Judging and Loving: Part 1

Terry Johnson, Speaker

Luke 6:37-42 | July 7 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
July 7
Judging and Loving: Part 1 | Luke 6:37-42
Terry Johnson, Speaker

Our Father in heaven, we pray that as we open your Word that it would prove to be profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, for training in righteousness.  That we might be adequately equipped for every good work.

Before I begin to look into the text, I just wanted to establish some connections between myself and this congregation.  I was in attendance at Harry Reeder’s ordination service in the early 1980’s as we were both students in South Florida.  My understanding is that he had something to do with this congregation.  Jim Sutton, one of your elders, was my roommate in South Florida, and one of the groomsmen in my wedding.  It was I, who married Jim and Donna when they wed back in the middle 1980’s.  So there’s that connection.

Then my brother and sister in-laws were members here in the 1990s and very active in this congregation.  Also, Harry Reeder’s sister, Amy Martin, was the director of Christian education for our congregation for 20 years, before she tragically and prematurely died in 2020.  Now my son and his family are members here, an active part of your congregation.  So we do have some connections.  I’m not a total stranger to you, though you may be a total stranger to me.

So let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 6:37-42.  I’m going to read the first couple of those verses, Jesus says: “Judge not, You will not be judged; Condemned Not, You will not be condemned; Forgive and you will be forgiven: Give, and it will be given to you; Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” 

Back in the late 1950s Martyn Lloyd Jones, as he was preaching made mention of the fact, that in his view, that John 3:16 was the most widely recognized, cited, and memorized verse in the Bible, and that would undoubtedly be the case in the entire English-speaking world, “… God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” 

My guess is that that verse has been supplanted by what we have here in Luke 6:37 and also Matthew 7:1, which we can paraphrase as: “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  I think especially among unbelievers, that’s the verse that they know.  That’s the one that they fling at believers with regularity as they interpret it as meaning, that all moral judgments are invalid.  Though typically they are very keen about diversity, equity, and inclusion as moral values.  Nevertheless, they will fling those verses at us, and accuse believers of being hypocrites for selectively ignoring some of Jesus’ teaching.  I reckon it’s among the most misunderstood verses in all of the Bible.

It’s said in the context of Jesus elaborating on the golden rule, from chapter 6 verse 27 and then on down through verse 36, Jesus is explaining the implications of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Now, does that then mean that Christians are to suspend all moral judgments?  After all, I don’t want you judging me, so I’m not going to judge you.  Certainly Jesus means that we’re not to judge harshly, or prematurely, but we are to judge others mercifully, and generously.  We are to give others the benefit of the doubt, but are we to abandon all moral categories? 

So what exactly does, “Judge not, lest you be judged; condemn not, lest you be condemned…”?  What does that require of us?  So let me see if I can explain in the time that we have in two broad categories.  Number one, that Jesus forbids uncharitable judgments, and then secondly, that Jesus requires charitable forgiveness.

All right, so under the category of Jesus forbids uncharitable judgments.  It would be a very wooden interpretation of verse 37 to think that Jesus is requiring that we suspend moral categories.  If you go to its parallel in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew 7:7 Jesus follows this ‘Judge not’ statement with “Don’t cast your pearls before swine or give what is holy to dogs.”  All right, so how do you apply that verse?  Well, you need to know what a pearl is.  You need to know what a dog is.  You need to know what a swine is.  I mean, moral judgments have to be made in order to apply that verse.  You got to know what a pearl is.  You need to know those people that Jesus himself classifies as swine, you need to know what is holy, you need to know who those people are that he classifies as dogs.  Moral judgments have to be made.

Church discipline.  Jesus affirms that 11 chapters after Matthew 7 in Matthew 18, where he says, “If your brother sins…”, that requires a judgment that you need to know about the sin of the brother that you are to go and to confront.  He says, flatly, in 1 Corinthians 7:12 that we do judge those who are inside the church.  Then he goes on and says, “Remove the wicked man from among you.”  Jesus certainly isn’t requiring that we abolish the civil courts.  Luke 20:20-38 he says, “Render to Ceaser the things that are Caesar’s.”  The Apostle Paul affirms the right of government power and legal power in Romans chapter 13.

Jesus is not invalidating what some of the older authors would have called ‘seasonable reproofs.’ You know, all of these kinds of judgments are allowed.  We preach law and gospel law; moral law creates categories of right and wrong, and truth and error.  It’s, in fact, a law that is especially offensive in our day and age.  Nevertheless, the apostle Paul says things such as, “Test everything.”  1Thessalonians 5:21 “Hold fast to what is good.”  Test, in other words, you need to be able to establish what is right, and what is wrong, and what is good, and what is bad, and you need to hold on to what is good.  Those are judgments.

What Jesus is forbidding is judgmentalism.  The rash and unjust criticisms of others are criticisms and judgments that are unwarranted condemnation of other people.  So let me see if I can break that down into five different categories, looking briefly at each one.

Under this category of uncharitable judgments, number one, he forbids harsh judgments.  The severe condemnation of other people as though one were their moral superior.  Showing contempt for the lapses of others, particularly compared with ourselves.  We tend to be very lenient and generous in our judgments of ourselves, while we have the temptation, don’t we, to be severe in our judgment of others. 

I think that our outlook ought to be that of John Bradford, the English reformer, when he passed a drunk lying in the gutter in the streets, said, “There before the grace of God lies John Bradford.”  The only thing that distinguishes me from some other sinner is the grace of God.  I’m not morally superior to anyone else.  Consequently, my judgments are going to be tempered by an awareness of my own flaws, my own weaknesses, my own frailty.  They’re going to be tempered by the awareness of the logs that are in my own eyes before I give attention to the specks that are in the eyes of others.

So when we encounter or learn of the failings of other people, we ought to speak of those things only with reluctance.  To be very slow to repeat what we know, and do our utmost to hide those failings, and minimize the impact, and give to those failings a positive rather than a negative spin.  So harsh judgments. 

Number two, inadequately informed judgments.  There is so much that we don’t know about other people.  We don’t know their motives.  We don’t know the factors that are at work in their lives.  People are complicated.  Circumstances are hidden.  We hardly know our own hearts, nevertheless, the hearts of other people.  Jeremiah 17:9 “Our hearts are deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked.  Who can understand it?”  But self-deception is warned of over, and over, and over again in the New Testament.  We don’t know our own hearts, how are we going to judge other people?

Listen to the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 4.  He says, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time…”   Before, what time?  Before judgment day.  “Before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness…” Who will bring the things hidden in darkness to light?  He will, Christ will.  We’re not able to do that.  We don’t have access to that information.  That’s all hidden in darkness. 

He will disclose the purposes of the heart, 1 Corinthians 4:5, those purposes are not disclosed to us.  We don’t know what’s going on in the hearts of other people.  When we have an uncomfortable encounter with someone else, we need to realize we don’t know what preceded that encounter.  We don’t know the context.  Maybe their dog just died.  We just don’t know.  That’s not to make an excuse for bad behavior by other people, but it does require that we respond charitably, because we don’t know the extenuating circumstances out of which what we perceive of as bad behavior arises. 

You know, I regularly have people come to my office for counsel, and I’ll listen to the two sides of a situation.  I’ll hear the one side, I’ll hear the other side, and at the end of that period, I’ll have to say to them, “Look, you know, we’ve just been meeting for an hour.  That gives me but a thumbnail sketch of what’s going on.  I just have a very little bit of information.  I don’t know the way that you interact in private.  I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.  I’m not there to hear it.  I don’t hear the tone of voice.  But based on what you say, and what I hear you saying, Here’s what I would conclude…” In other words, I have to answer very, very tentatively, even when I’ve allegedly been well informed of what’s happening in their circumstances.  Very, very provisional kind of response is called for, because, why?  Because there’s so much, we don’t know about people.

Far too often we make snap judgments based upon a look.  You know, I’m a relatively quiet person, and I get off into my own world, and so I don’t even notice sometimes when I’m passing by people.  I forget names, you know, I don’t ever mean to be rude to anyone, but I can be perceived of us that way.  Why?  Because I didn’t make eye contact.  We can be misjudged because of a word, because of a text, or because of silence.  Our actions have been partially understood, or completely misunderstood.  A few years back, the phrase “Don’t rush to judgment” was in vogue, but I think it really does capture the problem.  We have so little information about other people, and so in humility, and out of love, until we know the facts we withhold our judgment.  We don’t form an opinion.  We assume the best and suppress the temptation to conclude the worst about other people, especially attributing the worst sorts of motives.

Thirdly, Jesus is forbidding judgment based on personal preferences.  God grants us liberty in most things, you know, most of the options are open to us.  There’s some things that are forbidden.  You know, there’s 10 of them, the 10 Commandments.  Yes, they are exceedingly broad, and they have application that spreads out into every, you know, every aspect of life…  but there’s relatively few things that are forbidden.  There are a few things also that are required.  You know, the Golden Rule, which is right above our passage here, back up in verse 31, there’s a number of exhortations in those verses, from verse 27 down through verse 37, our text for today. 

All sorts of things are, you know, we’re to do good, and we’re to be merciful, and we’re to be kind, and we’re to bless those who curse us, and pray for them, and give to those who are in need, and so forth.  So, you know, there’s the things that are forbidden or the things that are required, but so much of life is in the realm of Christian liberty and how exactly we work out what we buy, and where we live, and what we eat, and when we travel, and where we work, and how we use our leisure time, and our various style preferences.  These are all mainly matters of Christian liberty.  Mainly, yeah, that you can step over the line.  You can misuse and abuse God’s good gifts.  We recognize that.  So I say mainly?  Yes, mainly.  Mainly matters of Christian liberty.

The apostle Paul, again in Romans 14, beginning in verse 4 and succeeding verses dealing with food and drink, and optional religious practices, asks this: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?”  You can almost sense this indignation.  Who are you?  What are you doing passing judgment on the servant of another.  “It is before his own master that he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”  He’s not dealing with murder; he’s not dealing with adultery, or lying, or stealing, he’s talking about food and drink, and optional religious practices.

Verse 10 of that same chapter, Romans 14, again.  “Why do you pass judgment?”  Second time he said that, Why do you pass judgment on your brother?  Or why he continues, if the Apostle Paul were here, he’d be going up and down the aisles here, pointing his finger in our direction, saying, Or you, why do you despise your brother?  What right do you have to be doing that?  What right do you have to call him to judgment?  No, he says, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”  God is the judge.  We don’t judge each other on the basis of these things.

So again, verse 13.  “Therefore…” If you missed the point, up to this point, “Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer.”  These are areas of Christian liberty.  Leave each other alone.  Don’t presume to know.  Don’t make the judgment.  “Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”  So there just are too many variables in these areas of Christian liberty as to how we educate our children, how much money we spend on ourselves, how much energy we put into our appearance, how much alcohol we consume or refuse to consume.  Yet it’s often in these areas where we are most severe with each other.

How we establish priorities for the family, for work, for church, we’re often the most severe in our criticisms in these areas, and that we have little basis to do so because we don’t really understand how those priorities are being ordered by other people.  We all establish limits.  We can’t do it all, and consequently, we can’t judge how others have established what perspective they’re operating out of, and how they establish the priorities that they do establish. 

All right, fourth, Jesus prohibits judging based on personality differences.  This may be the most common form either of snobbery or reverse snobbery, that is judgments arising out of differences in personality.  For example, quiet people, they tend to judge talkative people as busy bodies.  Plain people criticize beautiful people for being conceited.  Low-energy people judge high-energy people as being superficial.  Nonathletic people judge athletic people as being dumb jocks.  Poor people judge rich people of being materialistic and snobs.  Nonacademic people will tend to condemn academic people as Ivory Tower, pointy-headed intellectuals.  We’re not dealing with right and wrong here.  We’re dealing with personalities and temperaments, and then all of the reverse judgments take place as well.  So you can have snobbery, and you can have reverse snobbery.  Behind so much of this judgmentalism is envy and insecurity. 

Truth be known, the critics say more about themselves, about their own bitterness and jealousy than they’re saying about the people that they’re criticizing.  Mustn’t judge people based on their personality.  It’s valid to be a quiet person.  It’s valid to be a talkative person.  These are differences in temperament.  They are God given.  We don’t judge those; we appreciate them in each other. 

Then, fifthly, Jesus prohibits judgments based on worldly distinctions.  We are not to decide who we will befriend, who we will speak to, who we will take an interest in based on worldly criteria.  Appearance, the clothes they wear, the class they belong to, their ethnicity.  James is dealing with this in his second chapter, a situation where he is aware of that church having welcomed the rich man in and gave him the seat of honor in the front.  Then the poor man came in and they said, here, you sit here in the back.  What James says is, “Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”  New American Standard, “Evil Motives…” See what he’s saying that kind of distinction based on these worldly criteria, that is an evil thing to do. 

He characterizes it in verse 1 of James chapter 2 as “partiality”, verse 9 as “favoritism”, and verse 8, again as a “violation of the royal law of love”, and in verse 13, as a “violation of the law of liberty.”  It’s evil to determine how I’m going to treat people based on what I perceive as my self-interest.  So I’ll show kindness, I’ll show hospitality, I’ll take an interest in people based on what I get from that.  Don’t be that person who is interested in others only in so far as I gain some benefit from it.  I enjoy something as a result of that, they are a boost to my prestige, or they are good for business.  I make good business connections through this individual. 

Luke Chapter 13, Jesus encounters this elderly woman who is, we’re told at Luke 13:11, “She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.”  Verse 12, then says, “When Jesus saw her…” draw a line under the words ‘saw’.  I think most of us would not have seen her.  We would have walked right past her.  I include myself; I’d would have walked right past her.  I wouldn’t even pay any attention to her at all.  She’s this old woman who’s bent over.  She’s not well.  There’s nothing to be gained from knowing her.  There’s no advantage to be found in conversing with her.  “…Jesus saw her.  He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”” He wasn’t biased against her because there was nothing that that could be gained from her.  He didn’t look past her; he didn’t look through her.

We all have a tendency to favor those who are rich because there might be something that we could gain from them, or important, or beautiful.  We figured that we could gain something from their wealth, or from their fame, or from their popularity.  So in contrast to Jesus, who sees this poor woman, we run these quick calculations: Am I going to gain something?  Am I not going to gain something?  If I’m not going to, I will avoid them.  I will ignore them.  This happens from the schoolyards to the nursing homes.

C.S.  Lewis talked about the inner ring that we all want to belong to.  We all want to be part of the cool crowd, the elite group.  The fact is that we typically, often, make these forbidden judgments.  We do it constantly on the basis of class, and wealth, and appearance.  We judge harshly, prematurely, and unfairly to other people. 

So Jesus is warning us, and I’m going to particularly drive home the strength of this warning, looking again at verse 37, “Judge not, you will not be judged.  Condemned not, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  Jesus is making a promise here, “Judge not you will not be judged.”  But it masks a warning.  The promise masks a warning. 

What he’s saying here is that if you judge others, you will be judged by others.  Including, you will be judged by God for your invalid judgments.  You judge, and condemn, and criticize others.  You do so in a way that is unfair, unwarranted, and petty, and it will come right back to you.

So look again at what he says here in verse 38, “Give and it will be given to you.”  In other words, it will be given right back to you.  “Judge not, you will not be judged.  Condemn not, you will not be condemned.  Forgive, you will be forgiven, Give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  It’s a promise, but it’s also a warning.

We’ll look at the promise more completely if you come back this evening, but the first thing to notice about it, it is a warning.  It’ll be measured back the standard, the criteria of your judgment of others will haunt you, because you will be judged by the same measure of harshness and unfairness with which you have judged others.

Do you make lists of your grievances?  Do you collect receipts?  Nurse injuries?  Hold grudges?  Jesus is warning it will be delivered right back to you, but pressed down, shaken together and running over.  It will flow into your laps, the judgments that will come back to bite.  You sow a few seeds of judgment.  Galatians 6:7 you will reach a reap a full harvest of condemnation in your own life.  Now, all that was number one.  Are you with me? 

Number two, Jesus requires charitable forgiveness.  “Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  The same charitable outlook that refuses judgments is to extend forgiveness.  So you have a charitable outlook in judging others, but you also have a charitable outlook in extending forgiveness to other people.  So forgive and you will be forgiven.  You’ve been lied to, you’ve been deceived, you’ve been stolen from, you’ve been slandered, you’ve been snubbed, you’ve been cheated, you’ve been otherwise harmed and mistreated.  What’s Jesus saying?  Forgive.  What does the Golden Rule require?  Forgive.  You would want to be forgiven, wouldn’t you?  You should forgive others.

So let me just give a quick three principles for this.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  That’s number one.  That’s Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  It overlooks human frailty.  It sees the glass as half full rather than half empty.  By which I mean, how do we look at each other?  You know, a lot of us have been converted as adults, and we bring a lot of baggage into our Christian life.  Lots of baggage, and we’re shedding it slowly but it’s a fight, it’s a war, it’s combat, it’s mortification, and we’re making progress, but the progress is slow. 

How do we look at each other?  As, like, half-full glasses of grace, not half empty glasses of grace.  Half full.  We’re progressing.  We’re growing, we’re learning, we’re improving.  It’s three steps forward, it’s two steps back.  Love is going to cover a multitude of sins.  I’m just not going to bring it up.  Yeah, yeah, I was treated harshly, I wasn’t treated well.  I was… they weren’t honest with me as they should have been.  I feel like I’ve been cheated, but I’m just going to overlook it.  Why?  Because of love, it’s going to cover the sin.  I’m just going to not mention it.  I’m not going to go there.  I’m going to leave it alone.  I’m going to overlook it and in light of my own offenses, in light of my own frailties, my own weaknesses, I’m not going to comment.  I’m just going to let it lie.  I just let it rest.  I’m going to forget about it.  I’m going to move on.  Love covers not a few sins, not just one here, not one there, but a multitude of sins, love covers.

Number two, extend forgiveness when it’s sought.  Forgiveness is not a weapon that we wield.  Reconciliation is to be hastened.  Alienation is not to be prolonged by refusing the forgiveness, by letting them stew in their juices for a while.  Letting them suffer the consequences of the wrongs that they have committed, they have sinned against me, they have done wrong.  I’m going to make them suffer for it for a while.  No, that’s turning forgiveness into a weapon.

Jesus says, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  You want God to forgive you?  Or do you want him to just let you rot in your guilt?  No, you want it.  You want forgiveness.  You want that sense that I’ve been pardoned, I’ve been forgiven.  The blood of Jesus covers all of my sin, and so we extend forgiveness with warmth.  Have we been forgiven much?  Oh, that we’re going to forgive much.  We extend forgiveness with sincerity and in a way that is convincing that yes, you are forgiven, you are pardoned.  I do restore you to a right relationship.

Now, this also requires of us, and I bring it up in this context, that requires that our apologies be from the heart, and that we seek forgiveness from each other.  Kind of a blunt, ‘I’m sorry’, with an exasperated tone of ‘get over it’, that, does not heal the wound. 

What heals the wound?  Well, when our when our acknowledgements of wrong, and our seeking of forgiveness is done with specificity, and with sorrow.  So our Westminster Confession is pretty good on this subject, speaks of true repentance as one who for grieves for and hates his sin, and turns from them all unto God.  Where there’s real repentance, there’s this grief for the sin, and the hatred of the sin.  You know, a kind of generalized ‘sorry for what I did’, really doesn’t heal the wound. 

So the confession also speaks of, this chapter 15 by the way, we ought to confess “particular sins particularly”, and the confession further requires that we, with sorrow, declare our repentance to those that are offended.  You’ve offended somebody.  You go and you declare your repentance to those who are the victims of your offense and then they thereupon sorrowful confession and apology are to be reconciled to him, in love and to receive him.

There’s the two sides of a genuine repentance, but then the reconciliation is extended.  You are to, in love, receive them back where there’s true contrition, penitence, confession, apology.  Then the one who’s committed defense is to be received in love.  We find this described by the apostle Paul of Galatians 6:1, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual…” see there’s a judgment that’s being made here.  If he was caught in the transgression, it became known they are in a position of alienation from the church.  “You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” 

Restoring him, keeping watch on yourself, right, so way aware of your own frailty and your own weakness, so you’re not going to be harsh and condemnatory toward him.  “Keeping watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  You know that you could easily fall as well as the other.  “Keep watch over your souls.”  So we’re not called upon to suspend moral judgments regarding evil.  We’re not to be so open-minded as to refuse to make moral judgments as if, in fact, moral failure. 

What Jesus would have his disciples do is to be slow to form an opinion about others, slow to draw conclusions, slow to make judgments, slow to condemn and to be quick to forgive, as we have been forgiven freely, that we would forgive the transgressions of others, and to do so not out of an air of moral superiority, but understanding.

Again, with John Bradford, “There before the grace of God go I.”  I could be in your position.  I could be where you are now.  I am no better than you.  If there’s any distinction at all, that’s all the grace of Christ.  I can’t take that as credit to myself.  It’s only by the grace of God that there’s this distinction.  And so I’m going to look charitably unto the lapses, and the weaknesses, and the failures of others as we pray together.

Our father in Heaven, we pray, oh Lord, that you would guard our hearts.  That you would restrain the temptations that we have to harshly judge others.  To judge others when we, in fact, are ignorant.  So much of the circumstances that surround the brethren.  And we resist the temptation to judge on the basis of personal preferences, or personality differences, or worldly distinctions, but that we would charitably engage with each other and in all things that love cover a multitude of sins.  In Jesus name we pray, amen.