Who's to Blame?

As Christians in the world we cannot help but be influenced by the developments that happen around us. Indeed, we believe that many of these advances are gifts from God given to us to enjoy. But not all developments in thinking and practices are for the better.
 
One alarming development is the false thinking that we cannot judge other people, or that we should not be judged. The wider community regularly maintains that no one is in a position to judge another’s behavior or statements. This approach holds that everyone’s words and actions are of equal value. This position may not be Christian, but it hasn’t stopped it from finding a home amongst us. We regularly hear statements from Christian men and women like, “We’re not in a position to judge” or “You can’t judge them,” and “If it’s fine for them, then it’s fine.”  This thinking has a name. It’s called moral relativism and it tries to claim that the morality of behavior is only determined by the person who does the act, or the context within which the action is taken.
 
Our Catholic tradition teaches us that a context is very important in trying to work out if someone is to blame for what they say and do, but that a person’s particular circumstances never change the fact that the words or actions are in themselves wrong. We hold that while all human beings have equal value and dignity, we do not believe that everyone’s opinion and actions are of equal worth. We believe that ‘right judgment’ is a gift of the Holy Spirit and that it’s best exercised with humility and compassion.
 
When I hear people say I should not “judge” others, I assume they are telling me that I should not “condemn” other people. There is a world of difference between judging and condemning. To judge is to make an assessment. To condemn is to damn. As Christians we judge because we have to keep discerning how the things of the world can be reconciled with the things we hold to be true. Condemnation is the prerogative of God alone, who sees all, knows all and loves all. In today’s Gospel, however, John tells us that even God has forfeited his right to condemn the world, but has sent Jesus to be the world’s light, life, truth, and savior.
 
The Gospel reminds us that if we feel condemned for what we have done and said, then it’s because we have condemned ourselves, not because God condemns us. John tells us that even when we find ourselves lost in the darkness of our most destructive behavior, the saving love of Christ is always available to us, inviting us to come out of the darkness into his light.
 
What a great metaphor the light and dark is for making the best judgments in our own lives. Alarm bells should always ring when we find ourselves not wanting anyone else to know what we have said or done. Secrecy is often the ally of sin and the more open and transparent we are, the more confident we can be that we are walking as children of the light.
 
May this Lenten Eucharist enable us to let go of the desire to condemn others and ourselves, and to receive again the compassionate, just and humble gift of right judgment that helps us to see the darkness for what it is, and keeps us walking in the light of Christ.

Richard Leonard, S.J.

Advertisement
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

It is astonishing to think that God would choose to enter the world this way: as a fragile newborn who could not even hold up his own head without help.
Ginny Kubitz MoyerOctober 20, 2017
Protestors rally to support Temporary Protected Status near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Around 200,000 Salvadorans and 57,000 Hondurans have been residing in the United States for more than 15 years under Temporary Protected Status. But that status is set to expire in early 2018.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 20, 2017
At the heart of Anne Frank’s life and witness is a hopeful faith in humanity.
Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J.October 20, 2017
Forensic police work on the main road in Bidnija, Malta, which leads to Daphne Caruana Galizias house, looking for evidence on the blast that killed the journalist as she was leaving her home, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Caruana Galizia, a harsh critic of Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat, and who reported extensively on corruption on Malta, was killed by a car bomb on Monday. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)
Rarely does the death of a private citizen elicit a formal letter of condolence from the Pope.