On the mind of the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser

Mar 27, 2022

This Lent, I signed up for a few different email devotionals to be delivered to my inbox every day. One of these contains brief videos based on a book, Difficult Teachings of Jesus by Matthew Kelly. The author offers snippets of wisdom, full of grace and challenge, that shine light on various aspects of our call to follow Christ. Deny yourself. Love your enemies. Take up your cross. Do not be afraid. Actually, I think all teachings of Jesus would qualify as difficult!

I can’t say that watching the videos has been a Lenten discipline for me because I haven’t been disciplined at all about even opening the emails on a regular basis. However, I did catch one this week that socked me right in the gut (in a good way). It’s about this difficult teaching found in Matthew 7:1 — “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”

Understanding what qualifies as judgment in this context can be tricky. “Do not judge” does not mean “Anything goes.” There is something to be said for identifying sin and permitting ourselves to make a negative assessment about another person based on experience. This is especially true when it means drawing an appropriate boundary to prevent someone from repeatedly hurting or sinning against us.

Jesus says elsewhere, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.” (John 7:24). This is Jesus’ response to being misjudged by some of those criticizing him. Right judgement accounts for the big picture. It is informed, clear-eyed and discerning. Wrong judgment is superficial, hypocritical, self-righteous, unforgiving, or all of the above.

I find a sure indication of judging others to be when I’m more enraged at someone else’s sin than I am embarrassed by my own. Matthew Kelly’s observations can also help us detect wrong judgment. Here are some points from his video:

  • Judging others is lazy. It’s a shortcut. It requires little critical thinking and almost no emotional
  • Judging others is self-centered. When we judge others, we do not define them. We define
  • Jesus wants us to go beyond the injustice of this type of judgment to see and experience the
    whole person. He wants us to access our capacity for empathy, patience and understanding.

We know that Jesus had plenty of harsh things to say that would fall in the category of right judgment. But when it comes to his admonition to judge not, we need only think of Judas. Even after Judas had betrayed him, Jesus says to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Friend. Jesus offers the hand of friendship to Judas – and to us when we are his betrayers.

May we embrace, and impart, this truth and grace of the Gospel.