37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38 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.”
39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?
40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Romans 12:17-21 (GNT)
17 If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good.
18 Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.
19 Never take revenge, my friends, but instead let God's anger do it. For the scripture says, “I will take revenge, I will pay back, says the Lord.”
20 Instead, as the scripture says: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink; for by doing this you will make them burn with shame.”
21 Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.
In this Season of Creation, we have talked about everything being connected, and how Christians make a difference in the world.
It still amazes me, every time I read the gospels, that some of the most profound messages Jesus offered to the people around him, still hold true today.
The Good News today is that grace and forgiveness are always good news for us, and for the people two thousand years ago.
And you know what, I need it; for big things, for little things, for things way in the past, for things in the here and now. It’s funny because you would think that we outgrow the need for forgiveness but I don’t think we really do. We’re human and we mess up, we hurry, we want stuff, we- well I - speak before I’ve thought things through, and yep, I judge people and situations. I say this not to beat myself up or to evoke anything from you – it’s just an awareness I have about myself- maybe you have it, too.
Sometimes I think that the best way to understand scripture is to look at our own lives and sometimes I think one way to understand our lives is by looking at our past.
You see after reading the scripture passage from Luke today, I did both – look at myself and my past. I mean, I know how judgmental I was (am), I know how black and white the world seemed and how easy it was to make myself feel better by judging other people. It’s kind of nice to look back and say: “At least, I’m not like that anymore, at least I’ve grown and matured.” When what I really mean I’m not as judgy; at least, things and people are in the grey scale and not stark black and white.
Is the log in my eye smaller, I hope so! But I know it is still there, I still judge people and by that I mean I make assumptions about them that may or may not be true, based on, well, lots of things : past experiences, the books I read, TV, Facebook, Instagram – and until I get information that challenges what I assume, I just go on thinking it: good, bad, indifferent- it doesn’t matter, it’s not based on the real person or people.
Sometimes reading different versions of the same passage helps me to better understand what the scripture is or could be saying. The Message Bible puts the Lukan passage this way:
37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
39-40 Jesus quoted a proverb: “Can a blind man guide a blind man? Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the master.” The point is to be careful whom you follow as your teacher.
41-42 “It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this I-know-better-than-you mentality again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your own part.
Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.”
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.” sounds a lot different than “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
I guess I had always interpreted the “you will be forgiven part” as being parallel to what we say in the Lord’s prayer “ Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” - or maybe the truth is; I didn’t think about forgiveness at all.
I just assumed that God, in mercy and grace, forgives us but this passage seems to be saying: Sure God does that, but there’s more, and part of that more is the expectation that others will forgive us, when we disappoint them, when we take them for granted, when we mess up and hurt them with our actions or words.
And what about when, as both the passage in Luke and the Lord’s Prayer make the point, we are called to forgive.
Not so easy, at least for me, there seems to be this little corner in me that I keep closed , that I don’t bother to look at unless and until that door gets opened and I realize; I’m still harbouring a great deal of resentment, or hurt, or bitterness over something or other.
You know, I’m going to guess that all of us have been hurt, or ignored, or passed over, rejected, lost jobs or friends or lovers or business deals at some point in our lives. And I’m going to guess that it’s all locked up somewhere never to be thought about or brought up – until something happens and whoosh- there it is – all the hurt, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, anger – all those feelings- still there.
Forgiveness is such a big heavy weight, and I really don’t know if the burden comes from needing to forgive others, or recognizing the need for forgiveness in ourselves. Either way, we want to distance ourselves from it all and end up carrying it around; hidden away.
When we pray our prayer of confession during the service; it’s general, that’s why we take a moment so that we can all reflect on our own lives. We need to take that time to admit to ourselves, “Hey, I’ve been hurt this week, but maybe I have also hurt someone.”
It’s that moment we want to stay with; that recognition of how shall I say it: the Lord’s prayer used to have the words: debt and debtors. This debt idea works like this: when someone does something to harm us, or is unkind or not just; we have this sense that they owe us something- that’s the debt. So when we forgive the debt; the slate is wiped clean, we are back up to even, there is no debt, nothing to be paid, there is nothing owing.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” It’s not just forgive our debtors, this circle, this cycle involves us not just as benefactor but as beneficiary. We are asking that our debts be forgiven because we, too, need a clean slate.
In Romans, Paul reminds us that we are called as Christians to be in community, to be in relationship with others and he shows us exactly what forgiveness looks like. “17 If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. 18 Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.”
In our day it might look something like The Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the Chairman of that Commission, which invited the victims of apartheid to come and tell their stories of loved ones lost and horrific ordeals survived.
The Commission had more than 21,000 statements and 2,000 more people: survivors and victims, appeared in public hearings.
The Commission also invited the perpetrators of political crimes and gave them the opportunity to appeal for amnesty if they gave a full and truthful account of their actions and, if they so chose, an opportunity to ask for forgiveness—opportunities that some took and others did not.
The commission received more than 7,112 applications for amnesty and granted amnesty to 849 people.
Archbishop Tutu wrote about the process:
The animating principle of our Truth and Reconciliation Commission was to restore good relations. For Africa is concerned, or has traditionally been concerned, about the wholeness of relationships. That is something we need in this world—a world that is polarized, a world that is fragmented, a world that destroys people. It is also something we need in our families and friendships. For retribution wounds and divides us from one another. Only restoration can heal us and make us whole. And only forgiveness enables us to restore trust and compassion to our relationships. If peace is our goal, there can be no future without forgiveness.
When Jesus was asked by Peter in Matthew 18:21- 22; "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." That’s a lot of forgiveness!
It would seem that forgiveness is a way of life for Jesus and the early Christians, stood as a counterpoint to the revenge centric world around them.
Jesus on the cross says: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I can’t imagine a more extreme example. But I do believe that the act of forgiving others is made easier in the knowledge that we are so graciously forgiven by a loving and merciful God.
**As a side note, forgiveness is not about accepting abuse, it’s not about staying in an abusive relationship or situation where you or anyone else especially children are being abused physically or verbally.