In today’s P.C. (politically correct) world, one of the greatest perceived offenses is to impose one’s morality on someone else or give the appearance of “judging” another person. Much ink has already been put to paper on the subject of “judging” and what Jesus was really getting at by telling us not to “judge” our neighbor. The bottom line is that he was not cautioning us to not discern right and wrong actions; rather, he was cautioning us against both hypocrisy and against judging interior motives. We are encouraged to “judge righteously” and to remove the plank from our own eye, before helping our brother with his speck.
Regardless of the secular world’s love affair with so-called “tolerance,” we, in fact, are charged with helping each other get to heaven, and discerning what is right and wrong, particularly in the raising of our families. In this article, I’ll explore some scripture passages which support both fraternal correction and the urgent need to protect our families from worldly influences.
The Importance of Fraternal Correction
Perhaps one of the reasons that people avoid correcting another, especially a close friend or relative, is because that conversation has the potential to be really painful. This is probably why Jesus said that he came not to bring peace, but a sword and that following him, really following him, would pit family members against one another.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10: 34-39 RSV)
In another scripture passage, recently presented in the Roman Lectionary as the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel reminds us that it is our duty to correct our brothers when they sin, and if we don’t it will be held against us.
If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life. 20 Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. (Ezekiel 3: 18-20)
In almost an inverse proposition, St. James reminds us that if we help someone come back to the truth, not only will it save the person’s soul, but indeed cover a multitude of our own sins.
My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5: 19-20)
Keeping Evil from Our Homes
Pursuing individually and teaching our children to do the same is a grave responsibility as a Christian. It has been said that in the spiritual life, there is no “neutral.” Either one is going forward or backward, so our goal is to keep moving in a direction towards holiness. Jesus put it succinctly: “Blessed are the pure in spirit, for they shall know God.” (Matthew 5:8)
So what are the practical ways in which we can guard ourselves and our families from impure influences which lead us away from God? St. John’s entire second epistle was written to encourage a “lady” to persevere even though some of her children were not walking in the faith. St. John, reminded her that “love” in fact was defined as “following Jesus’ commandments.” This is in stark contrast to the message of today which suggests that “love” is in fact tolerance of everything someone does. The beloved Apostle then went on to tell this lady that anyone who wasn’t on board with the Gospel message, openly working against it, should not be received into her household.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. 5 And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you[a]have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. 10 If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; 11 for he who greets him shares his wicked work. (2 John 1:4-10 RSV)
This is a shocking message to many Catholics who have been brought up to believe we should welcome everyone (and everything) into our homes, or that secular influences aren’t really harmful. Everyone is doing it, right? Certainly, not. Some of this has to do with avoiding people who lead us astray. Do we have friends who use profane language, or perhaps curse using God’s holy name? Do we have relatives who are openly living scandalous lifestyles, and who openly denigrate God, or the Saints and the Church (which are terrible sins)? If so, then we must consider limiting time with such individuals, especially where these things can be witnessed by children. This does not mean turning away people whose sins are hidden and unknown to the kids, rather avoiding presenting people in the household in a manner which implies approval of such things, and especially explicitly approving of sinful behaviors. Taking this approach seems to be in the spirit of John 7:24, in which we are encouraged to “stop judging by mere appearances, but judge rightly.”
The passage from 2 John also applies to things. What things do we allow into our homes which ultimately undermine the holiness of our family and upbringing of our children? The first thing that comes to mind is Television. Many people subscribe to Cable TV or Satellite, and make no provision for blocking inappropriate content. Many packages include movie channels and options for adult content. Even if it isn’t on the screen, children can see the titles and descriptions of movies and other shows right in the directory. Its a subtle way of saying, hey, this content is okay because it is readily available on my TV. And the real possibility exists that children and teens will access this content when an adult isn’t around to supervise. Catholic homes should utilize the V-Chip and other content filtering capabilities available through their service providers. Many will disagree with me on this, but there is no reason for even Catholic adults to partake in violent and highly sexualized content either. It is an assault against chastity and self-control. After all, Jesus said that even if we look at someone with lust, we commit adultery with them in our hearts.
If we truly are on the path to holiness, why would we expose ourselves to vile content that does not build us up? As St. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. ” He also said, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ” Elsewhere he said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Pornographic, profane, or gratuitously violent content does not build up and does not give glory to God. Some will dismiss this as a form of puritanism. True, we cannot completely withdraw from everything in this world, but when we can we should root out anything that stands between us and Jesus. Good and bad cannot simultaneously rule our hearts. Jesus himself said:
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. (Luke 11: 34-35)
Obviously, the same idea applies to the Internet, especially personal devices. There are many philosophical differences in opinion among parents about what amount of time should be spent accessing online content, or at what age it’s appropriate to allow a child to have a personal device. However, there are two things we should all agree upon: The world is full of predators actively seeking to harm children on the Internet, and that pornography is pervasive and extremely damaging to people, especially children.
Along the lines of filtering television content, devices which access the Internet (especially for children) should have a filtering mechanism. This applies to both pornography and strict limits on social media. This is no longer an issue of whether or not we trust our child’s judgment. There are people who actively seek out children, regardless of how sound our child’s judgment is. The news is replete with stories of children and teens who have been lured out of their houses by creeps lurking on the Internet in chat rooms and social media outlets.
Pornography is also very pervasive and can appear in even the most innocuous Google search. It is extremely addictive and will warp a young mind so as to prevent them from having normal relationships with the opposite sex in the future. If you are a parent, this is an area which you should research thoroughly for the sake of your child. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Pornography works against the life of grace in a child’s (or an adult’s) heart because it is an assault against chastity.
The eyes! Through them many iniquities enter the soul. — What experiences like David’s! — If you guard your sight you have assured the guard of your heart. (St. Josemaria Escriva)
Clearly, we have a duty to help each other find Jesus and salvation. We are called to intercede in prayer for each other, through Jesus, because God finds it good (1 Tim 2: 1-5). This involves both a willingness to reach out with individual fraternal correction, as well as taking an active role in our own homes to discern right from wrong and choose what is good for our children and ourselves – rooting out whatever is working against our getting to Heaven. Let us pray for the grace to have the hard conversations, make the tough decisions, all for the glory of God and with the goal of becoming holy, getting to Heaven, and taking as many as we can with us!