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. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
In this passage it seems that Paul is expanding on Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’ (KJV); seemingly because there was rather a lot of judgemental stereotyping going on in the community, that necessitated the reminder! (Perhaps pause here to read yesterday’s reflection, if you haven’t already!)
I find myself remembering the Extinction Rebellion protest of April 2019, when actress Dame Emma Thompson found herself judged for flying from America to take part in the march. The bare fact of flying to a climate change event, does, I concede, appear hypocritical at best, however…
…this feels like a situation where we are all in a massive glass house, throwing stones.
Dame Emma said to reporters after the event: “if I could fly cleanly, I would”.
I was left with the realisation that if it was hypocritical for her to fly to such an event, then is it not also hypocritical of me to rail against single-use plastic whilst finishing-off my flavoured water and popping the bottle in the recycling?
Our world is so entrenched in wicked environmental and ecological habits, that every one of us can be judged a charlatan for opening our mouths on the subject. It is almost impossible for us to break free from the systems and policies that perpetuate climate change – we certainly cannot claim any purity as we are all so entangled within it.
Judging others, when we ourselves have a log of global proportions in our eye, is indeed unwise!
It is chastening, alarming and challenging to hear Paul’s thoughts on the wrath we are building up for ourselves.
However, I find myself left in a place of hope.
Accepting that we are all part of the problem feels like an important place to start.
Encouraging one another to change and grow, celebrating progress on the way, speaking truth to power, and rejoicing in the good, may just lead us towards the eternal whole life that God desires for all creation.
God of grace, guide us from judgement to mutual support. For the flourishing of the earth and its people, we pray. Amen
The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC)