Australian Jesus and the Boomerang of Judgment

Jesus is Australian.

I’m sure of it.

And no, it’s not because of the many pictures or movies or artistic representations that seem to present him as a bearded first-century Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe in an impossibly white robe with what appears to be a recently acquired baby blue beauty sash on proud display after what I can only assume was a recent pageant win.

No. It’s when he says stuff like this, “Judge not lest you be judged.”

What kind of advice is that?

I mean, it sounds good in principle, right? We shouldn’t be judgmental of others. Saturday morning cartoons and countless sitcoms have taught us as much. We all know that’s a good thing not to do. But are we honest enough to admit no one has ever actually pulled this off?

That this simple teaching is anything but? That is it more iceberg than ice cube? With such massive implications beneath the surface that they can’t and won’t be contained in our self-righteous and self-congratulatory drinking glasses?

Did that sound judgmental?

That’s the reality of this saying. It’s not meant to be a comfort. Judging is so natural to us that we can’t help but do it. We compare and contrast and label and critique on a scale that only seems normal to us because it’s the water we swim in daily. To tell someone not to judge others is like telling the coyote to stop chasing the roadrunner. There’s not much of a plot without it.

It’s such a strange and threatening idea that the only safe way to deal with it is to pretend we really hear it when we would rather not. To condescend it rather than wrestle with it, to make it Ethics 101 instead of the idea that changes the curriculum. The entrance exam into Tolerance University instead of what it really is: the bulldozer that razes the one-room schoolhouse to the ground.

That’s why Jesus is Australian. Anyone who has ever tried to actually DO these words knows how slippery they are. To attempt to apply them at all is to fall off the narrow path into the ditch. The question is which ditch you choose to fall into.

“I know Jim has a drinking problem, but who am I to judge?”

“We’ve got to do something about those self-righteous bigots. Why are they so filled with hate?”

“Those people are nothing but violent animals. We should bomb them all until there’s nothing left.”

“We accept people just as they are here at this church. Signups for the discipleship class are in the foyer.”

Deep down, under the shiny surface, we’re all a little more jagged than we would like to admit. We’re all either Pharisees about Pharisees or lazy about love. All the while glistening with a humble self-righteousness.

The truth is this: these words and this idea in my mouth or your mouth will always come back to us violently. Maybe that’s why we reach for them so often. It’s the game we all play. We lash out because we know we’re wrong; we just don’t want to know that we know we’re wrong. No one is actually supposed to ask why they keep coming back and hitting us in the face. Or why no one seems capable of catching them. Just keep throwing.

That’s why Jesus is Australian. Everything at the end of the Sermon on the Mount boomerangs back around to the beginning. Your houses vanish in the flood because you keep pulling rocks out of your foundation to throw at others. You never knew him because you were too busy trying to BE him. You never produced any fruit because you kept seeing wolves in every corner of the vineyard. You never entered the narrow gate because you were too busy checking everyone else’s tickets at the entrance. You could never be good because you never realized how evil you were.

Which sounds a little judgmental, doesn’t it?

Maybe the problem isn’t judging, it’s WHO is doing the judging. Maybe we needed such a contradictory statement because we ourselves are such a contradiction.

But what if there was someone who could say those words and NOT have them boomerang back on them? We would listen to them, right?

Sadly, Jesus knows all too well what it’s like to throw pearls before pigs. To be turned on for throwing something pure into the mud pit of contemporary ethics. To have his words trampled on like “for sale” fliers in the grocery store parking lot.

We killed him. We did that. Not because he was judging us, but because he’s the only one who actually could.

We didn’t string him up because of his lectures. Those were actually very interesting. Different from the talking heads we had heard before. No, we killed him because he scared us. Because he seemed to believe what he was saying. We’re not used to people like that. GOD help us if we actually tried to live like that, right? What would happen to us?

So we judged him. Guilty.

Guilty of treason to the high crown of self-reliance and reason by choosing faith. Guilty of betraying the ministry of power for love. Guilty of daring to apply for the position of GOD when we obviously had no openings.

So there he hangs. Crucified. A correct sentence in our eyes. A just one. And when he dies we feel a sigh of relief. We were right. We judged correctly. If he was GOD, he would come back. But he’s buried now. Safely tucked away in religion departments and Christian bookstores.

But imagine if what he said about himself was true. What would that mean for us?

“Judge not lest you be judged?”

You have to admit, it is weird how his own saying came back around on him. Almost like he meant for that to happen. Like he was the only one that could say it and mean it and take it. I mean, if he actually came back that’s the only way that would make any sense. That he really was the only one qualified to judge. That he actually was GOD.

But what would he do then? Judge us? And what criteria would he use since he was the only one that could pull that off? Himself? That seems pretty scary to me. The only way I’m getting out of that ridiculous scenario is if chooses not to judge me. But what kind of GOD would allow that to happen? And what would he have to do to make THAT right?

I mean, imagine.

Adam Daniels is a freelance writer who has worked in ministry for 12 years, most recently as the Campus Minister at the Campus View Church of Christ in Athens, Georgia. Despite his years of experience in full time ministry and working through a couple of theological degrees, he still has more questions than answers. He is a husband to Jessie, a lover of books, a stumbling disciple of Jesus, and the worst player on his church league softball team. He blogs occasionally at https://idlefaith.wordpress.com.

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Author:  Publish Date: August 8, 2018

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
Dr. Carisse Berryhill
Dr. Jason Fikes
Karissa Herchenroeder
Mac Ice
Chai Green
Tammy Marcelain
Molly Scherer
Dr. John Weaver

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