even central value. The words are given not stridently, but gently, advisedly, even imploringly.
What did he mean? He’s clearly not referring to the vital role of a judge in a court of law. Nor is he speaking of the judgements of situations and people we need to make to form views of the world and guide wise action.
What we see instead is Jesus himself not judging the people he met – their history, their past decisions, even the way they lived their lives. Ironically it was the religious leaders who did this, feeling they had a platform to do so. No, he took everybody as they were, never mind their past, and gave them assurance in the present and hope for their future.
In doing so, he invites us not only not to judge other people, but also not to judge ourselves. How easily regret of a past decision, guilt for a past action, or simple self-recrimination can burden us, even for years. ‘Do not judge yourself,’ says Jesus too.
Jesus is revealing God’s character. He doesn’t judge – at least not as we often think. Judgement – and justice – are for him about restoring and reconciling, not recrimination. ‘Do not judge’ steers us away from harming relationships and ourselves.
I suspect I may be not alone in jumping rather readily at times on my high judging horse! We’re human, it can be hard not to. Meanwhile I’ll practise making my driving less perfect compared to everyone else.
Rev David Carrington
Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury