In the Gospel for Monday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time, there is a Scripture passage that is almost too well known. I say this because the world has wielded it like a club to swing at Christians. The text is quoted almost as if it represented the entirety of the Bible’s teaching; it is often used to shut down discussions of what is right vs. wrong, what is virtuous vs. sinful. Even many Christians misinterpret the passage as a mandate to be silent in the face of sin and evil. I say that it is too well known because it is remembered while everything else in the Scriptures that balances or clarifies it is forgotten. Here is the passage:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt 7:1-5).
Anytime the Church or an individual Christian labels a particular behavior as wrong or sinful, wagging fingers are raised. This is followed, in an indignant tone, with something like this: “You’re being judgmental! The Bible says, ‘Judge not.’ Who are you to judge your neighbor?” This is clearly an attempt to shut down discussion and to shame Christians, or the Church, into silence.
To a large degree this tactic has worked. Modern culture has succeeded in shaming many Christians from this essential work: correcting the sinner. Too many are terrified when they are said to be “judging” someone by calling attention to sin or wrongdoing. In a culture in which tolerance (a mistaken notion of tolerance at that) is one of the only virtues left, “judging” is deemed one of the worst offenses.
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