The Business of Judging

One of the most commonly quoted passages, I think, by those who claim the name of Christ if not the substance, is Luke 6:37-42: thou shalt not judge.

It is in the clear context of enduring persecution, following closely on the heels of “love your enemies” and continuing the same thought.  This is about returning blessing for cursing (1 Peter 3:9), and enhances the theme of “be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”  God has granted us mercy—so be merciful.  To enemies.  To the ungrateful, and the evil.  Similarly, God has poured our judgment on His Son, and our condemnation, and given us forgiveness—so we can not judge, not condemn, and forgive.

This doesn’t mean that God will forgive the evil done us.  “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” in Romans 12:19, which Paul follows up by quoting Proverbs 25:21, “if your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.”  Again, we see the same theme, Old Testament, Jesus, and the Apostles in accord: our reward (and the wicked’s punishment) is in heaven, in the hands of God; yet God forgives us, now, and has had mercy on us, and so we show mercy.  We show the mercy of God when we show mercy on those who don’t deserve it.  It demonstrates what it looks like when God loved His enemies, that is to say—me.

So this is what do not judge means.  It means forgive (v 37).  It means hope (1 Corinthians 13:7).  It means remember that we were wicked and hopeless and yet God chose us.  While we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)!  This is what love of enemies looks like—looking at wicked and hopeless people and remembering that there we once were, and yet God’s Son died for us!  God hoped for us!  God had a plan, God had forgiveness, God poured out His wrath on Another—while we were yet His enemies.  And we too: love our enemies.  Do not judge.  Forgive.

Jesus also calls it to our future hope: do not judge, and you will not be judged.  You will not be condemned.  You will be forgiven!  These are promises of eternity in exchange for the temporal forbearance we can offer our enemies now!  “Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (v 38, hcsb).  This is one of my favorite verses in all Scripture, all the more so as I have learned anything about baking.  When I’m measuring flour, I drag the cup through the flour, give it a little shake to get out the inevitable airholes, and of course I don’t press it down or run it over—but we press brown sugar, and run over other things (honey ;)) and I know, from years of cooking—this is how you don’t just get the full measure, you get more than the measure, very graphically: fill it, shake it, push it down, run it over.  This is beyond fair!  This is an amazing verse.  God’s mercy to us is not just adequate, it’s overflowing beyond description.  This is why we do not judge—because God is infinitely merciful.

But what else does Jesus say about judging?  It is well worth mentioning that in John 7:24, Jesus says—with regard to breaking the law—“do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (esv).  And in Matthew 18:15, Jesus actually instructs “if your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”  “Do not judge” doesn’t mean keep your eyes shut, or keep your mouth shut.  It means don’t condemn, do forgive, love sinners—no matter how evil or how much persecution they heap on our head.  No matter if they steal our cloak and strike our cheek.  No matter if they curse us.

For we too are sinners, and yet God loved us.

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