Jesus says "Judge not, lest ye be judged" (Matt 7:1) Nobody should be tried and condemned on the basis of accusations made without evidence being heard, neither ourselves or others. Nicodemus, who came privately by night to question Jesus about the kingdom of God, some time later found himself listening to religious leaders condemning the popular authority Jesus had gained as a spiritual teacher. Nicodemus found out for himself about Jesus and his teaching. His associates relied on hearsay and opinion based on hearsay, driven by their suspicions and fear. He criticised their attitude saying
'According to our Law we cannot condemn people before hearing them and finding out what they have done.' (John 7:51)
Justice required by God's law insists that everyone involved in any dispute is given a proper hearing, but so often the anxious human reaction is to short circuit the process and leap to conclusions, in mistaken defence of self-interest. Jesus, aware of human weakness says to his disciples
'Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.' (Matt 7:1)
Whenever we pray, the way we think about others and think about ourselves needs to reflect this thought. Freeing ourselves from the compelling tendency to judge and condemn others makes demands on us. The same standards apply to ourselves. But how are we to think in prayer about those who criticise, opposed and threaten us? It can be a difficult struggle if we believe our existence is under threat. This is reflected in Psalms of complaint, containing expressions of vindictiveness against enemies. The wistful lament of the Babylonian exiles concludes vengefully
'Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy are those who pay you back for what you have done to us— who take your babies and smash them against a rock.' (Psalm 137:8-9)
In liturgical recitation, the final two verses can often be omitted, or else their impact is 'spiritualised', pretending they refer to the thoughts and deeds of the one reciting the Psalm, although the rest of it is clearly an expression of collective grief. But anyone familiarity with the dynamics of grieving will recognise how anger and resentment can contaminate sorrow.
In trying to be honest about ourselves with God, mixed feelings cannot be suppressed, nor can they be ignored, nor do they merit condemnation of self or others. When opening the depths of self to our creator, acknowledging him as our just judge, and ourselves as ever in need of his mercy, we can start to work on letting go of the condemnatory impulse, and align ourselves to God's compassionate vision of his fallen broken world.
'Make me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.' (Psalm 51:10)