September 29, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:36-37 (NRSV)
“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.”
Sometimes we Christians can be some of the most judgmental people. How ironic and sad that we who have been saved by God’s grace are unable to be gracious to others. Jesus told his followers not to judge or condemn. Yes, we should discern truth from falsehood, right from wrong. But our attitude toward others should be like God’s attitude toward us. “Be merciful,” Jesus said, “just as your Father is merciful.”
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
One of the things that perplexes me most about Christians, sometimes even about myself, is how judgmental we can be. After all, we have been saved, not because of our own goodness, but because of the goodness of God. When we turn to God for salvation, we acknowledge our sinfulness, our lostness, our utter helplessness to save ourselves. We receive God’s salvation with gratitude and joy, knowing that we are not worthy of what God has so mercifully given us.
And then we turn around and judge others. At least some of us do, at least some of the time. We often have particular disdain for people with particular kinds of weaknesses and sins. We look down about those who, for example, have failed marriages or rebellious children. Or we condemn those who have been less than honest on their tax forms. Or we are particularly hard on those whose sexual practices don’t line up with ours. Or who express implicit bias. Or . . . you name it. Now, you would think that those of us who have been saved by God’s grace – and who experience this grace day after day – might be more gracious to others. But, I’m sad to say, this is often not true.
Ironically, we judge and condemn others even when Jesus is clear that we should not be doing these things. Now, we should understand that when Jesus says not to judge, he does not mean we should fail to be discerning about truth and falsehood, good and evil. It’s still right for us to evaluate human behavior according to God’s standards, both our own and that of others. Judgment, in this sense, is not wrong. But judgmentalism, an attitude of condemnation, the failure to extend grace to others, is wrong. (There, I’ve just made a judgment!)
I have said that we should refrain from judgmentalism because we have been recipients of God’s grace. But in Luke 6:37, Jesus offered an additional reason not to be judgmental. He said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” He connects our actions with those of God in a curious way, as if God’s grace to us is somehow dependent on our grace to others. How could this be?
I have a theory about this. Scripture teaches that God’s grace is given to us, not on the basis of our actions, but on the basis of God’s own being, revealed through the death of Jesus Christ. But, even when we’ve received God’s grace through Christ, if we are judgmental of others, if we condemn others for their failures, if we fail to forgive, then we harden our hearts, not only to others, but also to God. Persistent judgmentalism, condemnation, and unforgiveness lead to an inner stoniness that limits our experience of God’s grace. It’s not an accident that those who readily condemn others are often unduly hard on themselves.
Jesus invites us into a new way of living. As we receive God’s grace upon grace, we become channels of this grace to others. We don’t pretend as if sin doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. But our discernment of right and wrong comes with humility, with gratitude for God’s help, and with abundant mercy for others. Remember, in the verse immediately prior to Luke 6:37, Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Are you ever inclined to be judgmental? If so, are there particular kinds of behaviors that really stir up your judgmentalism? What are they? Why do you think these behaviors matter so much to you?
What do you think about my theory that being judgmental towards others actually makes it harder for us to experience God’s grace for ourselves? (It’s okay if you disagree with me, by the way!)
What helps you to be gracious to others? What helps you to be merciful?
If you’re like most people, you are inclined to be judgmental towards certain kinds of people. Take some time to reflect prayerfully on this. Ask the Lord to give you a gracious spirit towards those whom you’re apt to condemn.
Lord Jesus, as I reflect on this passage from Luke, I’m aware of my own failure to live it. I can be judgmental, Lord. Not always. But especially with those who really “get my goat.” I can be quick to condemn them for their words and deeds, for their attitudes and feelings. Now, my discernment of what’s right and wrong here may be correct. But my judgmentalism is not. So I confess it to you, asking to be forgiven.
Help me, Lord, to be a person who forgives readily. Help me to be merciful, even as my Father in heaven has been merciful to me . . . and still is, day after day. I pray especially that you will soften my heart to those against whom I tend to harden it. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.