Saturday, January 29, 2011

What does it mean to "pass judgment"? (Take Two)

Is it passing judgment to discern that, according to a certain understanding (aka, "religion") of reality, truth, wisdom, and trajectories of consequences (years, decades & generations), certain choices, behaviors, actions & words don't build up individuals, families, communities & posterity? Discernment is always a function of responding to explicit and implicit law-based parameters. Broadly speaking, Law is always set in physical embodied reality, and defines what actions are right/wrong, healthy/unhealthy, wise/unwise, and constructive/destructive for people to take. (cf. Romans 2:12-16)

OR: is "judgment" taking an action based on that discernment -- for instance, legislating against behaviors and mandating subsequent actions in consequences (fines, banishment, imprisonment, excommunication, etc.). Judgment can also be a supportive action, commending and approving of others' actions in the community or in the written laws governing that community. (Biblical examples of supportive judgments would be the commendation of the care of widows and orphans, or the just treatment of aliens.) However, sinful judgments also exist in human societies; "gossip" is considered a sinful judgment on others, according to Scripture. Thus, one person exercising wise or unwise discernment can sin against others with that discernment. Likewise, discernment can be followed by a choice to love (act patiently, kindly & with delight in truth, without envy, pride, quick temper, boastfulness, self-seeking, recording wrongs, etc.).

If a person doesn't commend or approve a behavioral course of action based on his/her discernment & parameters, does that mean s/he is "passing judgment", even should s/he follows love's paths with those behaving thus? (Biblically-defined Love is not hormonally, affinity or preferentially based.) Fundamentally, to require that person to approve of something that s/he hadn't approved of, heretofore, is to ask her/him to change the parameters (or laws) by which they discern reality, truth, wisdom and consequences.

It seems prudent to be clear: it is asking people to change their religion when, for the sake of maintaining relationships, they are required to commend, approve of, or disapprove of and disavow behaviors and actions which their lives &/or the canon by which they've been living have not commended, approved of, or disapproved of & disavowed those behaviors/actions. According to my understanding, that requirement defines proselytizing, not loving others. My religion calls me to love and serve others, not to proselytize them.

The tension of loving ourselves & others while not approving of everything we or they do is difficult to sustain. (I'd say that it's impossible to sustain without the empowering of the Holy Spirit!) Our natural human cop-out is to make new law, or appeal to old law, and use that law to pass judgment on others; thereby we relieve ourselves of the tension and can choose which persons we will choose to "love" and which persons are unworthy of "love". We then use our law to choose whom to include in our circle, and whom to exclude.

But, God's love is perfect (Matt. 5:43-48), and Jesus us calls us to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." The telos - the goal - of God's law is love.