This past Sunday afternoon, after our year-end picnic for the youth group I work with at my church, I had the opportunity to do some shopping with some friends down in SoHo. Once we had finished, we hopped in the car and headed back north through Manhattan to make our way to the Lincoln tunnel and home from there. We didn't get very far north, though, before things started getting more than a little hectic. And it took about 10 seconds to realize that the insanity that was filling the sidewalks and bringing traffic to a grinding halt was, in fact, the annual gay pride parade. It takes place at the height of gay pride month, and whatever starry-eyed conservatives out there that would tell you that homosexuals are still a miniscule percentage of our national population has never seen a parade like this.
As we sat there in the car it was simply shocking - the complete and utter depravity that completely surrounded us. I don't care go into further detail as I'll be doing my best to forget about the experience, but I'm sure your imagination can fill in the details. It was a celebration of perversion on a massive scale, and made me think immediately of my recent study of Daniel 5 and the profane orgy thrown by Belshazzar that prompted the hand to appear and write his doom on the wall. It felt like I was sitting in a modern day Soddom or Gomorrah. I think the only words that escaped my mouth were to point out the ironic fact that they were not only celebrating a sin (homosexuality), but celebrating it in the most outrightly sinful way (pride).
And as I sat there in the car, eyes wide in my disdain, I was reminded of the sermon that I heard that very morning on Judgement and Healing. The scripture on which the sermon was based came from Matthew 7:
1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
6"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
These verses hearken back to a verse near the beginning of the SOTM, Matthew 5:20:
20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
And I realized that what sat before me was the very dichotomy that we all deal with so often: yes, I see that what they are doing is wrong and sinful, and while I know that I do not take part in such behavior...who am I to judge?
judgment is something that we are all taking part in, constantly, every day. It doesn't take the shock and awe of a gay pride parade. The first example that comes to my head is when I think of my daily run - I'm constantly judging the stupidity I see in people driving cars as they fail to yield to pedestrians. Or I'm judging the manager that hasn't called me back for his rudeness in not returning a call, or I'm judging friends who don't seem to prioritize worship in the same way I do, or what have you. We all do it in our own little ways, day in, and day out. Even the moral relativist who claims that no one has the right to judge what anyone else holds to be right or wrong - even he is judging those who say that we do have the right to judge. We all judge.
But judgment isn't necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself. Its just the way in which we do it. Christ himself essentially was judging the very act of judgment in the SOTM, and so we know that there is, necessarily, some good judgment. But its so very hard to do it like He did.
I suppose that here it would be more helpful to forgo examining how Christ would practice judgment. We know that he did, and does, and ultimately will, perfectly judge. And if we can internalize this and live responsively to it, we should find ourselves in precious few situations where we feel the need to look down from the bench and hold others in contempt of our own personal court. Rather, it would be more helpful to examine the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector as they came to pray (Luke 18). If we can simply see our constant need to be on our knees, beating our breasts, and completely humble...we won't have time to judge. Instead we will feel the compulsion that should consume us - to restore others gently (Gal 6:1).
I am not a homosexual. Its not a temptation I face. But as I've pointed out before, I am aware that it is a temptation others truly struggle with. And though I am free from this temptation, I of course have my very own unique sinful temptations, and I daily fail in my fight against them. I am in no place to judge homosexuals, even though I know that the lifestyle they have chosen is sinful and wrong. We've all chosen sinful lives.
I have but to rest in the fact that my ultimate judgment is in the past and I have been cleared on all charges. And what better response could I have than to reach to those that have not yet known this good news and seek to share it with them, regardless of their sexual orientation?
Why, all the souls that were forfeit once;
And He that might he vantage best took
Found out the remedy. How would you be
If He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge as you are? O, think on that;
And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new made. - Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
(the picture above is from the Episcopal church up the street from where I live. I suppose the church supporting a prideful celebration of this sin is a post for another day.)