Judging and Loving: Part 2

Terry Johnson, Speaker

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

Sunday Evening,
July 7
Judging and Loving: Part 2 | Luke 6:37-42
Terry Johnson, Speaker

Father in heaven, we pray that you would send your Holy Spirit to illumine what we do here this evening, illumine your word.  Give us understanding, give us insight.  We confess our inability to rightly interpret and imply the sacred scriptures without the insight given by the Holy Spirit.  Grant us that insight.  Let the word be planted deeply within our souls.  We pray in Jesus name, amen.

If you’ll turn in your Bibles back to Luke 6:37-42.  Let me just say a couple of other comments.  I talked about the old friends by whom I’m connected to this congregation.  By the way, it’s a whole different experience to preach in this house of worship, because you’ve got bright lights shining into your eyes.  I felt like I needed a baseball cap this morning.  You know, I can hardly see anyone out there, and I’m almost blinded as I look out.  So if I look down a lot it’s not because I’m reading the sermon, there’s just notes here, but I’m just struggling with the lights.

All right, so I did want to say that in addition to the old friends I do have a new friend.  That would be Kevin DeYoung, relatively new friend.  He is going to be speaking at our conference, The Reformation and Worship Conference, in Savannah, Georgia, October 10 through 13 of this year.

Where’s Tom?  You don’t mind a little advertisement, I trust, at the beginning of my message.  I’d long encourage you to come.  Kevin’s going to be speaking.  Carl Truman, HB Charles, it’s a great lineup.  I think that you would appreciate what’s going to be presented there.

I felt like I did owe him one and besides that, it’s a great honor and a privilege to be to be with you today.  I think he also felt like he owed me one because in March, he called and asked what would be a good hotel to stay in in Savannah and to bring his family?  And I said, “Well, you don’t want to go to a hotel, just come stay with us.”  So nine of them descended upon us.  They got there about 8 o’clock, and at 10 o’clock, it was still chaos and I said, “I hate to leave the party, this little pajama party we put together here, but I got to go to bed.  I’m preaching in the morning.”  But we thoroughly enjoyed having the DeYoungs, and you were very blessed to have such a man as your pastor.  I really think that God has given us and Kevin an Elijah for our day. 

So let’s get to our text.  Luke chapter 6.  If I thought I should say a few things about the bigger context here, this is in the midst of what we call the Sermon on the Plain.  You will have heard of the Sermon on the Mount, but like any itinerating preacher, Jesus used the same material, preached the same message in various towns.  I think they’re two separate sermons, different occasions, slightly different emphasis, adapting the message to a different audience.

So this is part of the Sermon on the Plain, and it’s also in the midst of this exposition of the golden rule that we found in verse 31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The point of the Sermon on the Plain, like the Sermon on the Mount, is to give to His disciples the ideals of the Christian.  The character of the disciples of Christ.  Another way to put this is what it is that he makes of his disciples.  He makes them a people who are characterized by, for example, the beatitudes in the earlier part of chapter six.  And they are a people who forgive and who judge not and Condemn not, and so forth.  These are the ideals that and these are what he makes of his disciples.

How does he do that?  Well, through the cross to which he is now traveling.  Through that cross to which he is journeying as he delivers this message.  At that cross, He will deliver His disciples from the penalty of sin and the power of sin.  Both the penalty forgiveness of sins, and the power.  So that they’re not in bondage to evil, and so that they’re able to live as Jesus commands them to live, and as he sets forth these ideals of the Christian life.

So, we’ve been looking at the “Judge not”, and we’re going to continue to look at that.  I think it’s especially important that we understand the meaning today, because it is our commission as a church to preach both law and gospel.  That’s the formula that our theological, ecclesiastical ancestor would have repeated over and over again.  What’s our responsibility?  Law and gospel.  We are to preach the moral law, right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral.  The law part of law and gospel really is the rub our day.

You know, Tim Keller once remarked that the day that his book Reason for God was published it was obsolete because it was the standard apologetic of proving, or addressing the issue of the justice of God, and the presence of evil in the world, and arguments for the resurrection of Christ.  Kind of historical, textual arguments.  He said, those really aren’t the issues anymore.  The issue today is our moral code.  We’re up against this whole LGBTQ agenda that is being powerfully driven by all of the power players in our culture today, and that’s the point of offense.  That’s what’s found to be so objectionable by our day.  I think that’s why the Christian church is in decline everywhere we look. 

The number of professing Christians is in decline.  The number of adherences to religious bodies, more generally declining.  Why?  Because our moral code is out of step with our civilization.  It’s going in a different direction.  The trajectory is ominous, and yet we have to preach the law.  The law is a precursor to the gospel, through the law comes the knowledge of sin, right?  Romans 3:20 of what am I repenting?  If I’m not being taught what of what I need to repent, then in what sense do I need Jesus to save me from my sin?  It’s only as we define sin and define it in terms of God’s law and our violations of that law that I come to realize that I need a savior to deliver me from my sin. 

So we can’t refuse to preach our moral code, right and wrong, moral and immoral, because if we abandon that, we end up in de facto.  We end up abandoning the Gospel itself.  As far as “Judge not, lest you be judged”, it’s vital that we understand it, because, as I pointed out this morning, if that is the stick with which the culture is beating us.  In other words, with our own stick, they are beating us.  Accusing us of violating the principles that Jesus Himself taught, as he taught to us to judge not, and here we are.  We’re judging everybody because of their moral behavior, moral conduct, classifying whole categories of people of being out of alignment, out of step with the requirements of Jesus. 

So there’s massive confusion today when it comes to moral things, so when so it needs to be understood that when Jesus says “Judge not”, and that’s being cited by our culture against us, they do not understand what he means.  He’s not calling upon us to suspend moral judgments.  He doesn’t mean to silence moral voices.  It’s necessary that we do what previous generations called law work as a precursor to the presentation of the gospel, demonstrating what it is that people need to be delivered from.

Nevertheless, again, to underscore what we looked at this morning, we are not to judge others harshly, or prematurely, or based on personal preferences, or personality differences, or worldly distinctions.  We are to judge when we are called upon to judge charitably, the motives, and the words, and the actions of others, to judge them according to the golden rule, “Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.”  Judging generously yet discerningly and humbly.  It’s under those three categories that I want to proceed here this evening. 

So how would Jesus have us judge?  Number one, He’d have us judge generously.  So let’s go ahead and read 37 and 38 “Judge not, you will not be judged.  Condemned, not, and 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, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

So this has often been interpreted in a monetary sense, and I think that that’s a legitimate thing to do.  That if you give, you will receive more than you give, but I don’t think that’s the primary application.  The primary application has to do with judgment.  So that is both a promise and a warning.  We looked briefly at it as a warning, but it’s almost a promise.  What’s the promise?  Well, give, in the sense of extend charitable judgments to others.  When you judge reluctantly and generously, the same will be extended to us.  Give, and give that generous judgment, and it will be given to you, others will judge you generously.  The same will be extended to us. 

Give other people the benefit of the doubt.  Look for alternative explanations for bad behavior, harmful behavior, vindictive and critical behavior.  Minimize over maximize, the faults and failures of others.  Forgive not seven times, but 70 times 7, Matthew 18: 21-35, and it will be given back to you.  How will it be given back to well, in good measure.  Yeah, he’s using the language, by of measuring grain.  Don’t extend a half a cup of grace to others in your judgments, but a full cup of grace, in fact, it should be pressed down and shaken together and running over, extend more grace even than what is required, so that it pours into the lap.  That’s the fold of the outer garment, kind of a pocket in ancient attire.  So be generous in your judgments. 

There’s a local hamburger joint in Savannah.  I think it’s a national chain, actually.  When they when you order fries, they put a cup into a bag, and they fill up the cup, and then the fries spill over into the bag.  It’s almost like you get two cups.  It’s just an overabundance.  I think that’s the picture here, running over.  Ecclesiastes 11:1 “Cast your bread upon the waters…” It will come back to you, and it may come back buttered.  Judge, as you wish to be judged.  Don’t put the worst possible construction upon the words and actions of other people. 

So love, what does love do?  1 Corinthians 13, “It believes all things.”  What’s that mean?  It means, not that you’re naive, but you believe the best about people.  You’re in a position where you are prepared to believe the very best about another person, rather than the worst about that person.

 “It bears all things.”  It takes a beating.  It does.  It’s willing to just bear the burden of the bad behavior of other people, the wrongs that have been committed against us.  We’re willing to bear that verse 5 of 1 Corinthians 13, in the New American Standard, “It does not take into account a wrong suffered.”  The word there’s logiʹzomai, it’s a Greek word that is used in accounting.  In other words, you’re not keeping a ledger.  You’re not keeping a list.  You’re not keeping track of the offenses of other people.  Just to be able to go right through and enumerate every offense that’s been committed.  No, you just forget about it.  You just move it.  You pass on.  You leave it behind.

So the promise is, you do that, and people will do the same thing in return.  Yet, as we begin to see this morning, it’s also a warning.  Give, in other words, deal it out, victimize others with harsh, merciless, unfair, petty, misinformed judgments, and it’s going to be given right back to you, only worse. 

Those who are without mercy in their judgments, a root of bitterness will begin to grow in their souls and that’s their souls will be poisoned.  They will become embittered by the successes of other people.  Habitual and harsh criticism will spew from their mouths in light of what are both real and imaginary offenses, whether those are large or small, serious or trivial.  Mountains will be made of mole hills.  No slack will be cut, no quarter given.  Resentment will be nursed and re-lived far beyond the scope of the original offense. 

So you deal that out in those sorts of proportions, and Jesus is warning it’s going to be given right back to you in the same way.  You’ll be paid in the same coin.  You’ll be beaten with your own stick.  You’ll be shot with your own arrows.  You will gain a reputation as being a bitter, judgmental person, and you will be friendless, because everybody’s going to wonder, and when they have heard you condemning another person, “Am I going to be the next victim?  When I’m not in the presence of them, do they talk about me the same way they talk about them?” 

In the world of fiction, there’s a marvelous character in Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, the book was written in 1960.  Finch’s judgments were charitable, whether dealing with the strange Radleys from across the street, or the opinionated Aunt Alexandria, or the trashy Ewells.  He said of cantankerous old Mrs. Dubose, who cursed him at every opportunity, “She was a great lady.”  As for when she was so critical of him, he said, “She had her own views about things a lot different than mine.”  He said of her last month before dying, “She was the bravest person I ever knew; her behavior was so bad because she was ill.”  He explained to his children.  The character Atticus Finch’s charitable judgment pervade the entire book.  Scout asked her father about Mr. Cunningham’s partition participation in a lynch mob that threatened Atticus, and he responded, “Mr. Cunningham’s basically a good man.”  He tells her, “He just has his blind spots, along with the rest of us.”  That is a brilliant fictional depiction of what’s to be characterized of us.  Has God not been generous with us?  Has he not been kind to us?  Has he not been patient with us?  And so we are to give. 

If you look at the verbs from verses 27 through 37 that precede this passage, Jesus says, We’re to love and to do good and to bless and to lend and to be kind and to be merciful and to forgive and to judge not.  And so with judgments, give, give graciously in your judgments, and they will come back to you in a positive sense.  And if you fail to do that, the harshness of your judgments will be the same standard, the same criteria by which you will be judged. 

Okay.  Number two, we should be generous in our judgments.  We should also be discerning in our judgments.  Verse 39, “He also told them a parable, can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?”  What’s he talking about?  We’ll go to the next verse.  Verse 40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.” 

So what’s he what he’s saying here is that we need to be able to discern, to judge, among those who are teaching, those who see and those who are blind.  He’s saying some teachers are blind.  So that this prohibition “Judge not” is not a prohibition of critical assessments of truth and righteousness. 

We have officer exams, as I’m sure you have some sort of the same here.  We have doctrinal standards.  We need to know that our future officers say our doctrinally sound, and morally straight.  We cannot be ‘blind’, to use Jesus language here, to the biblical qualifications of those who are going to say serve as leaders in the church, and those Who are to be candidates cannot themselves be blind to the content of biblical doctrines and the moral standards of the church.

So if the congregation is blind, or the candidates are blind, or the now serving officers are blind, what’s going to happen is, the church is going to fall into a pit.  That’s what he’s saying.  Will they not both fall into a pit?  Yes, they will.  A pit of bitterness, and of anger, and of heresy.  You need sharp-eyed congregations, and sharp-eyed officers, the disciples of Jesus do, and this is a problem that has plagued the mainline denominations.

It’s a true saying that your morality is going to determine your theology.  Of course, there’s an interaction between the two, but once somebody abandons Christian morality, the doctrine is going to fall fast.

What happened in the mainline denominations back around the turn of the 20th century, and especially in the 1920s, is that these old denominations began to choose officers because they were financially rich rather than rich in faith.  They were community leaders rather than spiritual leaders.  They were successful in some worldly sense rather than because they were devout and godly.  So leadership was compromised, and it took a decade, or two, or three, or four.  It took a generation, a couple of generations, before we really began to see what had taken place. 

The Presbyterian Church was doctrinally sound, morally sound as well in the 1920s and even into the 1930s, but the acids of modernity, the acids of moral compromise, and theological compromise began to take begin to take effect on into the 50s and the 60s and the 70s.  Now many of these Churches are posting their rainbow flags.  They worship a rainbow Jesus.  So discernment is vital.

When Jesus says Judge not, he’s not saying you can afford to be blind to theological and ethical truths.  You need to pick carefully your leaders, and your role models, to use the language of today, your influences.  You know, are they doctrinally sound?  Are they morally straight?  Do they live by the golden rule?  If not, you will be led into the pit.  You’ll not be led, you’ll be misled.  Jesus cites this ancient warning in verse 40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.”  The teacher is going to reproduce himself in his audience, in his listeners. 

This is a frightening thing for ministers like myself, to think that I am reproducing myself in the lives of other people.  Jesus warned about the Pharisees.  Matthew 23:15 that they were turning out disciples who were twice the sons of hell, that they were themselves. 

James 3:1 warns that teachers will undergo a stricter judgment, but it does raise, I think, a broader issue, who am I listening to?  What are my sources of information?  Who are my teachers?  There’s a number of competing voices out there.  If I’m being taught and shaped primarily by the popular culture, by media stars, celebrities, and journalists, I will rise no higher than they in terms of truth and virtue.  I will become like them.  So it’s vital that that we judge correctly regarding basic doctrine and ethics.

But when somebody comes along and denies the doctrine of the Trinity, we can’t be non-judgmental about that.  We can say, “Oh, well, you know, we all love our opinions.  We don’t want to be critical.  We don’t want to be negative.”  Somebody denies the doctrine of the dual nature, or the deity of Christ, the true deity and true humanity.  Someone comes along and denies the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Somebody denies the moral code of Christianity.  We can’t draw back, shy away from speaking the truth in love. 

That’s the formula that the apostles teach us.  Speak the truth in love.  Love does not provide an excuse for failing to tell the truth, and telling the truth is not an excuse for not telling the truth with love, we speak the truth in love.  We always speak the truth.  We always speak it in love.  Love doesn’t cancel out truth.  Truth doesn’t cancel out love.

The apostle John dealing with some erring believers, if they were such, refers to the doctrine of the one who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh.  He calls them the deceiver and antichrist.  I mean, that’s how seriously the ancient Church, the Apostolic Church, I should say, took false doctrine.  So this is the point here.  Look, you are you following a blind person?  You have this teacher, this person that you admire, that you look up to, and you’re making your life choices based on the philosophy that is emerging from this individual.  If you have a blind guide, you are going to fall with him into a pit.  So it’s vital, you’re a disciple, you’re not going to rise higher than your teacher.  You will be characterized by the same errors that, whether they’re theological or ethical, as characterize him or her.  So we need to be discerning in our judgments.

So thirdly, we not we need to be not only generous in our judgments and discerning in our judgments, but also humble in our judgments.  Continuing in verse 41 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye.  When you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye, you hypocrite.  First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Alright, we’ve already established that Jesus is not telling us that we’re not to be judgmental about doctrine, and judgmental about ethics, but he is saying that we need to be humble in our judgments in connection with the failures and faults of other people.  We can be bold doctrinally.  We can be bold in our morality, but nevertheless, we need to be humble about the way we go about announcing these things or communicating these things.  What he’s talking about here is having integrity, a sense of fair play and humility in our judgments of each other. 

Our propensity you see, is to notice the specks that are in the eyes of other people and ignore the logs that are in in our own.  It’s our it’s our propensity to say, “Let me help you with this problem that you have.  Let me help correct this, this speck that is in your eyes.”  What we tend to do is confront the failings of others while we excuse and condone our own.

So the whole situation here is absurd, of course.  You know, I think that irony is a part of the rhetorical toolbox that Jesus used and so, the whole idea of a log in somebody’s eye, the visuals on that of course, it’s absurd, but it’s making a point.  It’s a memorable point.  We are so free to criticize other people because of their specks.  They got these little specks in their eyes.  So you want to confront them about their jealousy or their anger, their insensitivity, or their materialism, their carelessness, their gossip, and while we’re doing that, we’re ignoring the logs that are in our own eyes. 

Matthew Pool, one of the old Puritan commentators, talks about the notorious hypocrisy involved in this.  Another one, David Brown, a 19th century Scott speaks of the monstrous inconsistency of those with logs in their eyes trying to correct the people that have specks in their eyes.  Somebody might say, “Well, shouldn’t specks be removed from the eyes of others?”  And the answer is, well, of course, specks should be removed.  Specks are annoying.  Specks are irritating, they’re uncomfortable, they’re bad, they’re harmful, but logs are worse! So one should be quiet about other’s specks when one has logs of one’s own.

So once again, judgments have to be made.  One must judge what is a speck and what is a log.  One must be discerning about those things.  Jesus is not calling for the suspension of moral judgments or suspension of doctrinal judgments.  They must be made and one, one must have the capacity to distinguish between the speck and the log and give them proportionate attention.  A speck gets a speck of attention.  A log gets a logs worth of attention.  Whoever has a speck and whoever has the log should be the subject of either that speck like attention, or that log like attention.

So Matthew Poole, let me cite exactly what he says.  He says that, “Those who are most censorious of others are usually most notorious and culpable themselves.”  You go about censoring other people, you know the likely thing is that you are the more notorious and the more guilty sinner yourself. 

Matthew Henry says the same thing.  He points out, “It is common for those who are the most sinful themselves and the least sensible of it to be most forward and free in judging and censoring others.”  By the way, Matthew Henry, in my opinion, is the greatest biblical commentator yet to walk the planet Earth.  I read him every single week, absolutely phenomenal in his insights.  What a gift to the church for the ages, Matthew Henry.  Henry is saying the same thing those who are most sinful.  It’s typical, it is common for them not to be aware of their own sin, and yet to be so free in judging and condemning other people.

Somebody that goes around gossiping about other people, gossiping about this, and about so-and-so is doing thus and so, and so-and-so is guilty of such, and such, and such.  Their words of like flashing lights, saying, “I have logs in my eyes.”  As you condemn all the specks that are out there.

Projection is a real problem.  Projecting our guilt, our logs onto other people.  You see it in the political realm all the time we accuse other people of the thing of which we ourselves are guilty.  So I found over the years, as a pastor of a church, that the people that accuse us of being unloving are typically the most unloving people that I have ever encountered.  It’s the strangest thing, who they think we are unloving, and they communicate their opinion of us in the harshest, the cruelest, the meanest and most unloving manner.  They’re just projecting onto us their own failures, their own sins.

So because I have logs in my own eyes, I ought to be very slow to judge other people.  That would be the point.  We’ve got logs in our eyes.  What are we doing judging other people?  What are we doing condemning others when we have these logs that we ourselves have to deal with?  So I can be much more charitable in my judgment of other people, because I realize I’ve got these logs in my eyes.  They’ve got some specks, and the specks are bad, and they’re annoying, and I dislike their specks, but you know what?  I’m really in a position to say anything because I’ve got these logs, and if I’m in a position where I must judge, then I’m going to judge reluctantly, not eagerly.  I’m going to judge with moderation, not exaggeration.  I’m going to judge with love, not harshly, and I’m going to do my best to help explain away, provide a rationale for the bad behavior of others. 

The truth of the matter is that we all have flaws, and quirks, and warts, and sins that we need to deal with.  So we really don’t have any time to get to the failings of others.  We have a veritable forest of logs in our eyes.  We are a bundle of inconsistencies and compromises, and the logs in our eyes prevent us from being able to see clearly.  You see at the end of verse 41 “Then you will see clearly.”  When?  “When you get the log out of your own eye, then you’ll be able to assist your brother to see clearly.”  In the meantime, you’re not in a position to judge because these logs are blurring your vision, and so you’re not able to see accurately, truly, the reality.

So to try to sum up, judgments are unavoidable, and they are necessary.  We are called as disciples of Christ to distinguish truth and error, right and wrong, moral from the immoral.  For that matter, what is important from what is unimportant.  What is a priority, what is not a priority.  We’re to discern which teachers are blind and which are sharp eyed.  We’re to be able to distinguish specks from logs.  We have judgments that we must make, and to fail to make them is to be guilty of moral failure. 

Yet when we do judge, we need to judge charitably, and generously, and humbly.  Judge in light of the golden rule, to do unto others as we would have them do to us, loving our enemies, being merciful, because our Father in heaven is merciful.  And all that to say, this is what Jesus makes of his disciples.  He’s on the journey to the cross.  He’s going to bear the sins of His people.  He’s going to liberate them from the penalty of sin and from the power of sin.

So he will make them into a people who live by the golden rule, a people who judge not lest they be judged, people who will be generous in their judgments, who will distinguish, make the distinctions that need to be made, that are necessary, that are absolutely vital.  They will support the proclamation of law and gospel understanding.  The two are inseparable in one sense, law prepares the way for gospel. 

We can’t abandon our moral code.  We can’t be intimidated into silence by the world because they find what we say is offensive, because we oppose the rainbow agenda.  By the way, talk about cultural appropriation.  Taking the rainbow, as it were, away from the Christian community and misusing it, the way it’s being used.  We are not to shy away from preaching the truth in love, but nevertheless, our judgments are to be charitable.  We’re to be generous in our judgments and humble in our judgments.  It’s by the power of the atonement, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s by the grace of God that we are born again, we are regenerated.  We become new creatures in Christ and the old things pass away.  The old bitterness, the old judgmentalism, the old envy, and jealousy, and covetousness that that is behind so much of this embittered judgmentalism that is in the world, and frankly plagues the Christian community.

No, we become new creatures.  In Christ, the old passes away, and all things become new.  And so we are generous and charitable in our assessments of each other, quick to forgive, quick to embrace, because we ourselves have experienced the kindness and grace of Christ.

As we pray together our Father in heaven.  We pray that you would make of us, this people that live by the golden rule that do to others what we would have done to us.  That Judge not lest we be judged, who are loving and kind and gracious and forgiving.  Even as we are strong and fearless in preaching the whole counsel of God, the whole gospel, the glorious gospel of the blessed God.  It’s in Jesus name that we pray.  Amen.