Judge Not? (Part 3) The Merciful Kingdom
It is impossible to grasp Jesus’ most famous statements on ‘not judging’ (in LK 6:37-42 and Matt. 7:1-5) without understanding Almighty Mercy. Today we face the kingdom of homosexual fatalism and the kingdom of the Pharisees; in joyful opposition to both kingdoms, Jesus opens a horizon—a whole new world—for us.
Fittingly, He prefaces His reference in Luke to ‘not judging’ by referencing ‘mercy’. He said: ‘Our Father is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.’ (LK 6: 35b, 36) He proceeds: ‘Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ (vs. 37, 38)
Matt.’s reference is similar: ‘Do not judge or you will be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged. The measure you use will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, given the plank in yours? You hypocrite: Take the plank out of your own eye then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s.’ (Matt. 7: 1-5)
Jesus is speaking to His followers who had received mercy and yet who lived in a legalistic culture. He opened their horizon through a powerful love that exposed their deepest sins and forgave them. His very love established truth in their inmost parts, thus fulfilling the Law. He did not nullify the fact of sin—the moral law–but actually deepened its meaning then filled it with mercy. These listeners had received that mercy. In a merciless religious world, would they in turn extend that mercy and so demonstrate that they belonged to another Kingdom?
That is the essence of Jesus’ exhortation ‘to not judge.’ It is as if He is saying: ‘Consider how I have treated you. In light of the horizon I opened for you, will you let go of your judgments that close that horizon on another? In light of your felony for which I treated you mercifully, will you extend mercy to this person’s misdemeanor? Having been released from the prison of sin and judgment and shame, will you release others from their prisons?’
He highlights our authority as members of this new Kingdom. God will judge us according to the judgments we make of others. Our horizon will stay as open as our hearts are toward those we are tempted to judge. Do we view them as as intrinsically ‘gay’ or as sons and daughters of the Father, men and women of dignity created to live chaste and fruitful lives?
Jesus reminds us to first identify our own poisons, to spit them out, drink in mercy as our cure then extend that mercy freely to those we view as poisonous. To not do so puts us dangerously close to the Pharisees and homosexual fatalists who live small lives and reduce others to their size. Jesus came with a big Kingdom and invites us into it. He may first take us down to our depths but He does so to raise us up with mercy. He gives us a big eternal horizon so we can view others expansively, with generosity. He wants us to love others out of that largesse.
Here we must ask Jesus to see as He sees, not the mere outward appearance of a person but the heart of one whose misdirected quest for love may well be breaking ground for divine love–the cry and cure of every human being.
Pope Francis writes: ‘One cannot help but admire the resources Jesus used to dialogue with His people…I believe His secret lies in the way that He looked at people, seeing beyond their weakness and failings…We must make present to broken people the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and His personal gaze…Such tender attentiveness ‘heals, liberates, and encourages others to grow in Christ…’ (EG)