Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Was Jesus judgmental?

It's a question I find myself asking occasionally, seeing that being judgmental is the mortal sin of our society. Today's gospel hints of an answer. In it we also find the basis of the proverb "Practice what you preach," at least in the NAB translation. And it certainly seems that Jesus was being, well, judgmental! "Do everything the scribes and pharisees tell you," Jesus instructs the crowd, "But do not follow their example, because they do not practice what they preach. They...do things to be seen, to be respected, to be called 'rabbi'..."
We can't go through life without exercising judgment. Negotiating a complicated relationship involves a certain practice of judgment. At the same time, though, we are warned by all the spiritual masters to be on guard against the spiritual pitfall of "rash judgment." Perhaps the key is in that word "rash." Judgment calls we do not need to make; observations about other people that contribute nothing to our dealings with them; the comfortable practice of gossip: this is dangerous territory, because we tend to go beyond behaviors and into people's interior motivations, and that is sacred ground for God alone.
Most of the time, though, when society condemns judgment or judgmentalism, this is not what they are talking about. Our culture has mis-identified as "judgment" the simple observation that certain behaviors violate moral norms. Even the claim that there are moral norms is sometimes dismissed as "being judgmental." To that, every Catholic should confess, "Guilty as charged."


nate said...

I couldn't find anything disagreeable in what you said; in fact, when I read the first few lines in my preview, I thought of some things i would like to add, but in further paragraphs you covered everything.

I know there have been many times in which I felt like I needed to "be judgmental" to a friend based on his lifestyle, but refrained out of fear due to, as you put it, the "mis-identification" of judgment by society, and as a result I have seen him slip deeper and deeper into destructive behavior.

xaipe said...

Gosh, that's sad. But it's a real problem, because our culture is so self-centered that (to generalize) people do not recognize any objective truth at all: everything is interpreted personally. To say that a lifestyle is immoral is to say "You are a BAD PERSON!" Which does nothing to help them break away from destructive habits. We need Jesus to teach us and to live in us so that he speaks in those circumstances, and says "what people really need to hear."

The Pauline Spirit said...

AMEN to "we need Jesus to teach us and to live in us so that he speaks in those circumstance and says, what people really need to hear." There's the Pauline Spirit in you. Thanking God :).

amber said...

I think the point is that we need to excercise Judgment without being judgmental. Jesus knew that what people were doing was wrong, but he didn't let that affect the way he treated them. Jesus loved everybody, despite their numerous sins, and when we, as fallen people,"judge" others, we are actually being judgmental. By this i mean that we deem them unworthy because of what they've done rather than loving them anyway like Jesus did. This is kind of where the whole plank in your own eye thing comes into play; we cannot condemn our brother for having a splinter in his eye when we ourselves are just as guilty, having a plank in our own. That's just the way i've always understood it.