You, O man, are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. Romans 2:1
Before Paul turns to the subject of Jews and the Law, he turns to all righteous-feeling-men who think that the pagans will surely get what they deserve. The thesis of Paul is that no one, even if he should appear righteous, can escape God’s wrath if not by faith in Christ. At the beginning of the body of his letter, Paul cited a quote from Zechariah that would set the tone for Paul’s Gospel: “the righteous man shall live by faith.” In the context of Zechariah’s book, that phrase means that the just which at the moment look as if they are disadvantaged in their way of life while the wicked prosper, will in the end survive the purification of the last days because of their continued faith (trust) in God. In Paul, that phrase means that no one is really righteous unless one receives that righteousness by faith in Christ.
Do not judge — says Paul. And he echoes some of Jesus’ statements about judging others. Since no one is righteous, and it is only God who knows the hearts of men, while at the same time anyone who thinks he can judge is also subject to sins — even hidden sins — then no one should arrogate for himself something that belongs to the Judge of all.
All the statements about judging others are found in contexts where community living is referred to. The world may be a stage, but — in the mind of Christ — it is never a courthouse where one plays judge. In that community, all have received from the Lord grace and mercy; otherwise, they have no place there. The fact that we are all sinners who have been gratuitously pardoned, made righteous, does not give us the right to play judge over others.
A judge decides that one is guilty or not. He exonerates or condemns. There is no middle way. We are not to judge but to exhort, admonish, correct. We are not to judge but to let our light so shine that others may see their faults and be moved to repentance. There are some among us who, in particular situations, are entrusted with the task of weighting someone’s guilt (e.g. in confession). But we do that conscious of our answerability before the one who will be judging us. Those who are magistrates of the Church, need to do their job as “job”, not as a life-style.
Lord, keep me humble and free from that feeling of superiority that sets me above others and makes it easy for me to find fault and guilt where there may be none.