Judgment, Censure, and Condemnation
Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina
“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”
A mother, beloved brothers and sisters, when she sees her child running towards an open flame cries out, ‘Don’t! Get away!’ And likewise the Church, our sweet mother who loves us even more than she who gave birth to us naturally, cries out to us through the voice of the Apostle, ‘Get away from the fire!’ What fire? Sin, vice, unsavoury parties, frenzied dances, drunkenness, fornication, and so on. In addition to these, however, the Apostle cries out, ‘Get away!’ from yet another sin, one we consider innocent despite its being very serious. This is the sin of condemnation. “Who art thou,” he says, “who judgest another man’s servant?” Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? Permit me, then, to say a few words about condemnation.
Now so that we do not confuse them I would like to show you that judgement is one thing and condemnation another. Judgement is a human privilege. Man alone, with the mind given to him by God, judges, makes distinctions, differentiates. He examines, he draws conclusions, he decides. He sifts things and distinguishes between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, love and hate, Christ and the devil. Judgement is a human faculty. Sadly, however, it does not always function properly. Just as it is possible for the sun to be covered over by clouds and its rays kept from shining through, so human judgement may be influenced and darkened by the passions, kept from being able to discern things clearly. When judgement falls under the influence of the passions it makes mistakes. Passionate judgement is not permitted; dispassionate, just judgement is permitted.
Consequently, then, judgement is not condemnation, nor is censure condemnation. What do we mean by censure? Censure is a criticism, a chastisement, a reprimand which love requires us to visit upon a brother. What does Christ say? ‘Do you see someone doing something wrong? If you love him, go up to him and show him how he has erred. If he listens to you, you have saved him; if he does not listen to you, it is too bad for him.’
Are you a father? God help you if you are indifferent. Some parents, their child comes home at midnight, and they are soundly asleep! This is wrong! You need to pay attention to your child, to where he is, to what he does, to who he spends time with, to whether he is staying up all night. I know parents who chase after their children, who go out and find them, who call out to them, who scold them, who cry over them. Parents are obliged to censure appropriately and with love. Are you a teacher? Do not be indifferent when it comes to the progress of your students. When I was a child we used to see our teacher, our professor, our principal, get up at night and go check to make sure that all the students had returned and that they were in bed, and then to censure those who had not come back on time the next day. It is the teacher’s duty to censure. Are you a judge or a lawyer? It is your mission to censure transgressions, offences, injustices, and crimes. Are you a reporter? You are obliged to censure with your pen. May God help us if such censuring vanishes from public life! It is a corrupt society where no censure is to be found! Heroics are needed; he who censures might even face death for his actions. It is for this reason that journalists often avoid censuring. Are you a priest or a bishop? O, then you must be vigilant with respect to your flock. If someone sins publicly you must censure him; if you don’t your fault is great. Even if everyone hates you for it, even if they give you poison hemlock to drink, even if they crucify you, you must speak the truth, you must call a spade a spade.
But what is condemnation? Condemnation is not judgement, it is not censure, what is it? It is a vice. Why is it a vice? Because when someone meets up with his friend, despite the fact that there are many other things to talk about, he goes straight to the manure, the failings of others. ‘Do you know what his wife, his child, his daughter did?’ And then the spreading and raking begins; they pass sentence–and not just about real failings and shortcomings, but also about imagined ones.
It is unjust.
When you condemn, you stage a trial which sentences heartlessly and without hearing the defense. This is unjust. You harm your neighbour, not financially, but morally, with respect to the most precious thing he has: his good name. “Honour (τιμή) is without price (τιμή),” and, “Though the tongue does not have bones, it breaks bones.”
It is hypocrisy.
You who condemn, what are you? A prophet? A patriarch? A bishop? An angel? You are a man! Your neighbor has failings and you don’t? Your neighbor is all black, but you make yourself out to be as white as a dove?
Finally, it is ignorance.
If you think that you are without failings, then you do not know yourself. Instead of searching out the faults of others, study yourself! There you will find enough material to keep yourself occupied for months. He who does not know himself considers the tiny faults of his neighbor to be great and considers his own major faults to be of no consequence.
Beloved brothers and sisters, whoever condemns is out of his mind. The Lord says, “…why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Such a one becomes a laughingstock. Aesop’s saying, “…the donkey said to the rooster,” applies to him. Such a one even ignores his own good, for the Lord said, “…whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Do you want someone to condemn you? No! So be careful not to condemn anyone else!
The day will come when Christ will bring about a universal trial and he will judge us. Then we will beseech him, pleading, ‘Lord, have mercy!’ And even now he tells us, “Judge not, that ye be not judged, and with what measure ye use, it shall be measured back to you.” He who condemns becomes the prosecutor of his neighbor and his own defense attorney. However, the Russian Saint Seraphim of Sarov said, “I know but one evil in the world, myself; and I regard everyone else as angels,” and whenever he encountered anyone he called them, “My joy!” Therefore, become your own prosecutor, but the defender of others.
To fast from food is easy; it is difficult to set aside condemnation, gossip–which is more so a woman’s passion. All of you, then, keep the holy fast: remain far from condemnation! Only in this way will we find mercy on that day, through the prayers of the All-Holy Theotokos and all the saints. Amen.
 From the book Εμπνευσμένα Κηρύγματα Ορθοδόξου Ομολογίας και Αγιοπατερικής Πνοής (Orthodoxos Kypseli: Thessaloniki, 2011), 141-145. Translated by Fr John Palmer.
 Romans 14:4.
 A paraphrase of Matthew 18: 15-17.
 Matthew 7:3.
 This is Aesop’s version of, ‘The pot calling the kettle black’.
 Matthew 7:12.
 Matthew 7:1-2.
Read Full Post »