Published in  
March 29, 2021

Lenten Gestures - Judging

Judgment is a double-edged sword.

Matthew 25:41

"Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;"

This verse always brings another to mind: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (Mt 10:34). Both in the Sermon on the Mount, and there in Christ’s enjoinder to the disciples, we are met with almost serene descriptions of the life Christ asks of us, punctuated by moments of seeming harshness. These can be, at least for me, stumbling blocks, as the Church Fathers called those moments in Scripture with which we know not exactly what to do. But the Fathers also instruct us to pay attention to what in Scripture causes us to falter, perhaps giving more time and attention to exactly those moments.

Judgment is a double-edged sword. I think here of Psalm 149: “Let the praise of God be on their lips / and a two-edged sword in their hand”. We see in Scripture that to live as Christ asks us necessarily marks us, demarcates our position in the world. We indicate, incarnately, in the way we dispose ourselves to reality, that we know that this world has a source and a Savior, and it is to him, not the world, that we owe our allegiance. And in this disposition, we are often seen as “other”. I wonder then if judgment is not first or primarily an action we perform, but rather the natural consequence of conforming ourselves to the Lord, of living the way he asks of us in a world that often does the opposite.

Simply living a Christian lifestyle and making ourselves like Christ looks like judgment to the world. We ourselves do not judge because we ourselves are not the Judge. Judgment is rightfully the Lord’s domain, as he explains so decisively in this verse. But the key is this: insofar as we conform ourselves to his body, we radiate his good and merciful—and yes, sometimes seemingly harsh—judgment in our very being, in the way we live. We are not the source of judgment, but we are sometimes, perhaps, its presence in this world.

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Art: Dea Jenkins | "Erasure: RedBlue" | watercolor | 2018

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