By Benedict Augustine
“You, O man, are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment.
For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself,
since you, the judge, do the very same things.”
The good conscientious Christian fears few things more than the charge of hypocrisy. Out of all kinds of wrongdoing, Jesus cites hypocrisy as among the very worst. Not only is it dishonest and offensive, it undermines efforts of evangelization. In fact, it might be the single biggest threat to the Church, and thus the biggest threat to people’s salvation. A murderer may take lives, but the hypocrite may take souls. Hence, Jesus spends far more time crying “Woe!” to the Pharisees than to the Romans.
Despite their relative distance from Jesus, people outside the Church today continue making the charge on Christians, assuming the role of Jesus. For them, unless every Christian is poor, miserable, and hoisted on a cross, they warrant the charge of hypocrisy (see the attached picture of my hero, Pope Benedict, stupidly being condemned for his lack of charity). They enjoy a normal marriage and condemn same-sex marriage? Hypocrites! They have a comfortable life in a developed country while people starve in other parts of the world? Hypocrites! They want to help the poor, but don’t support fleecing the rich and imposing socialism? Hypocrites! They revere the Virgin Mary and the special role of women in salvation, but don’t aggressively tout the unnatural claims of modern feminism? Hypocrites!
Against such an onslaught continually launched bythese sanctimonious secularists (again, see the attached picture), many Christians go quiet. Although they cannot bring themselves to simply go with the social trends eviscerating the family and the Church, they cannot speak against it without the fear of being a hypocrite.
At most they will try to find points of agreement and keep their objections buried deep in their hearts. They express their love for homosexuals, but softlymutter their contentions with redefining marriage. They will loudly express their solidarity with the poor, but talk amongst friends about how oppressive socialist regimes made them poor and kept them there. And this will be the case with most issues, as though keeping one’s unpopular opinions to oneself somehow absolves them hypocrisy, as though Jesus does not read the minds of all people and note the discrepancy between their thoughts and their words.
In this way, the threat of being labeled a hypocrite ironically leads to even greater hypocrisy since some people will actually override their own conscience and common sense to keep from offending anyone. So many Christians now posit a phony tolerance in place of charity, a vague relativism in place of truth,and a virtual connection on the internet in place of a spiritual body in the Church. In short, they claim to be Christians despite rejecting all the very things that make them Christian.
Is this what Paul or Jesus want when they telldisciples “not to judge”? Are they really just giving a lesson in tact? A lesson in politics? No, they in fact suggest the opposite. They do not tell people not to judge, but to judge themselves before others. One may rebuke sinners, as long as he rebukes himself. One may confront heresy, as long as he practices orthodoxy. One may demand virtues of others, as long as he practices virtues himself.
Of course, some have adopted the more liberal interpretation of judging others. If one does not judge, he will not be judged himself—therefore,“good Christians” simply live and let live. However, this breezy non-confrontational attitude flies in the face of real charity. A person who hurts himself and others requires help, not tolerance. A person who wants goodness needs advice, not nonjudgmental silence. A person who suffers from loneliness and neglect needs affection, not more space. For this reason, the person who avoids judgment actually incurs a harsher judgment. As paradoxical as it sounds, God will judge a person for not judging!
This does not mean that one should fall into judging the world with impunity—that should be left to the experts. One must simply focus on oneself first. As Paul recommends, one must judge oneself before anything and seek God’s grace for self-perfection. Then, out of charity, one may judge others for their betterment. In this regard, it is important to heed St. Theresa of Avila’s advice: “Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.”
Acting this way will not a person a hypocrite, but a true loving Christian.