Luke 6: 36-42
One of the hardest lessons in life must be learning not to judge others; not to look down on others because they don’t meet our particular standards. Because, whether it’s people who have hurt us personally, whether it’s because we can’t agree with other people’s lifestyles, or whether it’s because of a number of other reasons, comparing others with ourselves—and judging them accordingly—is a very natural part of life. After all, don’t we all go through life being taught what is right and wrong—even thinking through issues and creating our own personal standards—only to find others either occasionally or habitually breaking them?
As a consequence, to be faced with a bible reading like, “Do not judge, do not condemn,” the natural instinct is undoubtedly, “How can I do anything else?” After all, there are some people who leave themselves open to be judged or condemned. Yet, despite that, Jesus taught that far from judging and condemning, we should be forgiving, and giving. And he gave quite a number of reasons why that should be so.
And it might be helpful to remind ourselves of them.
Because the first reason that he gives, is that we should be imitating God (36). God has provided a pattern for his children to follow; a standard of comparison to maintain, which was expressed in the earthly existence of Jesus. Jesus showed mercy and compassion to sinners and we are expected to show mercy too. In other words, God’s children are expected to show the character of their father, which goes beyond the level of normal relationships, even to the point that enemies should be included in our compassion and care.
The second reason that he gives, is that we should not usurp God in our judging and condemning people (37a). It is God’s role to judge and condemn, and we should not be putting ourselves above God. That doesn’t mean that we can’t use discernment and discrimination in our own dealings, or even be indifferent to the moral condition of others. However, we are not to have the attitude of a censor. Because if we do act as judge, then, Jesus teaches, we too will face the judgement of God in return.
The third reason that he gives, is that God cannot forgive our sins whilst we are holding a grudge against someone else (37b). Now none of us are perfect; all of us make mistakes. And if we can’t forgive others who have done us wrong, how can we expect God to forgive us? Instead, we are to forgive those who have committed an offence against us, even at the cost of our own pride and position.
The fourth reason that he gives, is that we should demonstrate our gratitude to God for what he has done for us (38). God has demonstrated his immense goodness to us in the salvation which he provides. And therefore, the response of his people to not judge or condemn others, in the same way that God has not judged or condemned us, is the kind of action that God approves. Not only that, but there is a bonus in this one. We will also be rewarded by God according to the measure that we have employed.
The fifth reason that he gives, is that without him (Jesus) we would be nothing—we’d be continuing on in blissful ignorance. We’d simply be following each other blindly, going nowhere, but around in circles. It’s because of Jesus that we have been enlightened to a better way (39-40). We therefore shouldn’t set ourselves up as different to Jesus. Jesus has shown us a better way. And even though we may not fully understand it now, our actions one day will be vindicated, and we will receive our reward from God.
And the sixth reason that he gives? Well, it’s all very well us picking faults with everyone else, but what about our own faults (41-42)? We can profess piety, righteousness, or whatever we like until we are blue in the face, but unless we can prove we are completely faultless, then we are only play-acting. Who are we, then, to point the finger?
Six reasons, then, that Jesus gave, why we shouldn’t judge others. A pretty comprehensive argument, then, on why we shouldn’t judge or condemn, and why we should forgive and give.
However, I can think of a seventh. Because you may, with me, have witnessed what happens to people who cannot forgive. Because the event, the cause of the unforgiveness, continues to eat away at the person over the years. Small incidents become blown all out of proportion, and sometimes the cause of the unforgiveness is forgotten altogether. The result over time, is that the person who refuses to forgive, becomes more and more bitter and twisted—their whole lives become consumed by the one event. Life ceases to bring any joy, and bit by bit their spirit dies.
Now without a doubt, not judging others can be one of the hardest lessons in life. And it’s hard, not just because there are so many new things to learn, but because there are so many old habits that have to be unlearned too. But Jesus’s case is very convincing. We need to learn not to judge or condemn, and we need to take on an attitude of forgiving and giving. If what Jesus has done for us means anything, we should, as a matter of course, express a character that goes beyond the level of normal relationships. And we should be able to forgive even our own worst enemies.
Those six points of Jesus again. We need to imitate God. We need not to usurp God. We need to forgive others, so that God can forgive us. We need to show our gratitude to God, with the bonus that one day we shall see our reward. We need to accept that forgiving and giving is a better way. And, lastly, who are we to point the finger?
Now some people may have done some rotten things in the past, and even things that have seemed unforgivable. But Jesus has left us in no doubt the price of judging and condemning others. He didn’t say it would be easy, but his expectation is that rather than judge and condemn, we are to forgive and give.
Posted: 23rd June 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis