Today, we will begin to conclude our series on “Finding Freedom In Forgiving Others.” In doing so, I want us to think together about how our Savior tells us that we, as His followers, are called to live differently than the world. (READ TEXT)
In our passage for today, Jesus encourages His followers to rise above the judgmental life lived by others to live a life characterized by
Let’s notice what He had to say about gracious living.
1. The nature of gracious living - v. 37
Gracious living is characterized by non-judgementalism, by acceptance of others, by forgiveness, and by giving of oneself to others.
Interestingly enough, the description given here by Jesus of gracious living sounds similar to what Paul said about love:
“Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered, it doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (CEV)
It is important to understand the difference between being judgmental and discerning truth from error. In verse 37, the Lord says, “Do not judge.” Then, in verses 41-42 he warns against trying to correct others without first correcting what is wrong in our own lives. This passage does not teach that judgments should never be made. In fact, verse 42 specifically speaks of removing “the speck from your brother’s eye.”
The Lord’s point is that no one is qualified to discern truth from error or to minister effectively to a brother or sister if they are habitually critical. What might cause a believer to have a critical spirit and be judgmental?
A. Failure to deal with sin - Especially unforgiveness (v. 37c).
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” - Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)
B. Failure to find one’s security in Christ - Criticism is often a subconscious means to feel better by “elevating one’s own self image.” By putting others down, they are inwardly trying to make themselves feel more important or to prove that “they know more.” Rather than finding their sense of security and fulfillment in their relationship with Christ, they are looking to establish a sense of worth by proving themselves to be superior to others.
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” - 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
C. Failure to acknowledge Christ’s Lordship - Criticism of others often reveals a lack of awareness of who we will each ultimately answer to - the Lord Jesus Christ.
“So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the
judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘“As surely as I live,” says the LORD, “every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will
declare allegiance to God.”’ Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” - Romans 14:10-13 (NLT)
D. Failure to understand my responsibility to my brother - Our responsibility to our brother or sister in Christ is to encourage them toward spiritual maturity. If we ever hope to bring improvement to others, we need to become people of encouragement, not people with a spirit of criticism. This is the only attitude that will change people, and our actions and words must be devoted to encouraging the spiritual progress of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” - Ephesians 4:29-30 (NLT)
E. Failure to understand the mission of the church - The church has been commissioned by our Lord to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Part of how we do this is by gathering together for the purpose of encouraging one another to live the life of a disciple,
following the example of Christ.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” - Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
“Let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” - Ephesians 4:15 (Amplified)
F. Failure to recognize the work of the Devil - the Devil specializes in influencing obsessive behavior. We must be on guard that none of us would be used as a tool of the Devil to bring harassment or discouragement upon our brothers or sisters through continual criticism, as the Bible warns us not to “give place” to the Devil (Ephesians 4:27). Remember that Satan is specifically called “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Satan loves to get believers to assist him with “accusing the brethren, for if he can, it will eventually destroy the local church.
“But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another.” - Galatians 5:15 (Amplified)
Many a church has been consumed and destroyed as a result of judgmental believers. Conversely, there are churches that are alive and thriving because of gracious believers. Are you the kind of person who builds others up or tears others down? The Christian who lives
graciously does not go about looking for faults in others. Instead, they try to think the best of others, say the best about others, and do their best for others.
Two taxidermists stopped in front of a window where an owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted. Its eyes were not natural; its wings were not in proportion with its head; its feathers were not neatly arranged; and its feet could be improved. Just when they had finished with their criticism, the owl turned his head . . . and blinked.
The moral of the story: It’s easier to be critical than correct.
Instead of being critical and judgmental, God calls us to adjust our lives to His truth. Then we will be able to encourage others with their
struggles with the truth we have applied to our lives.
2. The benefits of gracious living - v. 38
Jesus says if we are not judgmental, then others will not judge us. If we are accepting, then others will accept us. If we are forgiving towards others, then they will forgive us. If we give of ourselves to others, then they will give back in kind. That which we receive from others will be in proportion to what we give them, and if we live graciously, the blessings we receive will add up to more than we can hold! Indeed, it is a divine law that our blessing will be consistent with our graciousness!
Many years ago, Chinese farmers theorized that they could eat their big potatoes and use the small ones for seed. Consequently, they ate the big potatoes and planted the small potatoes. As a result of this practice over the years, nature eventually reduced the size of all the potatoes they harvested to the size of marbles. A new understanding of the law of life came to them. They learned through bitter experience that they could not have the best things of life for themselves and use their leftovers for seed. The law of life decreed that the harvest would reflect the planting!
“[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.” - 2 Corinthians 9:6 (Amplified)
I once had a secretary who had a sign on the wall of her office that said, “Kindness spoken here.” My prayer for us as the people of God is that we might be able to have said of us that we speak kindness here.
Conclusion: After Confederate General Robert E. Lee retired from military life, he was named president of Washington and Lee
University in Lexington, Virginia. Originally named Washington Academy because of a $50,000 gift from George Washington, the name of the school was changed in 1871 in honor of Lee who served as its president from 1865-1870.
While Lee was president of the University, a new student came into Lee’s office and asked for a copy of the school’s rules and
regulations. Lee replied that the school had no printed rules. He said, “Our only rule is kindness.”
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”- Galatians 5:6 (NIV)