Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From Relativism to Loving Judgment (or Better-Yet Discernment of Fault)

Well, we move now with a seamless transition to a subject which has come up over and over in my life and was brought to the forefront once again by my attendance at the musical Godspell as well as at Mass this weekend. A classic claim which is raised against all Christians (and perhaps even more so against Catholics because of our long heritage) is that we are nothing more than a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. Often cited to us are words like "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone" (Cf. John 8:1-11) or "How canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye?" (Cf. Luke 6:42). Now, first of all, I believe that you can see the relativist undertones to the accusations hurled at Christians using these scripture verses. In but a moment, you will see why I think that their twisting of Christ's words is the most vile of misuses of scripture.

Before that, however, let us have several words about “judgment.” Relativism has taken such deep roots in our Western mind that it is often difficult for us to even justify the use of the word, let alone enact any sort of discernment of the actions of another person. It is often considered the quintessential hypocrisy to tell someone that they have done something wrong. I ask you this: Does not Love require that we rebuke the faults of others (and also be open to such a rebuke from those who love us)? I would argue yes because Love demands the most of us, that we become the best person possible. It is quite unloving to allow someone to persist in self-destructive behavior and is therefore unloving to not rebuke the faults of another. Now, let us turn to the “forgotten” parts of the verses cited above.

In the Gospel of John, we are so ready to hear Jesus rebuke the crowd that we often miss 8:11, “Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.” Jesus has prevented the condemnation of the crowd; he has stopped them from passing an immutable, ontological judgment on the woman for her adultery. However, he has not let her go off free of rebuke. Helping her up, he does tell her to “sin no more,” and does so lovingly to prevent her from taking part in the self-destructive act of adultery. Luke 6:42 is another one of the oft-unfinished verses from the Bible and is truly the standard of how to discerningly judge. It ends saying that one must remove the beam in his eye before removing the speck in another’s. It doesn’t say “remove thine beam and leave thy brother’s mote untouched.” Indeed not! It merely affirms that a pure heart and conscience are necessary to inspire conversion and truly discern fault in another person.

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