Life Matters —The Newsletter of the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Rockford
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Associate Director, Respect Life Office
A popular response heard today in regard to criticism of any number of behaviors is “judge not lest you be judged.” Typically, the person making this statement is responding to a pronouncement that a particular belief or action is “wrong.” In some instances, the assertion is offered by an individual in an attempt to justify his or her own personal behavior.
There is no doubt that this is an important teaching found in Holy Scripture. However, it is one that is often misunderstood or misapplied. Many draw on this verse from Matthew 7:1 having never studied or even read Holy Scripture. It suits their purpose, so they use it! This tactic is employed frequently in the area of attitudes and actions regarding sinful sexual behavior and other attacks on the dignity of human life.
Most of us who have publicly proclaimed that abortion, assisted suicide, non-marital sex, co-habitation, contraception, homosexual behavior, in vitro fertilization (IVF), etc. are wrong have been told by some individuals that we are intolerant—that it is not our place to judge. But isn’t this attitude itself a judgment? By saying this, they are intolerant of our view. The difference is that we are judging actions according to God’s standards and they are judging according to their own private standards.
As Chuck Colson writes, “True tolerance is not a total lack of judgment. It’s knowing what should be tolerated—and refusing to tolerate that which shouldn’t.” It is recognizing the difference between good and evil and we cannot do that without judging. The important distinction, however, is that we are not to judge the condition or state of a person’s soul—that judgment is reserved for God alone.
We are called to discern good from evil and truth from error. If we do not, we may tacitly encourage error or sinful actions of others to continue. The Catechism #1868 says, “…we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them: —by participating directly and voluntarily in them; —by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; —by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; —by protecting evil-doers.”
John 7: 24 calls us to “…judge with righteous judgment.” Therefore, we must not be reluctant to call evil, “evil” and good, “good.” We must never judge hearts, but we are to judge behavior against God’s standard of right and wrong. We have to make moral judgments and not be afraid to stand for the truth.
We read in James 5:19-20, “…if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
In many instances the faithful have allowed the popular culture to define what is good and evil and it is time to put a stop to it. We must not be afraid to stand up for righteousness even when it is not popular.