In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes very clear the benefits of us not trying to take the place of God. We should be unburdened from judging and condemnation. We should release from ourselves the yoke and strain of unforgiveness.
The great sin of our first parents was to make themselves like God. The creature tries to usurp the place of the Creator. Or course, this futile overturning of the cosmic disorder cannot come to pass. We follow the path of Adam and Eve when we put ourselves in God’s place, choosing to whom we will be merciful and not, deciding who will be forgiven and who will be condemned. To act this way is the same type of disorder as the first sin. It is not within our purview to judge and condemn.
Something amazing happens when we stop trying to be God. When we allow the cosmic order to its natural place, within God’s will and submission to His providential direction; we the creature derive great benefit. As we fall into place, as it were, we become more alive. We draw nearer to the source of life. Our heavenly Father wants to give us good gifts if only we will open ourselves up to receive them.
An important footnote on the concept of withholding judgment; Jesus does not mean for us to suppress or ignore our apprehension and understanding of things that occur. He is not teaching a “go along to get along” message. Quite the contrary. For example, we could not work to stop injustices done to the poor or weak if we completely shut off our minds and hearts and adopted the apathetic agnosticism that our frequent post-modern interlocutor demands. A common retort to Church teaching is that we should not judge. Thus, when we speak out against immorality, Christians are told we are being hypocritical. “Your own Bible tells you not to judge!” Such a rhetorical move misses the point entirely, completely erasing Jesus’ message.
We are not to judge with an unrighteous or unjust standard. We are not to put ourselves in the place of God and judge the eternal state of a person or condemn their soul. We are ever to act without compassion and mercy. But we are told to remain strong in our faith and to earnestly contend for the truth. Our very faith involves the sharp distinction between good and evil. We cannot submit to the Lordship of Christ and remain under the dominion of darkness. The very affirmation of Christianity is a rejection, and de facto judgment, about the world. We understand and affirm what the Church teaches about these things. Our interlocutors often have no problem judging the Nazis for committing heinous atrocities, quickly taking up the cause of social justice, and effectively judging what Christians are advocating (i.e. they are judging that we are judging, a doom loop of regress based on a fundamental misunderstanding). The contemporary rejection and fervent seizing on the matter of judgment is based on a very clever equivocation and selective, subjectivized reading of the text that bears little to no connection to the teaching of Jesus.