Thursday, November 22, 2012

TBLA(5): radical non-judgement

One of the most salient teachings of Jesus - and one of the very hardest to follow - is 'Judge not, lest ye be judged'. I see this as the expression of a core spiritual truth; that if we live as ones who are forgiven, not from merit but from grace, that we are enabled to share that mercy and forgiveness and grace with others. It is about the divine love overflowing through us. To judge - and I take that in the sense of 'to condemn' - is to separate ourselves out from that overflowing grace and thereby to invoke a solemn judgement upon ourselves. "The measure that you give will be the measure that you receive"; "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" - these are expressions of the same core spiritual law. I do sometimes wonder whether this is the only thing that needs to be known and lived in order to be a Christian.

However, for my purposes in this sequence, the conclusion that I draw is that if a Christian brother or sister has prayed through a situation and come to a particular discernment then it is not for any other Christian to stand in judgement and condemnation over them. To start denouncing a fellow Christian as a sinner is a) to state the obvious, but b) more importantly, to demonstrate a failure to understand the gospel, and thus, to exclude oneself from the Kingdom.

This is not to say that all discrimination is abandoned, that 'anything goes' - it is simply to affirm the profound spiritual respect which we are called to offer one another as fellow baptised Christians. We are all sinners, and we do not get to heaven through our own merit. Possibly a divergence of view will lead to a failure of shared communion - 'let them be to you as a gentile and a tax collector' and so on - but that can be done in a Christian spirit or in a judgemental spirit. Only one of those is Holy.

So this is absolutely key to the discussion about marriage. That is, if we are to truly and mutually discern what is God's will for our community today, we need to be able to listen with holy ears to things that might otherwise shock us. I do not believe we need to be afraid of this.

4 comments:

  1. So should our "radical non-judgement" apply to Christians in Uganda who are promoting the current anti-gay bill? If they have prayed and come to the discernment that gay people should be sent to jail for long terms, should we avoid condemning them, because we are also sinners? Let those who are without sin condemn the throwing of the first stone?

    I presume what you're saying is that we should avoid judging those in this country who disagree with us over marriage, gay rights, etc, because our opponents don't want to make homosexuality illegal or believe that "one flesh" means marital rape isn't a crime (which was the basis of English law until 1991). In other words, there is an acceptable range of Christian opinions within the UK and we should be non-judgemental on those. But I'd be interested to hear if you do consider there are any Christian opinions which are beyond the pale. (I'm coming to this as a historian of medieval Christianity, so I'm very conscious of just how many evil things have been sincerely believed by Christians).

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  2. At the risk of indulging in cliche, I do actually believe in 'love the sinner, hate the sin' - and therefore, there is nothing wrong with pragmatic measures of protection and protest, so long as they do not dehumanise the opponent. Condemnation, I believe, is always dehumanising. So: say that someone is wrong, fight them, but don't reduce them to a caricature or cartoon figure of hate. Make sense? I'll come back to this...

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    1. So no calling your opponents "whited sepulchres"? OK. ;-). I do find it hard to love some other Christians sometimes, but I will try at least to get the tone right when I'm commenting here.

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  3. What is wrong with not hating sinners for one hopes 'They know not what they are doing' yet still seeking rescission of the sins by correction of the result by drawing attention to the malfeasance?

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