I was thinking about the Crucifixion, as one does, at this time of year. I was thinking particularly of the Roman soldiers who nailed Our Lord to the Cross.
Objectively, they were killing God, as any Christian will affirm.
Subjectively, however, they were simply doing their job. They were under orders, and while their job seems brutal to us, in their worldview it was probably necessary. The others they were crucifying that day were brigands, and they were enforcers of law and order.
Likewise, the Jewish authorities were doing their job. Objectively, they were killing the Messiah for whom they had longed. But subjectively, they believed they were right to execute this Jesus, who was clearly (in their eyes) blaspheming, and potentially bringing down the wrath of the Romans on Jerusalem.
This is not some liberal theorising, either; we have it on His authority: ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.’
There may of course be some culpability in their inability to recognise the Messiah when He came, but we cannot - and indeed must not - make ourselves the judges of that.
But I know. I know that with every sin, I condemn Christ to the Cross. Yet still I sin. So how can I call anyone a God Killer but myself?
Some in the pro-life movement like the slogan Child Murderer. I think this has many of the same features.
Objectively, we know that anyone who carries out an abortion is killing an innocent child.
However, subjectively, it may be that they genuinely believe that they are doing the right thing, the best thing, the only practical thing in the circumstances.
There may of course be some culpability in their inability to recognise the true humanity of the unborn child, but we cannot - and indeed must not - make ourselves the judges of that.
But I know. I know that every time I fail to reach out in charity to someone in need, to proclaim the Gospel to the uninstructed, I am contributing to the culture of death. Yet still I fail to reach out in charity and to proclaim the Gospel. So how can I call anyone a Child Murderer but myself?
That does not mean that I should slacken in my fight against the evil of abortion; merely that I should not pass judgement on others.
Father, forgive us.