In the midst of all the words, memes and postings flooding my inbox and Facebook page about Robin Williams’ death this week came a word of judgment – an analysis critical of Mr. Williams’ situation.
Reading about the conflict in Israel/Palestine, I note how people who do not live in that place, nor really understand the history or context, are quick to have judgments and solutions. I note how easily we judge, place blame and are sure our quick fixes will be long term solutions.
It is the same thing with Iraq.
The Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly met this year (a biennial gathering of representatives from throughout the church, several of whom were from York County). They made decisions, some of which were reported nationally, by folks with good intentions but poor knowledge of context. Based on a little bit of information, some folks make sweeping judgments of the decisions, the denomination and the local church.
In all of these scenarios, not only is the decision itself criticized, but analysis is made regarding intent and judgments are made regarding decisions and about the decision makers themselves. Clergy sometimes act as if our education was in medicine or psychiatry. All of us too often act as if we are privy to information that we really don’t have, that somehow making sweeping evaluations about issues based on little information is a good idea and that we have the right to make judgments about the people involved.
I know this is dangerous ground. It is clear to me that God’s intent was to be the judge, and that neither I nor you have been specially appointed to fill that role. In the Hebrew Scriptures, judges were chosen to act on behalf of the good of the people, but it was a specifically defined role.
It was understood that God was the ultimate judge.
In the Christian gospels, we see Jesus making judgments on occasion, but, um, we’re not Jesus. We mostly see him acting with compassion and acceptance. When others judged, he asked them to “judge not.” And in another situation, when the righteous community was gathered to stone one caught in sin, Jesus invited those who were without sin to cast the first stone. No one stepped forward. He also suggested that people deal with the logs in their own eyes before removing the splinter in someone else’s.
I wonder what it would be like if we adapted that mindset – to keep working on our logs, rather than others’ splinters. I wonder what it would look like if we dropped the stones and walked away, leaving the judging to God. What might it look like if we sought understanding rather than judgment, acceptance rather than analysis, compassion rather than criticism?
Perhaps it would look closely akin to the realm of God.
Pope Francis recently responded with, “Who am I to judge?” related to a question about which there is clear teaching in Roman Catholic theology. Perhaps we should learn that response as well.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.