Judging others

BRIEF SERMON FOR ADVENT 3, St Crispin’s Chapel, Colwall 15 December 2013

BCP texts: 1 Corinthians 4. 1-5; Matthew 11. 2-10

The world tends to giggle at the Christian notion of sin – partly because we have failed to communicate clearly what it is, and partly, I suspect, because the subject is embarrassing. It would probably come as a complete surprise if the editors of the Sunday papers were to discover that the sin most often pointed out in the New Testament is our human compulsion to pass judgement on other people. I know I do it myself and I have rarely found a person who does not do it.

Jesus warned against it, and St Paul frequently reminds his readers of this besetting sin. I’ve never done a count of how many times such warnings occur in the Bible, or even in the New Testament.

St Paul says that he knows it goes on all the time, but actually he doesn’t care so far as his own reputation goes. The only judgement he cares about is the judgement of Christ on his life. I suppose we all ought to be like St Paul – not worrying about how other people judge us, and, in turn, not bothering to judge other people, but leaving that to the only reliable and worthwhile judge, Jesus Christ, whose Second Coming will be to judge us all.

So what should we do with our apparent compulsion always to be comparing ourselves with other people, with our ready opinions as to their merits or otherwise? Do we have this capacity only for it to be a cause of our own sin?

Well, not so. We are, says Jesus, to keep our eyes and ears open. We are to take note of what we see and hear. And when we hear that wonderful things are happening, when we learn that there is healing of body and mind, when we learn that there is hope for the poor, then we can indeed come to a judgement. We can use our eagerness to focus on other people to look and to bear witness to nothing less than the rule of God in our midst, and to proclaim it to anyone who will listen.