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To Judge or not To Judge

Luke 6:37 – “Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned”.

Too often we hear, “oh, you are judging” as the label used most to quickly put you in your place when you say something that is contrary to someone else’s beliefs or against authority (and this is exactly the screen behind which hide all those that would rather not have you say what you think). If you say something that is in contradiction with world’s wisdom or with the authority (including Bishops or Clergy), you are classified as a judging person to whom people should not listen to. Way too often do we hear this “labeling” uttered out of context or without being explained how exactly we are judging. It is therefore important to understand the exact meaning of “judging” so that we can always respond to those who accuse us of being mutinous.

In order to understand the correct meaning of the term “to judge”, we need to go back to the basic, literal meaning – a judge is a person who has been delegated the authority to enforce a law. The assembly of all judges form the judicial power. The act of judging means pronouncing a sentence that is associated with a punitive (or rewarding) action, against someone.

In the Orthodox Church there is no such authority (yet) that dares to call itself the “Grand Inquisitor”. Yes, in the Orthodox Church the authority (a Synod or a Bishop) can pronounce anathemas against a false teaching or a heresy, but it is outsides the responsibilities of this authority to impose sanctions by force on the wrongdoers and wrong-believers. Anathema means the breaking off of the communion with those that fall from the truth, nothing more.

In Roman-Catholicism, this understanding has been perverted, and its history of inquisitions and crusades (which continue to today in various forms) stand testimony. According to this wrong understanding, the truth must be forced upon others by force and coercion (as man is incapable of having a direct and personal relation with his Creator, or to correctly understand the Truth). The option of using one’s own free-will and conscience for discerning between good and evil is taken away and transferred from the individual to an external entity (The Catholic Church), thus making the work of these two souls saving characteristics in man irrelevant. Man can no longer participate in the mystical work of his own salvation by using his own conscience and free-will (the image and likeness of God in man), and he is required to transfer this work to an external authority.

This difference is precisely the context where this notion of “judgement” should be placed. One executes judgement when trying to impose his/her views on somebody else, by force. The act of simply stating a truth as understood, and delimiting from the position of others does not constitute an act of judgement. On the contrary, when this is followed by the act of trying to force one’s views on others, then it does constitute judgement, because now one puts himself in the position of a “law enforcer”.

Do not therefore be afraid to speak up even against an authority, or against anyone who confesses a wrong set of beliefs, contrary to yours or to Christ’s. Showing the deception that others want you to accept does not make you a judge, as long as your actions consist of simply stating the case and delimiting from them. The same principles apply in the Little Church – the Family.

In Orthodox Christianity the only judge is Christ, and He alone can enforce His laws. No earthly authority can do this for Him. If it does, then this authority is called “Anti-Christ”, or “instead of Christ”. The role of the Church is to unite each and every individual with Christ, in a personal way, through the works of its mysteries. The Church is there to teach everyone how to find and unite with Christ in his own heart. There is no such concept as “collective salvation”.

Christ showed us what judging truly means: Luke 12:13-14 – “And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” Or in other words, “I am not here to force your brother to do something against his will”.

The act of coercion can also take the form of making threats like “if you don’t agree with me, then ‘i am going to do this or that’, or ‘you are outside the Truth or the Church’, or ‘you are excommunicated'”, without being able to prove the accusations in the spirit of the law, demanding unconditional obedience and submission. Ultimatelly, God alone has the capacity to judge whether someone is outside the Law or not. When we say accusations like this we already pronounce judgement as we consider ourselves to be the authority in applying God’s law! Rather we should say: “i do not agree with you and i shall not share your beliefs”, and we should leave it at that – if our position is correct then God Himself shall make just judgement, for the Truth is His and He Himself will defend it – it is not our duty to enforce it, but to state it, to confess it!

Be vigilant, because there are forces at work in the world today that shall soon ask every one to be a judge, and they already are. They themselves are coming as judges, already calling on us to divide our inheritance with others!

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