The most useful service of the United States Postal Service is the informed delivery daily digest. Or simply, it is an email with pictures of the mail coming to the mailbox today. And so, there is no more need to wonder, be anxious, concerned or surprised when it comes to the mail. Well, except on Tuesdays.
Last Tuesday, even knowing all that would be delivered, there was still a surprise. There was the junk mail – no surprise; there was a bill – no surprise; there was a notice from the insurance company – no surprise. The surprise was what was inside this larger, but not too large, envelope addressed clearly to a James Sperry and my corresponding home address. With some curiosity, I opened it and began to read. It went something like this: Many men in their 60’s struggle with hearing loss. We are here to help. Schedule your free consultation today. At 38 years old this would have been more encouraging if it was an offer to help with hair loss.
Luke 6:20-49 is Luke’s record of probably the best known teaching of Jesus – the Sermon on the Mount. In the middle of this sermon, the largest portion of this sermon, Jesus pauses to prevent hearing loss. “But I say to you who hear…” (Luke 6:27). Perhaps another way of saying it is, “Now pay attention. And keep paying attention.” Listen. You must really listen to this.
If we think of sermons as having a big idea and points to support or flesh out the big idea, then the middle of this sermon is point number two. What is the big idea of the whole sermon? Jesus is primarily addressing his disciples. There are other people there listening, a lot of other people there listening, but this sermon is for his disciples. Jesus’ aim is to show how his disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave in less than ideal or negative circumstances – in poverty; in hunger; in grief and sadness, even prolonged grief and sadness; in loneliness and persecution on account of being his disciple; and in love. Jesus’ disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave in less than ideal or negative circumstances in love.
How to Meet the Needs of Others
Sermons are to have a big idea and points that flesh out that big idea. The first point of this sermon was Luke 6:20-26. The third point of this sermon will be Luke 6:46-49. But the second point of this sermon is Luke 6:27-45 and it is the biggest point. This second point is about others. There are two perspectives of others.
The first perspective is Luke 6:27-36. This perspective is about meeting the needs of others or how to meet the needs of others. How do Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others? In love; Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others in love. Love is the predominant word in those ten verses, appearing six times. Jesus’ disciples meet the needs of others in love, but loving those who are rather difficult to love; loving those who do not and will seemingly never love in return; loving when we do not want to love and when it seems really reasonable to not love. And what I love about this is how Jesus captures our ability to meet the needs of others in this way. Listen. It is Luke 6:35-36. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
What does this mean? Loving in this way, meeting the needs of others in this way, you will be what you are, a child of God. This is the great reward! The disciple John who heard this sermon and this point in person wrote these words: See what kind of love – this is the same word Jesus used six times in his sermon. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!” (1 John 3:1). How do we have the ability to meet the needs of others in this way? This is how God met my greatest need when I was really hard to love; when I was lost and without hope and an enemy. Christ died for me (cf. Romans 5:8). The affections of God for me are to affect my affections for others.
Judge Not Or You Too Will Be Judged
This is only part of this second point – how to meet the needs others. The other part of this second point is Luke 6:37-45 or how I relate to others. I want us to think upon a simple question. Who are these others?
Let’s notice how this part or part two of point two begins. “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Pause there. I think we would all agree that this is something probably very familiar – do not judge. Considering Luke 6:37-38, it has been said that these are some of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible. Today they serve as the Magna Carta of much of American religion. Some people do not know a single Bible verse – they might not even know there is an Old and New Testament. But let them know the slightest disapproval and the King James comes forth: judge not, and ye shall not be judged.
Do not judge. What does this mean? First, there is more to those three words. It is accompanied by a sure warning: or you too will be judged. Still, what does it mean? Well, there is more to those words. Just consider for a moment this command. It is written as an imperative, so it is to be obeyed. Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not judge.” The word judge is often a legal term. It means to bring to trial and give a determination of right and wrong. And it can be just a very general word meaning to distinguish, come to a choice by making a judgment. So, is this here a determination of right and wrong or coming to a choice by making a judgment?
We are to judge or determine between right and wrong. Matthew 18:10-20 is a tremendous example which Jesus himself gives to us. If a disciple is caught in sin or an allegation is made that a disciple has sinned and is refusing to admit or acknowledge such wrongdoing, then Jesus gives a patient process that the church is to follow to determine between right and wrong. In 1 Corinthians chapters four, five and six the Apostle Paul writes about judging. First, he tells Christians to not judge others (4:5), but then he tells Christians to judge others (5:12; 6:1-3). There must be a difference. So, what is the difference? Luke 6:37 is the difference. This verse is about coming to a choice by making a judgment or being judgmental. In other words, based upon your actions, I am going to make a choice about your motive without really knowing your motive. Or based upon your actions, I am going to make a choice about you. A guiding principle would be, especially in church relationships, always think the best of one another. And you will sleep better.
But still, there is more to these words than simply do not judge or you too will be judged. There is more because Jesus says more. Luke 6:37-38 is one long sentence or something said all in the same breath. In addition to not judge Jesus also says to not condemn, but also to forgive others, always ready to forgive others. So far, which is harder, to not judge others or to forgive others? What if the judging others is related to forgiving others? Who are we to forgive? This is to say, who are these others?
Forgiving others would be forgiving those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us. And who might we be too quick to judge? Could it also be those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us? There is one more command. Do not judge, do not condemn and forgive are each commands or demands Jesus makes of his disciples. The last demand is give. Who are we to give to, ready to supply, furnish, what is needed? It is those who have hurt us, offended us, disappointed us. And contextually, this is it!
What did Jesus talk about in the first part of this second point? Meeting the needs others. These others are described as your enemy; those who hate you; those who curse you; those who mistreat you. And Jesus said to love your enemy. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Does it seem reasonable that in the second part of this second point, how I am to relate to others, that Jesus still has these kinds of people in mind? Do not judge your enemy. Do not condemn those who hate you. Forgive those who curse you. Give to those who mistreat you. It seems that these four demands in Luke 6:37-38, correlate to the four demands in Luke 6:27-28.
Listen to the last part of Luke 6:38. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” The standards one applies to others God applies back. A sobering thought to say the least.
Can A Blind Man Lead a Blind Man?
In Luke 6:39-45, Jesus is still relating to this point of how his disciples are to relate to others. And he does so by asking a question. It is in the form of a parable or an illustration of the truth just spoken of in Luke 6:37-38. Can a blind man lead a blind man? Of course not, but what does that mean?
What Jesus says next is really interesting. He talks about a disciple and his teacher. As the teacher molds and shapes and informs the disciple, the disciple will become like the teacher. Meaning, why are there disciples who judge others, condemn others, are not forgiving and not very generous? Like teacher, like student. It just said to me that Bible teachers have a profound effect on Bible students or pastors have a profound effect on churches. There are churches like Luke 6:37-38 because there are pastors like Luke 6:37-38. And the root problem is Luke 6:41-42. “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?” In other words, why are you so quick to deal with the sins of others without first dealing with your own sin? Their sin is the size of a speck. Your sin is the largest beam which supports a building. Your own sin is the bigger issue! There are students like this because there are teachers like this. There are churches like this because there are pastors like this. It is about repentance – take care of your beam.
The Abundance of the Heart
And it is a heart issue. Jesus near the end of this big point addresses the hearts of his disciples. Something is always filling your heart. Disciples do not have empty hearts. Listen to Luke 6:45. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
How am I to relate to others? Humbly (Psalm 51:3). Prayerfully (James 5:16). Biblically (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Lovingly (John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13:6). Mercifully (Hosea 6:6; Luke 6:36). Privately (Matthew 18:15). Exemplarily (1 Corinthians 10:31). Gently (Galatians 6:1, 2). Patiently (Matthew 18:15-20). Hopefully.
What is filling my heart? This is the big question. Is it joy? Restore to me the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12)! Is it God Himself (John 14:23)? Is it the peace of Christ and the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16-17)? Jesus’ disciples are to respond and think and speak and behave out of what fills their heart.