Mat 7:1 “ 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? (ESVST)
I wonder…is it possible that Jesus came to set us free from judging? Maybe being set free from ourselves is being set free from our desire or need to judge. Maybe the root of a sin-nature is to judge. Maybe all our issues are a product of our necessity for judgment. What would it look like if we never had the urge to judge again? What if that voice inside of us that says “well you don’t know what they did” could be silenced? What if our desire for “balance” and “punishment” was completely removed? What if a thief came into my house and took my stuff and put a gun to my chest…and I said “pull the trigger if you must?” What would that look like? Wait, I know, I’ve “seen” it. Jesus on a cross.
I really believe that Jesus on the cross is the true, designed response of a human free from a fallen nature and surrendered to a completely dependent relationship with God. (Whew, lots of words.) How about…what we looked like before the fall with the bonus of God in us. Am I stretching your understanding? I hope so. I feel like God is bringing us into a new understanding (which was likely the original church understanding) of God’s good nature, what forgiveness really looks like, unconditional love and community with others (plus a lot more good God stuff). I want to suggest that the very core of religion is the fallen human desire for jurisprudence or balance or human justice or accountability to actions or whatever phrase works for you. Jesus came to eliminate that voice that says “they need to pay for what they did” and replace it with “forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”
I could be wrong but Jesus said stuff like this:
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESV)
The problem is our fallen human nature wants to judge. Our fallen human understanding insists on condemnation. Our fallen human nature must have a punishment for a crime. There is a “Spirit of Cain” in all of us. Praise God that Jesus comes to deliver us from that voice and that desire and replaces it with His love. When that voice is gone then we can say with confidence:
1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (ESV)
No fear. No hate. No condemnation. Perfected in love.
The log or plank in our own eye is blocking our vision. Our fallen nature timber is rooted in judgment. The consumption of forbidden fruit turned us into self-condemned, self-righteous, self-centered, self-evaluators and self-perfected judges. Jesus has to take the giant tree born of forbidden fruit seeds out of our eye so we can see. To see the love of God and be infused by His goodness and be transformed into a good fruit bearing tree, God needs to cut down the bad fruit tree that has eclipsed our vision of Him and each other.
Most know the story of the Prodigal son. A man had two sons. The younger decides he wants his inheritance now. His father (God in the story) give him his equivalent in money. Can I suggest that this is an example of God’s judgment. He knows the son will likely misbehave, make bad choices and end up in the gutter but He lets him go. Think about it.
Then the son does exactly what the Father likely knew he would do and ends up in the pig pen. Can I suggest that this is his “day of judgment.” The Father (God) lets the son follow his path with the expected destination. Consider it reaping and sowing. The “day of judgment” is when the son finds himself reaping garbage (literally) from his investment in trash (metaphorically). Then the son has a “day of the Lord” moment. He “sees” the goodness of his Father. It doesn’t have to happen this way but the son finds himself experiencing a “day of judgment” and “a day of the Lord” that brings him to the truth that his Father (God) is good. His Father didn’t put him in the pig pen. His Father didn’t make him hungry. His Father didn’t bring the famine. The son was on a course that led to this point. His Father let it happen.
Now the son has a “repentance” moment. He changes his mind about his Father. He sees his goodness. Instead of running away he wants to run home. When he gets home his Father isn’t just waiting, he is running to meet him. I love that image, don’t you? Instead of insisting on speeches or remorse or penance he gives his son his robe and ring and sandals. He prepares a great feast and celebrates. Can I suggest that this is what God’s justice looks like? God restores, repairs and reinstates. That is Jesus on the cross and our Father in Heaven. So this son experiences judgment, a day of judgment, a day of the Lord and God’s justice.
What is the reaction of the other son? He is angry. His response to God’s intentions is anger. His response to God’s judgment and justice is anger. Could it be that this older son is still carrying a Spirit of Cain? Could it be that this older son has a huge log in his own eye? Could it be that this very obedient, Father-serving son has completely missed the heart of his Father? Could it be that he needs to be set free to “see” that his brother’s homecoming is something to celebrate? This is what the Father says:
Luke 15:32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (ESV)
Search your heart and “see” what is there. God in this story never once suggests or implies that the younger son should be punished or pay a price or balance anything, ever. The older son is the one saying “you don’t know what he has done” or “how can he get away with that” or “there must be some payback.” What does your heart say? Maybe all the need for punishment and “wrath” and “justice” that looks like violence and pain and suffering is actually from us? Was Jesus angry on the cross? Was Jesus crying out for “vengeance” for His tormentors? No. He said “forgive them.” That same “spirit” can be in us. He is called Holy Spirit and He changes us to be like Jesus. We get to “die” to our old self and instead live the life of Jesus.
I am living in a glimpse of that reality. I wish I had words for what that freedom looks like or feels like. Jesus sets us free and it is real freedom. The fallen logs are being removed.