Judging Others – Reflection for the third Sunday of Lent

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Luke 13: 1-9

fig-tree-parable

Many people believe in good or bad “karma”. “What goes around comes around” they say, or “You reap what you sow”. It would seem these people thought similarly as they cited recent events. Some Galileans had compromised their faith to keep in Pilate’s good books, whilst the people of Siloam rebelled with violence against the Romans. Did they get what was coming to them? Jesus is having none of it and turns the question back onto His listeners. He does so, I suggest, for two reasons; firstly, because His Father is not vengeful and holds no grudges. “Love keeps no record of wrongs” as St Paul puts it (1 Corinthians 13:6) Secondly, when it comes to living in love and faith, we all fall short of the mark. So, what are we to do? Jesus repeats the answer in two short sentences – “unless you repent…” To repent is to turn around, to stop what we’re doing and change our ways. In the parable that follows, Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven, where the vineyard owner could be any one of us – anyone too quick to judge others – whilst the gardener represents the more faithful, sensitive, and caring disciple.

In our Lent Course we’re looking at the highly sensitive area of sexuality. More to the point we’re looking at the way we see others. When I was exploring my calling to ordained ministry, I attended an “Advisory Board for Ministry” (now called “Bishop’s Advisory Panel”). In the very first session, the guy next to me courageously admitted he was gay. A well-meaning lady offered words of comfort, “Your sexuality is God’s gift to you”. The guy looked horrified, “Some gift Lord! Did You keep the receipt?” For someone who once considered homosexuality a life choice, that incident went a long way to changing my attitude. Jesus is saying here, that if we are to achieve God’s Kingdom on earth, we must focus far less on what we think of others and far more on what God thinks of us. Bible teacher Joyce Meyer says, “nothing has changed except my attitude, therefore everything has changed”. Our judgement of others won’t bring in God’s Kingdom, as He told Isaiah in today’s Old Testament reading, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts (higher) than your thoughts”. (Isaiah 55:9)

Rev’d Geoff Eales

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