The Real Jesus: Lessons in Condemnation

Good morning.  Today we continue our series on the “Real Jesus” – we began 5 weeks ago.  And today we find ourselves in Luke chapter 6 again – third week in a row – and we will be in Luke chapter 6 again next week – because the heart of the teachings of Jesus are found here in Luke 6 and well as Luke 12.  So we are in the midst of understanding the message that Jesus brings, and then we will pivot to looking at how these teachings of Jesus play out in his interactions with various people throughout his ministry.

Luke 6 is called the sermon on the plain.  And it reflects the core teaching of Jesus.  He preached these messages many times in many places.  We read Matthew’s version in Matthew 5-7.

So far we’ve heard Jesus teach that all of us are blessable in this world- that #blessed looks different in the Kingdom of Heaven than it does in this kingdom of this broken world we were born into by default.

In order to be considered blessed in this kingdom of darkness – people rely on power, on comfort, on success and recognition – Inherently weak and unstable and losable things.

But the promise of the Kingdom is Immanuel – God with us.  That God walks alongside anyone who places faith in Jesus – as a friend, as a loving father, as a good shepherd.  And He is inherently stable, unchanging, and promises to never ditch us in our time of need.

Last week we began to discover what a blessed life looks like.  And we saw that the result of our faith is that God begins to change us from the inside out – that we might become a different kind of human being.  And the greatest mark in the life of a person who has received outrageous love –  is to become the kind of people who display outrageous love.

We love – not as the world loves.  The world loves people who love them.  But in the Kingdom of heaven is filled with people so transformed by Love that we can love even those who curse us, who hate us.  We become unoffendable, in a sense.  We don’t return contempt for contempt.

Now it’s important to note – that Jesus teaching are for us both a vision and an exhortation.  Jesus sees in us what we do not yet see in us.  He sees that the likes of people like you and me are the salt and light of the world.  He sees in us the potential of becoming people who love – even if now we struggle.

But I don’t want us to receive Jesus teaching as laws that must be obeyed or else.  If we read Luke 6 through the eyes of religious law – we will be crushed by them.  Because the process of transformation begins with a realization of where we actually are.  And so we recognize that we cannot love like Jesus in our own strength.  But we gladly receive the vision – and we believe that God has me on track to become more like Him every day.

So let’s keep that in mind – Jesus has a vision – that his people might be the kind of people who do not kill people even in their hearts.  And now we turn to another difficult teaching in Luke 6.  It’s one of the most difficult passages to understand in the bible.   It reads this…

37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

39 Then Jesus gave the following illustration: “Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? 40 Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

41 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Rather than asking- what’s the point of this teaching – we are going to ask – what’s the vision of this teaching?

Jesus’ Vision for us, is that we might become the kind of people who don’t condemn other people.  The vision is for us to live a life of love.  And condemnation is not loving.

God does not want us to be people who condemn.  When we condemn someone we communicate that he or she is, in some deep way – is bad and is to be rejected.   We communicate that they are unacceptable.

Condemnation is exceedingly painful.  It is meant to hurt and diminish another as not worthy of respect.  It is a stinging assault on the dignity of another.

Jesus has a vision that we might become people who say – enough – enough.  I’m done trolling people.  I’m not going to contribute to the flood of contempt and scorn in the world.

In fact I will endeavor to become the kind of person who lowers the floodwaters of scorn and contempt by displaying love and patience, and concern.

It’s interesting you know – Jesus is speaking to a group of people who have been traditionally the recipients of scorn and condemnation.  It’s a rag tag group of outsiders.  These people have received the contempt of others.

But Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook – and he doesn’t let us off the hook either.  He knows that all of us have – naturally and easily, the ability to mentally if not verbally, toss people into the garbage dumps of humanity.

Jesus is speaking to people who know first hand the stinging assault of condemnation.  And Jesus says – if we are ever going to stem the tide of contempt and condemnation – it has to start with us.

Well then, if I stop judging others, who will be left to judge?  Why?  Well, quite simply, there is only one who judges.  God is a just judge.  It is God who condemns or pardons.  But let’s also remember that – according to John 3:17, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Jesus is on a pardon mission.  Jesus came to make a way for us to be pardoned of our sins and brought out from under the condemnation brought down upon us by our sin.

Apart from Jesus the only sound we’d hear on the other side of life is the sound of gavel and a guilty verdict from God because of our sins.

But God didn’t want that for us.  Christ brought new life.  Not condemnation.  Because of Jesus, God laid own the gavel.  Once we place our faith in Jesus, according to Romans 8:1 There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Out of love, God laid down the gavel of condemnation and and he wants us to do the same.

Now let me point out three people we are going to stop condemning.

The first?  The person who is not a follower of Jesus, for not behaving as if he or she is a follower of Jesus.

We must not stand over the world to condemn it for not acting like Christians.

That’s the first group of people we will stop condemning.  Stop condemning people who don’t follow Jesus.

There is a difference between Christianity and moralism.  Moralism doesn’t care what you believe or why you believe, they just want you to behave yourself.   But the story of Jesus life is that the most moral people on the face of the earth – they were called Pharisees – had hearts that were corrupted.

I one of the most stinging descriptions of moralism comes from John the Baptist who called the religious moralists of his day – white washed tombs.  Really tidy on the outside – but rotting away on the inside.

Jesus tells us here in Luke 7

43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

And if you are not a follower of Jesus you might feel offended that Jesus is calling you a bad tree – but he’s simply pointing out to his followers that we mustn’t condemn people who do not follow Jesus because they aren’t acting like they are followers of Jesus.

And he’s giving us all something to think about when he says it’s out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.  Our words – spoken, whispered, typed and texted – are a reflection of what our heart is full of…  is it love?  Or condemnation?

Should we strive for morality in society?  Of course we should.  A moral society is better than an immoral one.  But condemning people will not stem the tide of contempt – it only adds to it.

And so our condemnation upon them is not helpful, not loving.  No one ever said – “I felt the sting of your condemnation and I thought, I want what you have!”

Condemnation works against the very thing God sent us into the world to proclaim – which is to proclaim the good news.

That’s the first group of people I want us to refrain from condemning.  We will not win the world to Christ by condemning it.

The second person I’d like to ask us to stop condemning is  2.  The person who is says he or she IS a follower of Jesus, but isn’t living like it.

Now I need to tread carefully here.  But let me tell you- Christians who are willfully sinning – they will not benefit from our spirit of condemnation.

Now I will be honest – this one is the most difficult for me.  I’ve sat with people who are in the midst of wrecking their lives, and yet somehow managed to find time to memorize a new life verse.  “Don’t judge, lest you be judged.”

This person memorizes this scripture as if to say to his or her brother or sister – you don’t have the right to challenge my decisions.  I can do whatever I want to do.  But this isn’t the case.  Jesus is not telling us we are above correction or challenge or even rebuke.  But he is saying that if we bring the spirit of condemnation into that process, we will poison all of our efforts to bring a bring the person back onto the right path.

Notice how gently Jesus instructs to treat our brother or sister who is not living in accordance with the desires of the Lord.

Matthew 18  15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 

So Jesus is not saying that we must never address the issue at hand when we see a brother or sister in Christ who is not living as though they are at home in the Kingdom of God.  Address it, but lovingly.

Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.

Gently and humbly help.   Shame and condemnation do not help.

Sometimes our friends need to hear some loving, humble, gentle correction from their friends.  Sometimes WE need correction.  Right?  But Jesus instructs us that it’s in keeping with the heart of the kingdom – and that heart has shooed away the spirit of shame and condemnation.

The bottom line is:  Correction? yes!  Condemnation? Never.

Imagine being part of a church family who has laid down the gavel – and who is able to say to one another in love – I will not condemn you.  I will love you.  I will help you.  I will not embarrass you or shame you.  Even if I come to you – or you come to me – to talk about an issue you see in my life, or I see in yours, that isn’t matching up with the vision Jesus has for us for life in the Kingdom – we will do so for one another lovingly.  Gently.  Humbly.

So – three people we are going to love instead of condemn.  People who are not Christians who do not act like they should be Christians.

People who claim Christ but aren’t living as though they are.  We loving correct – yes, but we leave behind shame and condemnation.

And you know – this brings me to the last person I want to ask you not to condemn.  I want to ask you to not condemn yourself.  I think that all of us struggle at times.  All of us make decisions we regret.  Sometimes we fail.  Sometimes we fall into sin.

There may be within you an epic battle with a deeply ingrained sin – and you may have made promises and bargain with God and you know, it’s just eating your lunch and you are feeling like, I can’t keep going back to the Lord with this.  You are ashamed of yourself.  So much so you don’t want to talk with anyone else – you are just hoping to outlive it – I just want you to know that you are deeply loved.

Jesus came to free you from that self imposed condemnation.

Romans 8:33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Don’t you dare condemn yourself – you are the one for whom Jesus died.  You are the one for whom he was raised to life.  You are the one he is working in right now, changing, challenging, correction, but never judging.

Allow me to share this closing illustration.

In 1501 there lay a 17 foot tall block of marble.  Cut from a quarry in northern Italy, it weighed in at an astonishing 12 thousand pounds.

At great expense and effort, it was brought to Florence to be used as the material for a statue that would adorn a cathedral.  But the owners of the block struggled to find anyone who could work with the marble.  For on top of the great challenge of working with such a large block, the marble was considered by many to have too many flaws, and was made of a type of marble considered by some to be inferior.  And so it sat there for 40 years.

No one thought they would ever be able to do anything with it.   It sat until a young man named Buonarroti, only twenty-five years old, convinced the owners that he could shape the marble into a statue worthy of the cathedral.

So, on September 13, 1501, Buonarroti began working.  His goal – to shape the block into a statue of a biblical hero.  He would patiently work on shaping the marble block for more than three years.  By the time he was done, the flawed block of marble that sat for decades was transformed into 14 foot tall statue depicting an image of King David, at the moment he decided to do battle with Goliath.

And in 2004 the world celebrated the 500th anniversary of one of the greatest sculptures ever shaped – the masterpiece “David”, shaped by Michelangelo Buonarroti.

I read a story that when the Pope came to see the statue he asked Michelangelo how he knew what to cut away and Michelangelo said, “I cut away everything that didn’t look like David.”

This is a finished work.  But as I was reading up on the David statue I learned that it’s home in Florence is surrounded by unfinished works – and I found these just as incredible.

Here’s an unfinished Atlas.  Michelangelo could see a rock and envision what few others could – he saw what was inside the raw material – and knew how to make it beautiful.  And God looks at us, and those around us in similar fashion.

Once we cross that line of faith God begins to cut away and chisel out of us everything that doesn’t look like Jesus.  He begins a new story of transformation.  And it takes time.  And it takes effort and cooperation with God as he chisels away those things in us that don’t look like Jesus.

The work of the salvation is finished.  But you and I are a work of art still in progress.  But if we are willing to submit ourselves to God he can shape us into something beautiful.  And indeed, he has been carving and chipping away at those of us who have believed in Jesus’ work on the cross, and he is shaping us into the image if Jesus.

Let’s strive together to become the kind of people God sees inside of us.  And that means we agree to become the kind of people who lay down the gavel of condemnation.   Just Imagine the impact a church without gavels can have on a community, could have on your friends.