“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NKJV)
I point out this particular passage because I find, especially on the Internet in blogs and other venues on the Internet, the words and conclusions of those that declare someone intelligent or stupid, beautiful or ugly, saved or damned. The last particular dichotomy is one I see the most especially from those who believe in a very narrow, out there set of beliefs though there are those who are supposedly who seem “mainstream” (thinking and believing like everyone else) who also determine people’s eternal fates. Now, this is nothing new, judging people acceptable or rejectable by some arbitrary set of definitions. The concept of us versus them has been around since we humans have had the ability to classify and assign value to those classifications. How else would our ancestors have known that one group was an enemy or another group was a friend or that a friend had turned into an enemy. But it is more than that. It is a matter of fear but also of pride. If Person A says the Person B isn’t a person or less than a person because they (I’m going to use an absurd example here) use the color purple to color in a picture of a flower and that by doing so they reject the superiority (as defined by Person A) of the color red, then Person A is operating from a place of pride. Now Person A may also be operating from a place of cultural influence but even then it is still a matter of pride.
Christians, in some cases especially American evangelical fundamentalists, certain American developed Protestants (I refer to those Protestant sects that were created in the US after 1800 and especially those groups that developed in the 1900s like Calvary Chapel and non-denominational churches) predicate much of their interactions with Christians who don’t belong to their church in determining their likelihood of becoming a notch on their belt (“winning souls”) or damning them to Hell for not having the “correct beliefs (read “Not agreeing with exactly every word, small thing, and made up rules and regulations that the “pastor” and/or “elders” have come up with) (usually done to Catholics because they believe in a “false gospel” and “added beliefs and kept pagan ones”).
This determining of the eternal destination of others is not only problematic but un-Christian. It attempts to place the judger in the place of God. Only God alone can determine if a person is to go to Heaven or Hell. No one can know if they are saved (there is no assurance of salvation i.e. no one knows if they are bound for heaven or hell) (CCC quotes 1741, 456-460). From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. “For freedom Christ has set us free.” In him we have communion with the “truth that makes us free.” The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Already we glory in the “liberty of the children of God.”” Now there is more to salvation but it is important to understanding that salvation isn’t just about one specific thing be it saying a prayer or having a relationship or “being saved” or being freed from sin. Salvation isn’t simple and it is not complex either. It is, however, wonderful and desired of all men. Not just a select few who dress the right way or say prayers in a certain way. Further in the CCC 456-460, “
456 With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who “loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins”: “the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world”, and “he was revealed to take away sins”:70
Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state?71
458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”72 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”73
459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”74 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”75 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”76 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.77
460 The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature“:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.””
Many err on this because they want to be in “the right” and determining someone’s eternal destination gives that person a smug feeling of superiority, smug satisfaction of knowing that they and they alone have the truth and Jesus, and that they are better than everyone else because they have the “correct” beliefs, the “correct” behaviors, the “correct” “interpretation” of the Bible, and that Jesus and God speak to them all the time and reveal all that they need to know and what to decide. They have a very narrow view of the world. Sounds a bit like Gnosticism doesn’t it? It is but it is also lack of charity, not loving one’s neighbor, pride, selfishness, not loving God.
With recent celebrity deaths and the deaths of loved ones, neighbors, friends, and others, I have seen in the blogosphere several posts where the poster has unequivocally determined the final eternal judgment without any input from God. They determine where this person had gone based on their own criteria, usually what that particular poster believes. They refuse to entertain let alone respect the fact that judgment is God’s and God’s right alone. He gives that right to no one else yet there are those who certainly talk and believe that they have and use this un-given right to judge others, usually quite harshly and with great venom. Many times they cast them into Hell for doing something the poster doesn’t like even if it is not a sin.
Then there are those who judge others not to be Christian because they don’t believe what they do, they belong to a different theology or sect, they are Catholic, or they aren’t in communion with the Catholic Church (I’ve seen this from many Catholics in regards to Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox, calling them names and saying they are schismatic or even heretics (which is false)). Again, many who do this belong to or adhere to evangelical fundamentalist ideology. Actually, many are likely to be weak in faith and understanding of their own faith. They may know a few basics and are sent out or even forced out to “win” converts, i.e. make members for that group. This tends to be more common. Way of the Master is a good example. They use a flawed opening question, “Are you a good person?” to break the ice. It’s a loaded question meant to start the ‘sales pitch. If the questionee answers yes, then the questioner follows up with more questions and into the Ten Commandment (note they use a different numbering order than Catholics and Lutherans use where 2 is not to have idols where as Catholics have you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (the first reads like legal definition if you were to look at a section in the criminal code for a state you would have the offense (I am the Lord you God. You shall have no other gods but me) and the elements that make up that offense (no other gods, no graven images, etc.)). They then go through the Ten Commandments to see if you have broken any of them, which everyone had at least at one point in their lives. However, it’s a trap. They continue through the sales pitch to get you to say a prayer to accept Jesus as you personal savior (remember, they’re selling a product and they have to” make a sale” to be a good Christian). That’s it. They don’t follow up, usually. They tell you to join a “Bible-believing” church and that’s it. Way of the Master only believe, or limits their definition of a Christian to somebody who had gone through this process (accept Jesus as savior, say a prayer, join a “Bible-believing church) so Catholics and even liturgical Protestants such as Lutherans are considered apostate because they follow a false gospel and added pagan elements in their worship (because organized worship like a liturgy is pagan, apparently).
Those who consider people not to be Christian because don’t believe as Group A does. Group A’s definition of a “Christian” will be defined not by essentials but by non-essential or even disciplines rather than doctrine. For example, no dancing, no smoking, no playing cards, no pants on women, no watching movies, long hair on women, no partying, no mixing between genders, marriage only (no single life), mandatory Bible reading for a set period of time a day, no wearing makeup, no jewelry, women aren’t allowed to work, women aren’t allowed to serve in any kind of ministry or service, praying in tongues, praying in a specific manner, not praying spontaneously, must win converts, contemporary worship songs, no musical instruments, etc. These are all disciplines (subject to change) and some are even deliberate misreading of the Bible (marriage only, women have no place, praying in tongues, no musical instruments, anything with regards to women). Catholics are typically called apostates or heretics for:
-supposedly adding to the Bible (which is laughable since the CATHOLIC CHURCH put the Bible together!),
-believing in false or pagan doctrines such as Mary as the Mother of God (Nestorianism, a heresy, denies that Mary is the Mother of God),
-Mary as the Queen of Heaven (again, Biblical; just look to the mother of kings in the Old Testament where the mothers were Queens and sat at the King’s right hand and offered advice and supplications/petitions) (if you ask someone else to pray for you, you can certainly ask a saint to pray for you),
-the Mass (which can be found in parts of Saint Paul’s letters and in the Book of Revelation),
-praying to saints (again in Revelation) (if you ask someone else to pray for you, you can certainly ask a saint to pray for you otherwise you would never be able to ask anyone to pray for you since you can only pray to Jesus, according to that logic),
-salvation by works (Ephesians 2:4-10) (“4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Good works were set aside for us to complete for our salvation.”)(again, not true and very Biblical that we can’t just say a prayer and we’re saved; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)). We are not saved under the Jewish law, true enough, but we must obey Jesus’ commandments: love God and neighbor, and to eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood (John 6:51-58) (“51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”)
Yet there are Christians who don’t look to Jesus’ words but to Saint Paul. They have to be read all together rather than in isolation and separate. Plus, they have to be read in context. Paul is writing to a specific audience in a specific place about a specific problem. Many who read the Bible assume the Bible can be read and interprets (everyone interprets what they read) that it can be done the same today as it was when it was written. That the meaning and application of a passage is the same then as it is today. Not true. Some passages are very specific for the time and have no real application to today (passages referring to slavery for example) and so cannot be applied or used in a contemporary sense. Others are misinterpreted, deliberately in some cases, to support a specific belief or practice that isn’t Biblical at all (Ephesians 5:22 is used by some men and some “churches” as a means to oppress and abuse women when the meaning of the verse is more than just submission; you have to read the verses before and after to understand the whole meaning and context). (emphasis mine)
Catholics are the first Christians. Catholics believe in Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him in the Eucharist. Yet, many say Catholics aren’t Christians because they don’t believe exactly as Person A or Group B, etc. They do not determine if someone is Christian or not. Only the individual and God truly know. Anyone else is just guessing or making false judgments against their neighbor which is a sin and lack of love for their neighbor. It bothers me but mostly it saddens me when I read posts or blogs or what not by people who accuse or vilify or condemn others for not believing as they do or calling Catholics apostates and heretics and condemning them to Hell for nothing more than a lack of understanding or deliberate ignorance on the part of the poster. Most people do not want to learn the Truth. They are satisfied with the little truth they have and so stay in their comfort zone. If they learned that Catholics are truly Christians, that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and gave us the Bible and preserved it and all the beliefs such as the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity down through the ages it would destroy some people because they can’t handle change especially in their world view. They would refuse to believe because it means they were wrong (coming from pride) and wouldn’t accept the Truth. They would hang on to that pride because it gives them false comfort and a false sense of superiority. They want their own easy truth to swallow. They don’t want The Truth handed down and preserved by the Apostles to the Bishops and the Priests of the Catholic Church for over 2000 years. They don’t want to be wrong. They would lose their sense of self especially if their identity is built upon a specific belief system or set of beliefs (Mrs. Smith is a Baptist preachers wife and will always be one and if she didn’t have that, she wouldn’t know what to do with herself because being a Baptist preachers wife is all so knows; it’s who she is).
With regards to Catholics who don’t consider Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox as Catholics, this again comes from pride. All contain the fullness of Truth and have preserved that Truth for over 2000 years. Praxis, meaning actual practice, varies and has always varied by culture and region. The Latin Rite of the Church is not the normative right of the whole Church. It is only normative in the Latin West. Latins are not superior or better or holier than Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox. While there are divisions, there are similarities and the fullness of Truth. All hold the fullness of Truth, as I have already stated. Yes there is a difference is ecclesiology (how the church is organized and governed) but the Sacraments are the same and the graces available are the same. I’m not up on the differences but in some ways it doesn’t matter because I am to love my neighbor. I have no need to convert them to the Catholic faith because they already have it. Unfortunately, many Latins don’t see this or refuse to see this and it leads to prideful posts and behaviors and even in some cases, attempts to proselytize (convert or perish mentality of evangelization). They will even damn them to Hell. Unfortunately, some Orthodox and Eastern Catholics are no better and refuse to see the similarities and that they are all brothers and sisters in Christ and rather resort to name calling (calling Latin Rite Catholics Protestants) or resorting to nationalism (there are divisions along ethnic and nationality but I’m totally not up on the differences but again comes down to pride and lack of love of neighbor rather than a love of the Truth).
Judge not lest ye be judged. Remember that rather than falling into sin. It isn’t easy but it is possible. Love your neighbor.