Grace For The Journey
We are making our way through Luke and we are in chapter 6. Jesus is preaching this sermon, sometimes called the “Sermon on the Plain.” And he has been preaching on loving our enemies, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Then He makes these statements beginning at verse 37 and as you follow along this morning, you will find verses packed with practical teaching that will help each of us this week.
Our eyes just get used
To seeing ourselves as
We have always been and,
In this sense, we do not see
Ourselves as we really are.
It is almost like we have become blind to the changes or that we have something in our eyes that prevents us from seeing clearly. We use these same eyes, these very same eyes, to look out at others and formulate opinions about what we see. We look at others and, based upon what we see, we make judgments about them and offer criticisms about them and totally unsolicited opinions about them without seeing them as they really are.
This passage will help us look upon others in the right manner. This passage will help us see clearly.
- Do you want to know how to have a happy marriage?
- Do you want to know how to get along with your family?
- Do you want to know how to get along with your superiors, your shift supervisor, manager, or teacher, enemy?
This passage will help. It is not that we come to the Bible looking for “Keys to Successful Relationships.”
God did not write the Bible primarily
With our personal success in view.
The Bible may indeed help our self,
But it is not primarily a “self-help book.”
The Bible teaches us to glorify
God and enjoy Him forever.
And when we seek to love Him
With all of our heart, soul, mind,
And strength, then we will find ourselves
The happy benefactors of those who enjoy
The unsearchable riches of Christ
And live in light of His Word.
Jesus is telling His disciples here how to live. He is telling those who are Christ-followers how to interact with others – how to love them, look at them, and live before them. If we are true followers of Christ, we will do these things. They are not options. Not everyone reading this study will do these things because not everyone is a follower of Christ. Those, however . . .
Who love the Lord,
Will love His Word.
If we love our Teacher
Then we will love His teachings.
If we love Christ,
We love His commands.
What does He teach us about others? What are we to do in our relationships? There are three main headings for this passage, but we are only going to get to the first main heading in today’s study because the first two verses yielded much more material than I had anticipated in my study and preparation.
Here is the first main heading . . .
I. We Must Love Like Our Lord – Verses 37-38.
I trust your remember, context is the key. The key to verse 37 is the preceding verse, verse 36. We left off last time with verse 36. Jesus says, “Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Then, Jesus gives us some specific examples of what being merciful looks like. In verse 37 He shows us how to be merciful, to show mercy, and love, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, forgive, etc.’” If we love like our Lord then we will not be judgmental, we will not condemn, we will forgive, and we will give generously.
These four actions in verses 37 and 38 require a little explanation. The first action, “judge not,” does not of course refer to the right actions of law courts and judges or teachers and students who must discern between truth and error. That kind of judging must always be done. Things are either true or they are false. Rather, the phrase “judge not” has to do with having an ungodly spirit of criticism, of having a disapproving, judgmental nature, even of sinfully enjoying what one calls, “judging for the pleasure of judging.”
In fact, the next action, “condemn not,” is essentially a synonym for being judgmental. Jesus teaches that we are never to look down upon others with a high-handed “I am holier than you” attitude. This is the attitude of the hypocrite who thinks his behavior is far superior to everyone else’s. He thinks to himself, “I may not be perfect, but I’m better than that person over there. Just look at her!” This is the attitude Jesus denounces.
This is the idea in the scenario John writes about in chapter 8 of his Gospel. Jesus is teaching in the temple and the scribes and Pharisees interrupt His teaching by dragging before Him a woman whom they seemed very pleased to have caught in the very act of adultery. They put her there in front of everyone and said to Jesus, “Now the Law says she should die a death of stoning,” and perhaps even at this point they were all passing around a bucket of rocks. They asked Jesus, “So what do You say?” And John suggests that they did not care at all about this woman but that they were just trying to catch Jesus in some sort of inconsistency.
Remember what Jesus says to all of these men so ready to get on with the brutal execution? He says, “Alright, here is how we are going to go about this: the first guy who has never sinned will cast the first stone. So go on now, he who is without sin, go ahead and throw.” To the credit of the formerly eager crowd, they all walked out, one by one, leaving their stones behind.
Now based on just these first two actions, “judge not” and “condemn not,” how would lost people, unbelievers in our community and across our country, rate the church’s effectiveness in living up to these two commands? Would they say the church is very loving and gracious to unbelievers, or are they more likely to say that they feel Christians are always looking down their noses at them, always condemning and criticizing them when it is very clear that the Christians themselves aren’t exactly glowing examples of virtue? Isn’t this the very accusation of the unchurched? What do they say? “I’m not going to that church. The church is full of – what? – hypocrites. It may be an excuse but if the claim can be fairly made then we should be very concerned. Judge not, condemn not.
In his book on these teachings of Jesus, John Stott writes this about the judgmental person. He describes this person as “the fault-finder who is negative and destructive towards other people and enjoys actively seeking out their failures.” Then Stott sums it all up by describing the judgmental person in three actions . . .
“He puts the worst possible
Construction on their motives,
Pours cold water on their [plans],
And is ungenerous towards their mistakes.”
Why is it a sin to be judgmental? Why is it a sin to have a condemning spirit? Have you ever thought about this? It is a sin because when we are judgmental, we are placing ourselves in the position of one who knows all things? We ourselves are not perfect and therefore are unworthy to be un-lovingly critical of others. God is perfect. Let Him judge. When we are judgmental, we are also attempting to take the place of the only One who knows everything about others, including their inner thoughts and motivations. We place ourselves on a throne that only God can occupy and we hand down these judgmental criticisms even though we do not have all the information. We do not know everything God knows about others so we’re in no position to have a judgmental spirit or condemning nature.
We are so quick to criticize and categorize people even though we do not have all the information. For example, the woman who frowns at you while you are giving your sales pitch, you feel certain is a fool who disagrees with everything you are saying when in actuality she is just trying really hard to listen to what you are saying. The man who always sits in the office with his arms crossed in front of himself may not be as disinterested as you think; it may be that he is hiding a tremor in his hands, an early sign of Parkinson’s. The guy who sleeps through the sermon may not be a hard-hearted unbeliever; it may be that he was up at 2 AM and 3 AM and then again at 4 AM worried about his teenage daughter. Sometimes we make these quick and faulty judgments even though we simply don’t have all the information.
How quick we are to just write people off, categorizing them as hopeless causes because we have made a hasty, judgmental determination about them we feel must be true. It can happen in an instant. I mean someone pulls out in front of you as you are driving 55 miles per hour. The guy just pulls out right in front of you and drives 25 miles per hour. You just cannot wait to get around this guy and have a look at him. You feel certain when you see this guy, he is going to have his teeth sticking out and big ears and a dumb look on his face; but when you are able to pull up to him and look over at him and he looks just like you; pretty normal. In that moment God says to me – yes, this is an autobiographical illustration – “Hey Terry, have you never done something like that? Hmm?”
Then Jesus says, “. . . Forgive.” Do you have a forgiving spirit? When you are wronged or hurt are you willing to forgive? Let me caution us against making light of this. The ability to forgive is evidence that one is a true Christian. Indeed, all of these actions are actions of true followers of Christ. Jesus says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” that is, not be judged by God. If you are judgmental towards a person, showing judgment without mercy, the Bible says in James 2:13 that you can expect God to show the same kind of merciless judgment to you: “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” And Jesus says, “Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.” If you are a true follower of Christ you will not have a spirit of condemnation towards others. If you do, you can expect God to condemn you. Forgive others and God will forgive you. Do not forgive others and God will not forgive you.
It is quite alarming, isn’t it? If we say we are Christians, but we do not forgive another person we are lying. We are not Christians at all. This is not the opinion of your pastor. This is the teaching of our Lord. Our Lord’s Prayer is, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:14). Be very careful before you say something like, “Well, I forgive but I will not forget!” Be very careful because your words may mean that you really do not intend to forgive.
This is why the puritan Thomas Watson said, “A man can as easily go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing.” Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Do not think for a moment that if you are unwilling to forgive someone who offended you and you go to sleep one evening and die in your sleep, do not think for even a moment that you will have the assurance of waking up in heaven. Jesus says as clearly as it can be said, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus drives that point home in the parable He tells in Matthew 18. Jesus and His disciples are walking along and Peter asks, “Lord, how many times should I forgive someone who sins against me—seven times?” Then Jesus says, “I tell you not seven times, but seventy times seven,” the point being forever. There is no end, no limit to our forgiving others, even if it is the same guy sinning against us over and over again. Then Jesus illustrates the truth in Matthew 18 by telling about this guy who owed his master something like in today’s money a trillion dollars. Facing prison for his inability to pay the money back, the guy gets down on his knees and begs him, “Just give me time and I will pay back every penny,” which was impossible. He could never pay back the debt. But the master is overcome with compassion and releases the man’s debt and sets him free. But this man goes out and finds a guy in his office who owes him lunch money and he puts his hands around his neck and threatens him to pay it back. When word of this gets back to the man who had forgiven the trillion dollars he has the guy locked up and delivered over to torturers. Then Jesus says to every Christian listening to Him, “So – or, likewise – My heavenly Father will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother.”
The reason Jesus can say, “If you don’t forgive others then you cannot expect your heavenly Father to forgive you” is because . . .
If we really have been forgiven by God,
And understand what forgiveness means,
We acknowledge the tremendous debt we owe to Him.
We acknowledge that we as sinners were on our way to hell and that we deserved nothing but judgment for our sin. But, in Christ Jesus, God took the debt that we owed and gave to us the credits of Jesus. So if we have experienced forgiveness we will forgive others. It is just that clear. Forgiveness is not always easy, but we will get around to it sooner rather than later if we have been forgiven by God. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
How do you stay in a marriage? One word: “Forgiveness.” That is pretty much it. People are rushing to the courthouse completely throwing aside what they said before God and all the wedding guests back when the minister was leading them through the vows. One of them gets ticked off and says some unkind things and the other says some unkind things back and they begin to say they do not really love each other anymore, but the truth is they are unwilling to be Christ-like and forgive. So often marital breakups have little to do with infidelity or the abandonment of a Christian spouse by an unbelieving spouse, both permissions for biblical divorce as I understand the texts. Most divorces are not on biblical grounds but on unbiblical grounds. Someone got their feelings hurt, someone was misunderstood, someone said things they should not have said and it just escalates.
What we are doing by not forgiving others is allowing our sin natures to just take over. We become self-focused, self-centered, and blind to our own faults.
When we choose not to forgive
Those who have hurt us
What we are doing is
We are minimizing our own
Offenses by maximizing
The offenses of others.
This is what Jesus goes on to teach later in the passage about the speck of dust in your brother or sister’s eye and you have got a log in your own eye. We have all been to a party or social engagement of some kind and you know you go up to talk with someone and they are talking and you see immediately that they have this little piece of green spinach or something stuck in their teeth and it just looks horrible. But you do not say anything. And they are just talking on and on and laughing and there it is for the world to see, that green thing. Then they go and they talk to someone else. After an hour or so this poor person goes into the restroom and is washing her hands and looks in the mirror and there it is. And she cries and wonders how many people she has gone around talking to looking like this. And so many of us go around interacting with all kinds of people, quick to point out what is wrong with what they are doing and all the while we have got this problem sticking out ourselves that puts us in no position to correct the faults of others.
So . . .
- How do you stay in a marriage? Forgive.
- How do you keep working at that place with the guy who’s so unkind? Forgive.
- How do you stay in a church when someone ticked you off and hurt you? Forgive.
- How do you stay as pastor of a church when you’ve been hurt? Forgive.
Then Jesus says in verse 38, “. . . Give . . .” Note how beautifully this word “give” is woven together with these other behaviors. Have a giving spirit towards others. Be quick to extend to them the inexhaustible grace of your love, mercy, compassion, and kindness. Give unto them – do unto them – as you would have them give or do to yourselves. You see how this action belongs here with the others? The word “give” is not to be untied from the verses around it, lifted-up, and pulled from its biblical context, its meaning changed by a slick, smiling prosperity preacher who promises that if you will just give your money to God and His work then He will bless you with more. No, the action is spoken with reference to how we interact with others. We are to love them like our Lord loves us, showing mercy, not being judgmental or condemning. We are to have a forgiving spirit toward others and a giving spirit toward others. And if we will treat others this way then God will treat us the same.
If we give our love, compassion, kindness, possessions, and selves to others, then God will treat us the same way which may or may not include tangible things like money or possessions, but will certainly include the giving of His limitless mercy, grace, and kindness. That is the idea.
The measure of love you extend to
Others will be measured back to you.
Have a giving spirit toward others and God will have the same spirit towards you, so gracious is His giving that it is like when you go to get grain, says Jesus, and you open up your cloak in order to catch grain and the guy pours the grain into your cloak that it fills every empty space and just spills everywhere. That is the superabundant measure of love that God gives to us and that is precisely the measure of love that we are to give to others this week – our spouse, our parents, our children, our fellow church members, our supervisors, our co-workers, our teachers, our students, our friends, and our enemies. We must love others as our Lord loves us.
Judge not. Condemn not. Forgive. Give. In sum, “Be merciful and extend grace just as your heavenly Father.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”