Sunday, July 09, 2017

Judging the judgement of judging

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

As Christians, we do have a duty to point out right from wrong. In ecclesiastical language it’s called “admonishing the sinner” and it is one of the spiritual works of mercy. Yet, how afraid we are of doing so these days! In likelihood, here in the U.K., we will not be sliced to bits with a large sword, though too many of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East are suffering this. No, in the U.K. to pull someone up on sin is a different form of death called “social death”.

If you say to someone, “that’s sinful!” Before banning you forever in their social whirl, they will look you right in the eye and say, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.”

That’s what Our Lord says in St Luke’s hearing.

Yet St Luke tells us that Jesus also says, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”

This puts us in a bit of a bother. If we are not allowed to judge that someone has sinned, then how can we accuse them of sin, and thus forgive them? Surely, if we see someone about to fall into a hole, we must say to them, “look out, you’re about to fall into a hole!”


In telling us not to judge, non-Christians are effectively telling us that we have no right to call them up on sin. They base this on the fact that we commit the same sins as they do, and receive the same benefits from them. As far as they are concerned, we are walking on the same path as they are and, if there is a hole, we’ll fall into it too. So, logically, if they think that we are on the same path as they, there can’t really be a hole or else we all fall in.

Yet sin is still sin. Murder, adultery, wilful deception, even lusting after another person’s property are sin. That’s not going to change. If these things separated man from God thousands of years ago, then they will still separate us from God now. It’s not because we’ve changed, but because God does not change. We are sinners, therefore how on earth can we tell people that they’ve sinned? Hadn’t we better keep silence?


Jesus says, “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?”
This is the thing. Are we blind? No. We know what sin is and, if we’re good Christians, we will be examining our lives daily for the very thing that separates us from God. It is only those who fail to recognise their own hypocrisy who will fall into ruin with those who will not turn from sin. If we see sin in others but not ourselves, then we can only fall into the same hole as the others.

When Jesus says, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged,” He is warning us not to be hypocrites, but to be humble. We are not to judge based upon what we think is right and believe ourselves to be perfect, but to judge based upon not just upon what God says, but based upon Who God is, for God is what it means to be good. The letter of the Law killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. The word that we hear God speak in Holy Scripture needs to be the Living Word in our understanding of it.

Our judgement is to be based upon mercy. God’s mercy is precisely His steadfast love for all sinners, and this is what we should have too if we are seeking the Good that is Christ. If we must accuse someone of sin, then it needs to come from a deep-seated, passionate, loving concern for their well-being. It can’t be lukewarm, academic, and certainly not from a place of self-righteousness. Nor can we ever force them to repent because that takes away the freedom to choose. There are too many people who try to blackmail people out of their sin emotionally – that’s not on because love does not insist upon its own will.


Repentance is the way back to God. We are to change our minds, acknowledge that we are on the wrong path and head towards His light. By living in that light, people may indeed see the way out of their own sin. Of course, we need to be able to see that light first. There might be a beam blocking the way!

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