HOW NOT TO JUDGE?
Archpriest Sergiy Baranov
St. John of Kronstadt Cathedral of Gai
August 20, 2023
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
In the Gospel God commands us not to judge. He says definitely and clearly, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”1 This commandment of non-judgmentalness seems so easy to keep. So what, what is so hard and deep there? I am going to ask a question, I am going to ask questions and, maybe, this commandment will become more complicated. God Himself was in conflict with lawyers throughout the whole Gospel. Did He not judge them? He judged. Not only did He judge them, but He was also angry with them. He was angry with lawyers, human absurdity, and people’s sins. And in the heat of the moment, He even said these words, “How long shall I bear with you?”2
Then I want to ask one more thing. The Church was established, it was developing, and there were the Ecumenical Councils. What were the Holy Fathers doing there? They judged. They were judging heresy and heretics. If we consider it thoroughly, try to comprehend the situation, we will get some confusion. How should we understand the commandment of non-judgmentalness? So, on the one hand, He definitely says that we must not judge. On the other hand, He judges Himself. We can see that the Holy Fathers judged and were even angry. We have this confusion now. But how should we keep the commandment of non-judgmentalness?
There is only one possibility, one reason to keep this commandment. If you know your infirmities, your depravity, what will happen to you? You will be very careful in your arguments, cautious in any estimation, accurate in actions, words you say, you will be careful even with your thoughts. The greatest wisdom or, I should say, the beginning of the greatest wisdom is when a person did self-research. Since this point, wisdom appears. People, who do self-research deeply and sincerely, cannot avoid becoming disillusioned with themselves. If you look back at the past, turn over all your mistakes, absurdities, sins and filth, you will never miss the wisdom of self-cognition. We should cognize our worthlessness and inadequacy. If you think that you mean something, you are insane then. It means that you understand nothing in this life.
Once a woman told me, “Father Sergiy, it is so hard to go towards the truth if you do not even know where it is.” I said, “It is not that scary when you do not know where the truth is and where to go. The scariest thing ever is when you know where the truth is and you go there as an armoured train, but the truth is not there in the end.” This is an awful situation. When you do not know something, you ask the way, don’t you? When you do not know the road, you will ask, “Could you tell me, please, how I can get there?” “Where should I go?” It is scary when you know the road, but it leads you nowhere. And you keep going and going.
The first advice for a person lost in the woods is to stop. Stop and maybe you will be found. Do not go far away. Do not go far away because you do not know the way, you are confused, you have lost your direction, you will go and go, but what if the road is wrong. And you will go far away from help and those who are looking for you. First, you will lose the road, then you will go away so far that you will not even be able to hear voices, which call you back. Then you will reach the point of no return.
In order to keep the commandment of non-judgmentalness in a right and wise way, you should cognize yourself. Try to remember how many times you were wrong judging something. What if you are wrong again? I told you that the Holy Fathers judged at Ecumenical Councils. But this kind of judgement was not their personal one. It was a consensus patrum, it was the general reasoning of the Holy Fathers. They were listening to each other and then made a decision, but each one could be mistaken or could reason in a wrong way. That is why they were consulting with each other. This way they could find the right solution.
There is another extremity here — the western world is infected by it, it is an insanity of western world. They understood the commandment of non-judgmentalness perversely. They stopped judging perverted people, fornicators, libertines and murderers. They stopped judging lies. They lost the truth. They are confused. In the western world is like this now. But when you ask them, “Why do you act like this?” They would answer, “We keep the commandment of non-judgmentalness.” What is the result of it?
In order to understand everything said by Jesus, comprehend, accept and act in the right way we need to have the mind. An insane person, who is listening to even the wisest advice, will spoil everything, this person will go the wrong way. Well, a Christian mind — have you ever noticed how a Christian mind is called — humility. Christian wisdom goes through humility. What is humility? It is not a superficial theatre with “sorry,” “forgive me,” “give me the blessing” — this is not humility. You have true humility only when you know yourself through lapsing, through your worthlessness. Real humility is very careful. You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of your decisions, you start getting advice, you always check yourself. This kind of person needs a spiritual guide. And you find a spiritual father indeed.
Some modern people say, “It is impossible now to find a spiritual guide.” For you — yes. Because you do not have a real need. You do not need which is not crying but yelling, “I am zero; I am not a zero but I am a minus! Everything that I do in my life is just absurdity, insanity. Give me a worse spiritual guide, let him be an alcoholic, I will be alright with that because I am even worse. I cannot do anything on my own.” St Ambrose of Optina once said nice words, “I had better be a novice of novice rather than be obedient to myself or listen to my mind.”
When we read the Gospel, we think, on the one hand, that everything is simple and clear. However, if we try to comprehend it thoroughly, we will see that the Gospel is deeper and wiser. The Gospel is closed for ignorant people and opened for humble ones. Yes — yes, no — no3, everything is simple.
Glory to God, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen!
1 Mt. 7:1
2 Mk. 9:19
3 Mt. 5:37