Summary: Jesus teaches us: 1. Do not condemn. 2. Do not rush to judgment. 3. Do use discernment.
The Super Bowl is known as much for its commercials as it is for football, and Super Bowl XXXIX was no different. Ameriquest Mortgage Company sponsored two ads. One had a man coming home with a bag of groceries and a bouquet of flowers. He begins dinner by starting a pot of spaghetti sauce. As it simmers, he quickly sets the table where he has placed candles and arranges the flowers. He wants to do something really nice for his wife. But as he cuts up vegetables with a large knife, their furry white cat gets on top of the counter and tips over the pan full of red sauce, landing on the floor in the middle of it. The poor guy picks up the cat dripping with bloody-red sauce with one hand while still holding the large knife in the other — just as his wife walks in the door. At that point the commercial flashes the sign: “Don’t judge too quickly. We won’t”
The second commercial Ameriquest aired had a man talking on a cell phone as he enters a convenience store. He is talking to a friend and says, “Well, that’s a lot of money for a deck.” He picks up a drink and goes to the counter as he says, “I hate to tell you this but you are getting robbed.” The owner of the store is behind the counter with his back turned, and when he hears what the man is saying he looks into the security mirror just as the man puts his hand inside his jacket and tells his friend again, “Did you hear me? You’re getting robbed.” At that point the store owner spins around and sprays him in the eyes with mace. The man’s wife runs out and shocks him with a cattle prod as her husband proceeds to wale on him with a baseball bat. As the man lies dazed on the floor, the words appear: “Don’t judge too quickly. We won’t.”
The ads are extremely popular for a couple of reasons. First, because they are so humorous and creative, but secondly, because they strike a chord within everyone who has been judged hastily and unfairly. The interesting thing about the commercials is that the people in the ads who made a false judgment did not hear what happened from others, they knew they saw what they saw, and heard what they heard. The wife saw what happened with her own eyes. The store owner heard the words with his own ears, but both were wrong. They weren’t going by hearsay, but they were still very wrong in their interpretation of the events. It never occurred to them that they could be mistaken.
Jesus’ teaching, which we have read today, is designed to keep us from making those kinds of mistakes. I think there are important lessons here for us to learn. The first is this: Don’t condemn others. It is very easy to demonize people we disagree with, or whose lifestyle does not match up to our personal standards. It is very easy to think that someone will never change or that there is no hope for them. We consider them too far gone.
There were no hopeless people according to Jesus. If someone was sick, he believed they could be well. If someone was dead, he believed they could live. If someone was sinful, he believed they could be forgiven and live a new life. Jesus said, “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” (Luke 6:36-37). It is this element of condemnation that makes judging others so egregious. People who condemn are those who condemn the person as well as the action. They focus on the faults of others and never focus on self-examination.