“Don’t judge me!” With that, the argument was suppose to be over. After all, my interlocutor had used the nuclear bomb of debate. He had pulled out the “Judge Not” card. And, after all, since he was debating a Christian, that meant the discussion was over and he had effectively shut down the uncomfortable reality that he was losing badly!
Unfortunately, for him, I have “studied my Agrippa”, and “I find Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro!” (it’s a movie reference, so sue me!). The discussion went on and ended with “Let’s agree to disagree” to which I responded, “No.”
You see the old slander that disagreement equals a “judgement” is a lazy interpretation of the Lord’s warning against “judging” another. It reveals such a vast missing of the point as to uncover the one who uses it as truly unlearned. But it has become such a favorite way to shut down disagreement that it is used as soon as a believer points out the moral dangers in any and all selfish and short sighted choices by another. Forget the effects on family, society, and faithfulness. Forget the unintended consequences of the attitude of “Hey, it’s My truth” or “I deserve to be happy.” Forget that we really are our brothers keeper as followers of Christ and that we who bear the Light are responsible for shining that light even when it uncovers dark places. No, in a society where “I have my rights” trumps wisdom, pointing out the obvious is considered “hate!” Lord, have mercy!
In our Gospel Lesson today our Lord Jesus sets this in the right context. Look at Luke 6:37-45. We won’t quote the whole pericope, so take the time to read the passage. This passage doesn’t mean “don’t notice dangerous behavior.” It doesn’t mean “Don’t make me feel bad about my choices!” It doesn’t mean “Never tell the truth because it may hurt my feelings.” And it doesn’t mean any and all comments that may feel like judgement ARE actually judgment.
The key is the last section of the passage! Jesus says “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The Lord demands that we FIRST deal with our own darkness before we try to help another! The Lord insists we are not really free to help another with a “speck” in their eye if we have a “log” in our own eye. But we must be actively engaged in our own life of repentance to be of any use to those around us. If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, the greatest gift we can give our family, our children, our community, our society, our world, is our own life of repentance!
But then the Lord ends the passage with the common sense He always brings to these wonderful insights – A “good” tree produces “good” fruit. A “bad” tree, well, you get it. If I see an apple tree growing pears, I am not free to still call it an apple tree! But I am free to say what is – a tree bearing pears is a pear tree; it isn’t an apple tree. But I must FIRST turn that insight on myself BEFORE I am free to “help” my brother!
Today, what kind of fruit is your life producing? Is it the fruit of repentance? Is your life a source of nourishment for the world around you? We will not “save” our world through the small practices of debate tactics or policies or passing laws. The surest way for us to save our children, our homes, our society is by FIRST inspecting the “fruit” of our own lives and then lovingly point out the obvious in the lives of others!
P.S. THIS SUNDAY it’s just you and me. And we are going to talk about icons. On this Sunday’s Faith Encouraged LIVE with Fr. Barnabas I want to hear your icon stories. How do icons help you stay focused on Christ? And you’ll hear my story how one icon in particular helped me become Orthodox! That’s This Sunday at 8 PM Eastern on AncientFaith.com! Share and call in!
Thank you so much Father Barnabas for your insight here. I do have one question though. I have often heard in the Orthodox concept, that there are no “evil people, just people doing evil things.” But in the passage you used it actually speaks of evil men, as well as do other verses of Scripture. So why do I often hear that there are no evil people??
Thanks Mike, for your kind note.
I think it’s important to distinguish between inherently evil and becoming evil. It is true that the Orthodox Church teaches there are no inherently evil persons. Being created in God’s image means human persons are at their core made for God and not evil.
But the freedom granted to us by our Loving Creator means that persons can choose to become what they are not. They can, through their exercise of freedom, choose to be a slave to their passions and descend into darkness. This is what makes them evil, but they are not born that way. Humans are born free and how they use their freedom determines what they become.
Hope this helps.