Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Where Non-Judging Comes From

The Desert Christians were famous for "non-judgement", which simply reflects their commitment to living out the teaching of Jesus (who said, for example, "Judge not, that you be not judged" - Matthew 7.1). It seems a cruel irony of history that Christianity has so often presented a judgemental face to the world, and reading the sayings of the desert saints only serves to underline that irony.

But non-judgement is not simply a matter of ignoring other people's failings, of gently drawing a veil over their foibles. It is rooted in a profound humility, a realistic self-assessment that understands that we are sinners just as fully and profoundly as our neighbours. It's not that we choose, out of our deep holiness, not to judge. It's that we have no business seeking to judge people in the first place. Again, of course, this is simply the teaching of Jesus ("Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" - Matthew 7.3)

It's in that light that we need to read the words of Abba Poemen, who offers some excellent advice on monastic life, and Christian life in general, to those who wish to hear it:
Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen, "How does someone become a monk?" Poemen answered him, "If you're looking for peace in this world and the next, at every moment ask yourself, 'Who am I?' and then judge no-one else.
Image: Public domain 

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