Judgment to Mercy: Walking with Others to Righteousness
Judgement is a difficult topic to talk about. Most people are quick to judge, but refuse to receive judgement. Can we move from judgement to mercy?
This is a basic and natural instinct for us humans. We avoid pain and embarrassment. We should not be surprised by this.
When many people think think about Jesus and judgement, they go to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:1–5)
It is easy for those who follow Jesus to judge. We have been given so many commands to be righteous and turn away from sin.
For years, our pastors and leaders have told us to turn away from evil and live a pure and godly life.
So our natural instinct is to look at others and see the sin in their lives. Immediately we are inclined to show them the error in their spiritual lives.
As I read the Sermon on the Mount more I have to ask the following question: “Is Jesus even talking about judgement?”
Especially as I read Matthew 6, I wonder if Jesus is more concerned about our hearts and hypocrisy than acts of judgement.
I am not certain how anyone can read or hear the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount and feel comfortable offering anyone else judgement on their actions.
When Jesus gives us this analogy of a log in our own eye, I have to wonder if Jesus knew the sheer impossibility of us actually addressing our own unrighteousness.
Could it be that Jesus is more fully showing us how we are to live and be righteous in his dynamic Kingdom.
Jesus shows us that no one is able to judge because we are all guilty of unrighteousness. Jesus has elevated the Law to near impossible standards. Not only are our actions judged (by God), but now our thoughts and intentions are in play too.
Jesus in Matthew 7 seems to be giving a further analysis of the idea of living in community with others.
Can we move from Judgment to mercy?
Jesus wants mercy…
Jesus now expands the teaching of “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7) We are to be merciful because if we are to be aware of our own sin there would be no room in our hearts to judge others. Jesus understands this and cautions his followers to combat the problem of sin and unrighteousness with mercy.
Now mercy is not the denial of sin. Rather, mercy is the elevation righteousness. Mercy cannot exist without sin, so mercy affirms the reality of sin in our lives.
The reason we must respond with mercy is the fact that judgment only reveals what is wrong; whereas mercy reveals what is wrong by showing what is right—mainly righteous living. Judgment at its core is not dealing with righteousness.
I think when we read Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount as a big picture we begin to see that we are all in need of mercy. Thus, as Jesus people, we respond to others in mercy.
There are practical aspects of Christian community regarding teaching, mentoring, and correcting in response to sin, but these all can be done in humility, self-awareness, God-awareness, and love. We can walk in humility with others to righteous living. All we have to do is choose mercy.
Let us leave the judgement to God and build healthy and gracious communities.
This post is an adaptation of a sermon I preached in August of 2022. Click here to view the sermon.