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Religion column — Judgements

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

The American societal tsunami gained earnest momentum in the heady days of the 1960’s. What began as a greater knowledge of the world, through the lengthy visitations and transmigration of millions throughout the globe during World War II, gained impetus through a renewed vigor for the new, the exciting.

Not only did great economies flourish, and the devastated countries recover, we were given an entire new level of challenges, as we are today. Soon gone was the sense of the collective “us,” with a decided lurch towards the far more prosaic, “I.” In the “Flower Power” era, the oft-repeated mantra of “Hey man, who am I to judge?” and then, as now, the ageless inferred position of, “I am not my brother’s keeper.” All of this was quickly followed by the most convenient sounding quotation from Jesus Christ, in the Gospel of Saint Luke, “Judge not and ye shalt not be judged.” Convenient stuff, for those who desire to wash their hands of earthly responsibilities, and state, “Don’t hold me responsible, it wasn’t my doing!”

However, this position leaves us with a great dilemma. If we are God’s creation, and have a divine spark, and the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves, then given all of this divinity, is it God’s desire for us to let our judgements lay fallow and wither to the point of spiritual death? Jesus continues, “condemn not and ye shalt not be condemned; forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”

There is nothing in what Jesus has said which tells us not to judge others. As his ministry was all about understanding and forgiveness, we are called to first make the judgement to understand our brethren, then to make a judgement of the way to forgiveness, and then forgive. As Christians, we acknowledge that this world is “ground zero” for the Evil One. We delude ourselves to believe we are, somehow, beyond this truth; both for ourselves, and others. Here, again our judgement is at work; either flawed, or precise in God’s truth. And, the truth is, we make judgements all of the time. What time we choose to get out of bed, where to work, where to shop, who to have relationships with, or not. We make judgements about careers, about children, about friends, many times each day. It’s part of how God made us and how he directs us to see the world he created.

Say we go to the grocery store, and see an elderly man drop a glass jar of tomato sauce on the floor. It breaks, and the sauce is all over the floor, the man, and everything within sight. Do we make an immediate judgement in the act and, even if fleeting, we judge that the fellow should have been more careful? Perhaps this is the same driver who did not turn on his signal to turn, or park his car within the lines. Later, he may even be the one who is very busy chatting with the cashier and, holding up the line.

These are the kinds of things we do in our lives, regardless of age, or ability. A distracted moment, or limited ability, may offer any number of potential “offenses” to those around us. To deny we do not judge, and use it as an excuse to avoid God’s commandments, is anathema for our Creator.

In our efforts to make a peaceful society, we have enacted laws, through judgements, and regularly balance them by compassion. While our judgements may be flawed, our judgements rely upon each of us to deliver our voice for the common good. If we stand away from God, by relying upon misperceived understandings, we may have dire results. To stand away, is to stand alone.