I read these piercing words from Paul in Romans 2v1 this morning:
“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” (NRSV)
Wow. That stings. This is the biblical equivalent of that saying we often hear, “Every time your point your finger at someone else, three more are pointing back at you.”
This condemning/judging of others comes so natural to us for lots of reasons:
It takes the focus off of us and our shortcomings.
It makes us feel better about ourselves if someone else screws up.
It allows us to be one of the ‘insiders’, those who are allowed in the group because our moral purity is acceptable. Conversely, it also means that those we condemn are placed on the outside.
And Paul doesn’t mince his words. He doesn’t soften the blow. He calls us, in all our arrogant self-righteousness, out on the carpet.
Now, before you push back, I should let you know that I’ve been in Christian communities my whole life. My grandfather was a pastor. So, I’ve heard (and given!) these excuses/defenses for being judgmental before:
“We can’t judge, but we are called to fruit inspectors.”
“I’m not judging you, God is.”
If we are honest, then we will admit that 99% of the time, these are simply excuses that seek to cover up gossip, self-righteousness, and sometimes a crippling sense of our own failure, so we need a scapegoat to place all that guilt/shame/blame onto.
My job isn’t to judge you.
I love how Paul puts it in Galatians 6v1-2:
“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (NRSV)
Notice the tone of this.
Bearing another’s burdens with them.
This isn’t a judgmental condemnation, this is simply one flawed, struggling human being helping another carry their load.
I guess that, in many ways, is the point. Beyond any of the ways we have chosen to divide the world up (race, religion, economics, politics, sports rivalries), when all that gets stripped away, we are still human. We are still made–all of us–in the image of the Sacred.