“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world.”

John 3:17

Friday, 19 March 2021

John 3:1-21

There is an interesting distinction which we could easily miss in Nicodemus’ chat with Jesus: the subtle difference between judging and condemning.

To judge is to assess. To condemn is to damn. As believers, we need to exercise prudent judgement because we have to keep discerning what is right and healthy – leading us to greater faith, hope and love – and what does the opposite to us. We need to judge to ensure that what we do or say can be reconciled with the things we hold to be true. Prudent judgement is a tool for discerning.

Condemnation is to damn.

If you are on social media, you may have noticed how often social media is used as a space to condemn. Harsh condemnation – often by so-called religious people – seems to thrive on the networks we engage with every day.

From the conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus says that condemnation is the prerogative of God alone – God who sees all, knows all and loves all.

St John, in his Gospel, tells us that God has, in a sense, forfeited his right to condemn the world because he sent Jesus, who is light, truth and saviour, to be in the world. The Gospel reminds us that if we feel condemned, we have condemned ourselves – this is important to note! God does not condemn us even when we are lost and in darkness. When we find ourselves in our most destructive attitudes and behaviour, the saving light of Christ is always available to us, inviting us to move from the darkness into light.

The invitation to us throughout Lent is to move from darkness into the saving light of Christ. Jesus assures us that we move into the light when we seek the truth and that this is done through God. Walking in the light of Christ means no condemnation.

Can you see the subtle difference between prudential judgement and condemnation? Who might you have condemned? What, in your life, needs to come into the light of truth this Lent?

Lord God,

Help me to see my life with new eyes, your eyes.

Teach me how to read the narrative of my own life so that I can see and rejoice in your work in my life.

Give me clarity of understanding this Lent.


Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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