|Posted on September 10, 2017 at 5:30 AM|
May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.
The topic of our Gospel reading today concerns the correction of wrongdoing in others. It is an uncomfortable one, particular in this modern age of 'live and let live.' And it seems to stand in contradiction of our Lord's words elsewhere of 'judge not, lest you also be judged.' This is a favourite scripture quotation of many these days; ironically, generally used by those who would never dream of obeying anything else that Christ teaches – people who, indeed, would deny our Lord's divinity, and perhaps even the existence of God.
However, our Lord's words here, and in many other places in scripture, make it clear that when he teaches us to 'judge not' he is not commanding us to be silent in the face of evil, whether in the world or in the behaviour of others. The Church has always taken it to mean that it is not for us to comment on the eternal fate of those who, ostensibly at least, seem to be very great sinners. That is something that is left to the judgement of God alone; and it is why the Church has never during the entirety of her nearly 2000 year history ever taught that any particular person, no matter how evil they have seemed to be, no matter how great their crimes, have passed from this life into eternal damnation.
But refraining from making this kind of judgement does not mean, as I have already said, being silent when we see those around us breaking God's laws. Let us look at a fictional example to consider why it is important that we should not.
Let us imagine a young, married woman whose husband's job takes him abroad for long periods of time. During one such absence she is seen having drinks with an old boyfriend in the local public house, their behaviour becoming increasingly flirtatious. Her family and friends say nothing. Soon after she goes out for dinner with him on several occasions and then on to local nightclubs until the wee hours. Again her family and friends say nothing. Finally, his car is seen parked outside her house all night, several nights a week. The other nights her car is parked outside his. And still her family and friends say nothing.
And of course they should speak. Why? For the sake of her reputation? Well, naturally, reputations are very important things. A good reputation is more valuable than silver and gold. Indeed, to quote Shakespeare : 'Who steals my purse steals trash … but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.' But even so, there was a more important reason that her friends and family should speak.
For the sake of her marriage? Again, marriage is something of great importance. For the Christian it is something sacred – in the words of our Lord: 'What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' And irrespective of faith, it is the very building block of society. This young woman's action threaten not only her own marriage but also helps undermine the institution of marriage within society. And yet there is an even more important reason that her friends and family should speak to her about the wrongness of her actions.
And that is for the sake of her immortal soul. This woman is engaging in adultery. This is not to judge her – it is to speak the plain and objective facts of the matter. And we all know what the commandment says: 'thou shalt not commit adultery.' And our Lord, even as he protected the woman taken in adultery from those who would stone her to death, told her to 'go, and sin no more.' Why did our Lord tell her to 'sin no more'? Because those who die unrepentant of serious sin face serious eternal consequences. The friends and family of this woman can not know that this woman will be damned; and it is certainly not for them to say that she will be; but that is quite evidently the fate that she is risking. And if her friends and family love her, then the fear of her anger at being told what she is doing is wrong, the worry that she will end their relationship and never speak to them again, will not stop them from speaking to her. Because what is that risk compared by what she risks by her actions?
This example, as I said, is made up. And it covers, you will note, only one of the commandments. There are others. Perhaps it would be good if you went through them all in your mind, if not now, then later. Think of the lives of those whom you love. Are they living in such a way as to break God's law? Would you dare, out of love for them, to tell them so? And as you ponder, think of your own lives. Are there aspects of it that need correcting? And if there are, are you willing to do so? And if not, do you have friends and family loving enough to help you, loving in the true sense of love, love that will only the best for the other person, understanding that the best must always look to the eternal salvation of the one they love? I pray that you do – even as I pray that you will love all others in his way in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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