A Reflection for the Monday of the Second Week in Lent
Today’s readings are all a beautiful reminder of the wonder of forgiveness and the sin of judgement. I am including Luke 6: 36-38 for you to read through slowly:
“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.’”
As I read through this for what seems to be at least the hundredth time I am struck by how many different directions I could go with this reflection. It is such an eloquent way to state the famous golden rule: “treat others the way you want to be treated.” We could talk about that. There is wonderful encouragement of giving. We could talk about that. There is potential, in connection with today’s other passages, for a deep discussion on the relief that comes from forgiveness. We could talk about that. But what really jumped out to me and speaks to me this year is the line: “Stop judging and you will not be judged.” I would like to talk about that.
This year, in particular, I feel like being nonjudgmental has been really hard. And I think some of the issue can be the blurred lines between judgement and accountability. We are told it is important to hold ourselves and others accountable for our actions—but at the same time not to judge. What does that mean? What does that look like?
A quick Google search shows many have asked this question before, often in the context of interpreting Scripture. In spending time thinking about this, and discussing with others, I have found that it boils down to the intention.
Holding someone accountable is done out of love. The goal is to help this other person become a better version of themselves. Often there is a relationship necessary and a solid understanding of the context of the action. Importantly, holding someone accountable reflects the action, not the person, and thus there is a belief that change can happen.
Judging someone, on the other hand, comes from a place of pride. The goal is to show that you are better than this other person. There is not necessarily a relationship between the judger and judged and often there is not a full understanding of the context. Finally, judging tends to extend past the specific action and onto the entirety of a person’s worth, eliminating the opportunity for change.
This year has been full of challenging conversations, each with the option to judge those with different opinions. This is the easy option. It is easy to look on Instagram and see people out at restaurants, or traveling, and to judge. This is the option where you feel like you are the better person, and you are not required to do any of the hard work of holding the other accountable. But of course, the easy option is rarely the correct one.
Instead, we are supposed to hold our friends and families and community members accountable. We are called to do the hard work of explaining the risks associated with visiting family at the holidays and come up with creative alternatives.
We are told by Jesus in the gospel today not to judge. But I also do not think we are supposed to be silent. We must find ways to hold each other accountable and do so solely motivated by love.