To be judgmental in matters involving the sins of others is, in this author’s estimation, comparable to being an armchair quarterback or a backseat driver. Sometimes, especially at family get-togethers, ground rules are struck (and then almost immediately ignored) regarding religion and politics. The ability to judge is God-given, and, if used properly, can be of great value in discernment and decision-making. To be judgmental, however, is indicative of a bias toward a subjective view that skews towards being critical and harsh. The divide that exists between the right and the left in both religion and politics has never been wider. The path of least resistance is to despise the sins of others. The path that leads to self-examination is the one less travelled. Jesus gives us this clear teaching in Scripture:
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s[a] eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the preferable stance of listening and understanding our neighbor:
To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: “Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. (CCC 2478)
A “favorable interpretation” of a neighbor’s “thoughts, words, and deeds” involves a degree of charity and mercy. It is good to be mindful of the forgiveness that God has freely extended to us before we withhold our understanding and mercy from others. The parable of the unforgiving servant is applicable in the giving and receiving of forgiveness:
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers,[d] till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35)
One more parable casts light on how God views our sins relative to His agape love and divine mercy. As we view two men standing before the temple, we can see two very different approaches. A tax collector (substitute modern-day despicable sinner), and Pharisee (substitute modern-day self-righteous sinner) express very different views of their respective conditions. The former stands on pride, while the latter bows in humility.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=%28Luke+18%3A9-14%29&version=RSVCE(Luke 18:9-14)
Let us pray for the grace to take these parables and teachings to heart as we work through the personal and corporate sins of our time in church history.