Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 6:37-42            “No Judge Others”

 

            How can we NOT judge other people? How can we not judge Hitler as evil, for instance? This was one of the responses brought up in Bible Study, so I will give credit where credit is due.  I will affirm that we are always of the nature to judge others, and perhaps that is why Jesus brings up the point to his disciples in the first place!

            The word here “to judge” in the Greek is “κρινωμε.” It literally means “to question.” So, Jesus is saying do not immediately start to question others in your mind. I think in English we like to say: “Give others the benefit of the doubt.” Do not immediately think that everyone is out to get you or is somehow an evil soul. This is pre-judging or having prejudices. We must be very careful not to assume anything about anyone until we know for sure one way or another.

            I have noticed that there is a word missing in the English from this text that is very important in the Greek. The start of our scripture starts with the word “kai” in the Greek, which means “and.” In this case, we see that the sentiment expressed in verse 37 is actually started in verse 36 and continued then with the coordinating conjunction “and.” The line before speaks of mercy. Start your relationships from the standpoint of mercy first. Whomever you meet in your life, greet them with the Lord’s mercy.

            After the idea of granting mercy right off, and then not judging, we see the admonition not to condemn. This is in the sense of having gone to court, being found guilty, and then applying a punishment in accordance with the crime. But, if someone has broken the law, are we not supposed to assign guilt and punishment? What is Jesus trying to tell us here?

            The next few words are clear for us then. We are to “forgive.” Actually the Greek word here is “απολύω,” which literally means “to set free”or “let loose.” Even if someone is guilty and maybe should be punished, we are to have mercy and set them free.

            I believe that Jesus is telling us that there will be divine justice. We can and should give mercy because God will judge one day. We should let people be free. In Romans 12:14-21 we get these very same instructions: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all. .  . .Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

            In verse 38 of Luke 6, we read an interesting analogy: This is how we are therefore to treat others. We are to give others a good “measure.” So, we do not measure other people, but rather give them a good measure! This is how that looks. We are to see that the other person is in need. We give them not just enough, but we pack it in the bag, in this case the upper portion of the garment. That is what is being referred to here in the original language; i.e., a flap of cloth at the top of the tunic that is used a quick storage place if needed. Pack it in and press it down.

            Once we give others what they need, we need to shake it all down. Shake it all down so that it settles so that there might be even more space for more grace to go in. Everything needs to settle in and then be topped off again.

            Lastly, Jesus tells us then to let it run over. We have pressed in the grace that we are giving. We have shaken it down so that even more can be given. Lastly, we top it off to overflowing. That is how much Jesus is telling us to give of ourselves to others rather than judging or prejudging.

            So, if you  love someone else in the name of Jesus, then you will give them enough love to fill their heart, then tamp it down, fill the heart again, shake it down even more, fill the heart again until love is overflowing! Isn’t that what really happens when we love others?!

            A friend from Seminary gave me through my wife a book by Victor Fankl Man’s Search for Meaning. He was a holocaust survivor and a psychologist. I read it this last week. In the book he talks about judgment. First he was judged to be undesirable by the Nazis because he was a Jew. So, he was taken away to Auschwitz concentration camp.

            When the train stopped, the prisoners were divided into two lines. The line to the left led right away to the gas chambers where people were killed. This line had old men and women and children who could not provide any useful labor. Frankl spoke about the finger of judgment of an SS officer. If the finger wagged to the left, you were dead. If it wagged to the right, you had a chance at life—but a life of absolute horror.

            Frankl’s fate was that he was still strong enough to work. He tried very hard to hide a limp that he had so that the guard would not think that he was lame. He took a piece of glass and tried to shave off his facial stubble so that he would look younger and healthier because the shaving glass would leave a rosier complexion. Still, everyday at any time he could be sent off to die for almost any reason at all.

            Have you noticed in our country today that same finger wagging to left and to the right? To the left we have utter condemnation. To the right we have utter horror. Yet, we continue to judge left and right in all of our politics, in our daily activities, in our conversation with others. Any human system of judgment will evoke condemnation and suffering. There is no way around it. Rightly Jesus tells us not to judge, not to condemn, just offer mercy and grace three times over until it is running over!

 

            I want to jump down to verse 40 in order to make a comparison. Verse 39 is clear. The blind cannot lead the blind. But, what is said right after that seems almost to be a non sequitur. Why does Jesus start talking about disciples not being above the teacher? Why is everyone who is fully qualified like a teacher? The simple answer is that Jesus is telling his disciples that they are to teach and instruct rather than judging others. Likewise it is our call rather than to judge and condemn to teach and instruct!

            Remember that idea of filling, shaking, over filling? Do that with the right insights of teaching to help the other person rather than simply judging or condemning. That is really hard. That is what takes a lot of patience. But, think about this in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission: “Go out and make disciples of all nations.” That means we are to provide instructions for living rather than judgment.

            I know that that can be a fine line sometimes. Recently someone borrowed the church van. As they were leaving, I noticed that the first thing the driver did was release the parking park. Next the driver turned on the headlights. Only then, he started the engine. The proper sequence is to start the engine first. Turn on the headlights. Then, remove the parking brake only when ready to drive away.

            The reasons are clear. If you take off the parking brake first, the car  may jump out of gear when started and lurch forward or reverse with unintended consequences. Many people have died because they released the parking brake first or never engaged it to begin with. The actor who played “Chekov” in the new Star Trek movies died last year because he did not use the parking brake effectively.

            Also, if you turn on your headlights first, unfortunately you are sucking all the amps off the battery before engaging the starter motor and ignition system. The battery might not have enough juice to start the engine.

            Since I am the pastor of the church and would have to deal with the problem if the church van is wrecked or if the van won’t start because of a dead battery, or if someone is run over because the transmission jumps, I have an obligation to instruct that person. Right?

            I do not have the right to judge. I do not have the right to yell at the person how stupid they are. I do not have the right to harm the other person’s emotions by judging them to be inadequate. Yet, I should find a way to help them not be killed or wrecked, or stranded because of a dead battery. I would not want to wish that upon them, and I have the instructive knowledge to potentially save lives.

            So, enter the vehicle and start by putting on your seatbelt. Check your mirrors. Start the engine. Turn on the lights. Put your foot on the brake and engage the transmission. Release the parking brake. And, have a blessed and pleasant journey to wherever you are headed!  I am not judging you; I am instructing you to have great blessings and many happy returns.

 

            I love this idea so much. Instead of judging others, instruct them, equip them, feed them with blessings! In the times I am with youth, I have to keep telling myself “No judge, instruct them!” By judging the youth, I am either condemning or creating horror for them. What they need is instruction on how to live a better life.

            Recently a non-native to this country came to me with some issues that I could have really made some serious judgments over.  Instead, I sat down with him and had a heart-to-heart about how things need to happen in this country. I did the best to instruct him and help him. Packing the blessings down, shaking them up, and topping them off the best I could.

            Take this home with you today: No judge others. Instruct in the ways of the Lord instead! As you are getting in your cars, starting the engine, then running the accessories and finally pulling off the parking brake, go with the sense that you are now qualified to instruct others in Jesus’ name.

 

Amen.