Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost: To Judge or Not to Judge? That Is the Question.
Have you ever noticed that the Bible begins and ends with a wedding—Adam and Eve’s in the garden and the marriage supper of the Lamb (compare Genesis 2:23–24 and Revelation 19:9; 21:9; 22:17)?
Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the covenant relationship God desires with His chosen people. He is the groom, and the Church His beloved and sought after bride.
Jesus is the divine bridegroom (see John 3:29), calling us to His royal wedding feast.
Now in our Gospel reading today, we find the parable of the Marriage Feast. This parable is an allegory of salvation history culminating in Jesus. The King is God (22:2) who prepares a heavenly banquet for his son (22:2). The servants are OT prophets (22:3). Because some of the invited guests ignored the prophets and others killed them (22:6; 23:37), God will destroy their city, Jerusalem (22:7), and send other servants as apostles (22:8) to invite Gentiles, bad and good (22:10), to the celebration. Those lacking proper attire are cast into the darkness of eternal punishment (22:14).
The proper attire was a wedding garment:
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. And it is granted to her that she should clothe herself with fine linen, glittering and white. For the fine linen are the justifications of saints.” (Rev 19:7-8).
This “wedding garment” symbolizes the Christian life that we “put on.” This language is used in Galatians 3:27 where the church is told, “For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ (or clothed yourself with Christ.)” And this image is unpacked in Colossians 3:12: “Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” In other words, there is an expectation that being a Christian, a Jesus-follower, will make a difference and be obvious in the way we live our lives. This parable, through metaphors and life-and-death consequences, insists that we, need to live lives that do not just prioritize our faith, but reflect our faith to those around us.
But now let us look at something in this parable that Saint Augustine zeroes in on. In Matthew 22:10-12, we read: And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests. And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent.
Concerning these verses, Saint Augustine noted that “the King came in to look at the guests. The servants’ business was only to invite and bring in the good and bad. It is not said that the servants took notice of the guests, found among them a man who had no wedding garment and spoke to him. This is not written. The King came in, the king saw him, the king inspected, the king hauled him off and threw him out. It is not fitting to pass over this quickly.” In other words, it was not the job of the servant to judge the man with no wedding garment, it was the King himself who judged. And so, in today’s homily, I would like to focus on the subject of judging.
There is a lot of misunderstanding among Christians about whether it is right to judge others or not - because of a misunderstanding of the word "judge".
As believers, we must judge others in the sense that we must discern people. God's Word says that, when we listen to someone preaching, we "must pass judgement on his message" (1 Cor.14:29). So, the Holy Spirit actually commands us to judge everyone's preaching. That is the only way we can avoid being deceived by many deceiving preachers in Christendom today.
The Word of God also says, "Do not believe every spirit, but test (judge) the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
Jesus also told us how we are to judge others. He said, "Be honest in your judgment and do not decide superficially and by appearances, but judge fairly and righteously" (John 7:24).
So, what did Jesus mean then, when He also said, "Do not judge " (in Matt.7:1)?
The word "judge" also means "condemn" (in the original Greek). One Bible translation of this verse reads in this way: "Do not condemn others lest you yourself be condemned " (Matt.7:1).
And Jesus said, concerning Himself, "I do not condemn or sentence anyone" (John 8:15).
So, it is condemning and sentencing others (verbally or in our mind) that is forbidden. God alone has the right to do that.
But we must test and discern.
It was prophesied about Jesus that He would never judge anyone "by what His eyes saw or His ears heard, but would judge people righteously" (Isa.11:3,4). We should also follow His example and never judge anything or anyone merely by what we see or hear. We should investigate a matter thoroughly and then judge fairly in righteousness, without any partiality.
We are also told, as members of God's family, that we must judge ourselves first (1 Pet.4:17). But we are not to judge ourselves by looking inside ourselves. No. We are to look at Jesus' example and in the light of His life, see our own shortcomings - and then judge ourselves. As it is written, "Lord, in Your light, we will see light" (Psa.36:9).
Judging ourselves in the light of God is one of the most important lessons that we must learn in the Christian life. Many never learn this and so they never make any spiritual progress.
Here is an amazing promise, that those who judge themselves faithfully now will not be judged by God in the final day: "If we judge ourselves rightly, we will not be judged" (1 Cor.11:31).
Although we do not judge others, we must preach strongly against sin. Jesus spoke strongly against specific sins such as anger, lusting sexually with one's eyes, loving money, anxiety, fear, evil thoughts, telling lies, seeking man's honor, hating one’s enemies, etc. (in Matt. 5,6, and 7). We must also speak against modern sins such as watching Internet pornography - but without condemning people. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). God alone is the Judge and Sentencer of all men (James 4:12).