Monday, June 20, 2016

God knows!

The gospel today says

Stop judging, that you may not be judged

On the one hand, it seems rather simple. On the other it seems silly. Imagine going through life making no judgements about people. One could very quickly end up in a very bad place. And besides, isn't prudence a virtue? 

Prudentia or its Greek predecessor phronesis is practical judgement, the ability to judge the virtuous act from the vicious act in a particular situation. We don't like to think of ourselves as vititous but if an act isn't virtuous what is it?

Prudence is about judging actions. It is the virtue we use to judge our own actions, and before we do them. It is not about judging the actions of others after the fact. 

And yes, there are even times when prudence dictates that we judge the actions of others. Someone you know has a history of drinking, and driving, and wrecking cars. The person asks to use your car on a Friday night to go out with friends. Would it be prudent to lend him your car? Probably not. 

But notice, even in this scenario you are still making judgement about actions and foreseeable consequences. You are not attributing motive. And there is where we draw the line. 

We cross the line when attribute motive. To do that we must be able to know the mind and heart of another. In confession a person opens their mind and heart to the confessor and so it is possible to render a judgement. But in most of life we cannot know the mind and heart of another person. Sometimes we don't even know our own. 

How often do we Christians in the absence of real knowledge assume the worst? Someone walks past us without speaking and we assume it was an intentional slight. Someone forgets to invite us to an event, and we assume the omission was intentional. Someone doesn't respond to a text, they are ignoring us. We get offended where no offense was intended. 

Whether an action is good or bad we can and should judge, our own actions always, and at times those of others.  When it comes to motives, we must stick to judging our own. And even there we must continue to pray for deeper self-knowledge. In the end, when it comes to the true motive, only God knows.