St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Advent III : Fr Tony Hogg

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 1 Corinthians 4. 5. ‘Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.’
But that is very difficult to ‘judge nothing before the time.’ The members of the young 
Corinthian Church found it well nigh impossible. They were always judging; between 
various leaders and even St Paul himself, and it was not always a favourable judgement.
Members of the church today are always judging. The traditionalists judge ‘the new 
theologians’ and they judged the traditionalists. What then can St Paul mean, and what 
can the epistle say to us today? 
Perhaps a modern translation will help; “Pass no premature judgement.” That is to say we 
are to take our time, we are not to be hasty, and we are not to jump to conclusions. But the 
waiting has to be very lengthy; it has to last until ‘the Lord come.’ So the warning here for 
us that we should not write anyone off.
Why is this? Because there are three judgements. First there are the judgements of men. 
But how do these men know that they are in possession of all the facts? How do they know 
that their standards of judgement are the right ones? For example, if a person is a habitual 
thief, may he not be more prepared to be lenient when he comes such another?
Secondly there is self-judgement. But this is most uncertain. There are people whose 
general attitude to themselves is condemnatory, a result of morbid introspection. At the 
other extreme are those who reckon ‘they have never done anything wrong.’ An ‘I’m all 
right Jack’ type. And in 
between are a host of people who are only too ready to excuse 
themselves with the achievement of others. To read in the popular press of the 
misdemeanors of others too often ends in the ‘preening of feathers.’  ‘Yes I fiddle, but 
nothing like so-and-so.’ We are often poor judges of ourselves; and if we know nothing 
against ourselves then the judgement is worthless; for most people find what they want to 
find. After all self-praise is no recommendation.
The third judgement is God’s judgement. “He that judgeth me is God.’ It is because of the 
imperfection of the other two judgements that we are to await God’s judgment and not 
‘write anyone off.’ And one of the reasons is because God knows hidden things about those 
he judges. 
He knows, for instance, ‘the counsels of the heart’ or the ‘purpose of the heart’. This is 
important. It means that God judges, not simply by achievements as we judge, but by what 
we purposed to do, or wanted to do. This is an encouragement. Only God’s judgement are 
based on inside knowledge. Therefore, although we may discriminate among people we 
mustn’t write anyone off.’ And we must be hesitant to ascribe motives to actions. We do not 
know what struggles operate in the human heart. We are unable always to assess 
complexes and the reactions to a difficult situation. Praise or blame? Of course these will 
have to apportioned. Not only school-teachers know this. But human judgements are not 
final, only the third category of judgement is final, that is God’s judgement. That is 
complete and perfect. It is made with all the knowledge of the relevant facts. Not until by 
his coming again in judgement on which we concentrate during this great Advent season he 
reveals things hidden from us, and disclose people’s underlying motives or unappreciated 
handicaps, will the true quality and value of our service be seen. 
There can be no greater compensation and crowning satisfaction, when one’s service and 
faith has during one’s lifetime  been misunderstood and criticized, than to receive, the day 
of the disclosure of the truth, the Lord’s own public commendation; “Well done, thou good 
and faithful servant.”
We must always remember the lengths to which God in Christ is prepared to go to win us 
all. The command to the disciples – “I will make you fishers of men” is still a command for 
us all over 2000 years later, to bring not only ourselves closer to the safety net of the 
Church, but others too.
God’s judgement is always the judgement of love. God knows and God loves. Only in the 
context of both activities does he ever judge. So as our Advent moves us ever nearer to the 
birth of our Blessed Saviour, may the Lord who has called us to serve him, give us all grace 
with  a single eye to seek him to show ourselves approved by God, seeking too to receive his 
public commendation in that great day of final reward.  That is the Advent consolation. It 
is also the Advent warning- be awake, be ready, for you know not the hour. Amen


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