Sunday 16 September 2018

When We Judge Others We Condemn Ourselves

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

There are a number of places in the Gospels which tell of Jesus healing someone in desperate need, only for those in positions of religious authority to condemn him for it. One example is told by Matthew:
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.  And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”  But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
Jesus responds that "the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." People whose hearts are full of evil will see evil, even in what is good.

Which brings us to our next Beatitude: blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. It is only as our hearts are purified from the filth which enshrouds them that we begin to see the pure wholesome light of God.

Jesus tells us not to judge others; doing so is a sign that our hearts are not pure. There is a passage in St Paul's letter to the church in Rome which begins by talking about people who are far from God whose lifestyles end up in a mess. That bit is often quoted by religious types, but they somehow forget about the punchline:
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
Those self-appointed judges struggle with this: how can they be accused of "degrading passions" and a "debased mind"? The truth is that in passing judgement on others they show themselves to have impure and degraded hearts, fully deserving of all the rigours of God's judgement.

If they had pure hearts they would see God present and at work wherever they looked, for God is everywhere. They would see children of God, who he loves and longs to save, and would do everything they could to show these children God's loving grace, not heartless judgement.

If only we had pure hearts, what difference could we make with Jesus?

But how can our hearts be purified? By us praying lots and reading the Bible? Well, it can't hurt ... but remember that the Pharisees did a lot of that. By asking God to change our hearts through his Holy Spirit within us? Probably better, and it does fit in with the words of the ancient prophet Ezekiel:
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
But we are called to more than that. God will do the bulk of the work, of course, but we must do our part as well: we need to actively look for Jesus in the people and situations around us, and join in with whatever he is doing. We must freely share God's grace and God's love.

We must let people know the good news that God wants to include everyone in his family, however unlikely that may seem in human terms. It is as we see Jesus in those who our neighbours scorn, especially those despised by our religious neighbours, that we know we are making progress.

Everybody has a choice, of course, and can turn away from God as easily as they can turn to him. May your choices in the coming weeks always turn you toward the light of God  and may you and yours know the blessings of his wonderful grace.


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