This post builds off of some of the ideas that came out of yesterday’s post. If you didn’t get a chance to read yesterdays—or the comments that were given in response to it—you can find it here.
Loving people is hard. That is really the bottom line. Truly loving people is not an easy task. Especially the more we get to know them. The more we know people and open up with one another the greater the chances for disagreement, hurt feelings, betrayal, and disappointment. We are all sinful after all. We are broken. And even as Jesus is healing us we still have propensities to harm each other.
So we have this call to love people well. It is a prominent theme throughout the Bible. And it isn’t the pseudo kind of love. It’s not all pats on the back and words of affirmation. It’s a commitment to living life together and helping one another—spurring one another on—to become healthy God followers.
So how do we love well without becoming judgmental of others? This is such a critical question. That’s my own opinion of course. But I see it as critical because I see us doing such a poor job of it. At least most of us.
The majority of people tend to fall too far to one side or the other. We either are too quick to judge, too quick to come to conclusions about another person. Or in the interest of keeping the peace, we don’t address any of their behavior. Where is the balance?
We are called to live in community with others. Relationship is central to the faith of following Jesus. So when dealing with other people how do we discern the difference? When is it judging and when is it not?
I’m turning to Jesus’ words in Luke 6 for some clarity and guidance.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 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 to you.” Luke 6:36-38
Jesus calls us not to judge, but notice the language that surrounds that sentence. Before it: Be merciful. After it: Do not condemn and forgive. It seems like the issue is on our focus. The problem of judging is a problem of our focus when someone else acts wrongly. What are we focusing on, the person, or the act?
“Be merciful…” That’s a call to be merciful to the person. We aren’t being called to act mercifully towards an act. We can’t be merciful to the act of stealing or lying or murder, but we can be merciful to the person who steals, lies, or commits murder.
“Do not condemn…” Again, this is about the person. The actions that we should deem as sin in another would be actions God has already condemned. The Bible has already called stealing, lying, and murder sin. We are not needed in that role of deciding whether or not they are wrong! That’s already been determined
Forgive. We are being called to forgive the person who steals, lies, or murders (these are obviously not the only sins, I’m just trying to stick with these three as examples). We aren’t being called on to forgive the lie, for example. The lie is an inanimate thing that was put out there by a person. It is the person who needs forgiving. It is our relationship with that person that needs restoration.
Ultimately, the call to not judge is as a substitute for being merciful, not condemning, or with-holding forgiveness. It’s a focus on the person. I really despise the saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Primarily because I feel like people who don’t seem to love others well at all seem to throw that phrase around and use it as a license to be anything but loving to select groups of sinners they feel comfortable with condemning. Admittedly, that’s probably not a totally fair statement for me to make, but it feels true more often than not in my experiences.
The reality is, however, that a distinction does have to be made between a persons value and heart and the actions they have committed. Not a separation, but a distinction.
We will dig further in to this tomorrow. Jesus has much more to say in Luke 6 that we should consider. Especially about “fruit” and good people or bad people. But for today I am carrying this idea around with me: When people act in ways that are clearly sin, how do I treat the person? Mercifully, without condemning that person, with forgiveness? Or do I treat them in some other way? Am I simply judging them?
And how do I reject a person’s actions and call those actions sin without condemning the person unmercifully? Without acting in an unforgiving manner?