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Date: September 17, 2017 (Pentecost 15) 1. Texts: Exodus 14:19-31; Ps. 114: Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: to sacrificially love is to give up your critical judgments of people. 4. Aim: redirect, challenge. 5. Proposition: “To cast judgment on another is to push oneself to the edge of God’s kingdom.”

 

WHO ARE WE TO DO THAT?

 

In 2013 the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada directed its Council to draft amendments to the Canon on Marriage to allow for the marriage of same gender couples. With this the ministry of the national Church was overwhelmed with divisions, accusations and vitriolic criticisms. Threats and condemnations flew across the country and around the globe. One was labelled unloving and so not Christian. The other was labelled unorthodox and so not Christian. It was dirty—acrimonious and dirty. The tainted atmosphere did not improve at General Synod 2016 where the first reading of the proposed legislation was approved. Dirty, nasty judgments on all sides. And I can tell you why. You see, although the proposed changes were about theological positions and perceived truths, the debates quickly became about people. Judgments were cast upon people. People were labelled. Statements about people were put into God’s mouth by mere people. And here’s what St. Paul had to write about that: Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? (Romans 14:4) Who do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? (Romans 14:10a-b) Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. (Romans 14:13) It is clear that St. Paul had ideas about theology and was not afraid to express those ideas publicly. We only have to look at his conflict with St. Peter about the role of Jewishness in the Christian faith. But it is absolutely clear that we are to distinguish between the positions people hold and the people Page 2 of 3 -Sacrificial love = non-judgmentalthemselves. We can have a knock-down, drag-‘em-out fight about theology, but we cannot make ever make it about the people who hold those theologies. Here’s at least part of what was likely going on behind St. Paul’s statements. First of all, we are repeatedly commanded, cajoled and compelled to love one another. Love is not only God’s chief command for us, it is the greatest and most accurate sign of the truth of our salvation and the truth of God’s gospel. Those who love cannot condemn or castigate or cast judgments on others. The controlling reality behind this truth is that the essence of our love is self-sacrifice. Out of love we give up our desire to win, our need to be seen as right, and our propensity towards self-righteousness which lead us to critical judgments. Secondly, as disciples of Jesus we necessarily grab onto our place in the universe. You see, we are not God, for which we thank God. We are not obligated to judge others. We do not have the authority or ability to judge others. God is the Lord and there is no other. We disciples of Jesus say, “Amen!” to that. This means that we cannot cast judgments on others, no matter how good it makes us feel to do so. Let God be God so that we can get on with the business of being humans made in the image of God. In this conflict over Canon XXI it has often seemed that we have lost sight of St. Paul’s admonitions and of our place in God’s universe. Our ministry as the beloved of God—and therefore lovers of one another—has suffered from a neglect born of criticism and judgments. Now, the temptation will be to think that this has nothing to do with us in our pews. After all, only a few people even care about same gender marriage and it certainly will have little to do with us in our parish. We’d never behave like that because we will never have anything to do with the Canon on Marriage. So there! Page 3 of 3 -Sacrificial love = non-judgmentalNot so fast: what about what we’re thinking about that neighbour who’s already had two divorces or whose son is actually in a same gender relationship? What about the judgments we make about those worshippers who only like drums and guitars for Sunday worship? Or what are we thinking about those First Nations people who sleep off their booze on Church property or beg for money on the sidewalk? St. Paul was not writing only about public disagreements on a national level. He was also writing about those daily judgments that we heap upon people. At the end of the day, here’s how we can deal with all this. First of all, we have to apply our gospel of love and salvation to all the issues around us. The disciples of Jesus are called upon to establish a just, righteous, caring and loving society. Our personal salvation means nothing if we do not express it in civil society. But as we work to establish God’s kingdom on earth, we cannot castigate, condemn or convict people—people who are the object of Christ’s love and the motivation behind his incarnation. We stand against ideas, ideologies, practices and policies that are contrary to God’s kingdom while we actively love the people who develop such. This means that we are to practice sacrificial love by surrendering our desire to be seen as right and as the winner of our conflicts. As disciples of Christ we are servants of people. We choose humiliation and subjugation to others in the service of God’s love while we stand against the oppression and condemnation of others in unjust circumstances. Jesus once said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven…” 1 This is one expression of the self-sacrificing love to which we have been commanded and for which we have been saved. The Church needs us disciples to remember this, especially now, for sure, but also for always. AMEN.