Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 11 January 2022:
Today’s readings address two topics on which the Bible is often quoted out of context and misapplied: judging others and capital punishment –
Genesis 9:6 — Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
Here is an interesting teaching by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul on capital punishment — https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/christian-ethics/capital-punishment
Matthew 7:1 — Judge not, that you be not judged.
Many people are quick to quote the Bible, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” without understanding its context within Jesus’ holistic teaching on how to judge well and have discernment when dealing with others – “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
Here is a valuable teaching from Sinclair Ferguson on “Condemnation and Discernment”: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/sermon-on-the-mount/condemnation-and-discernment
Matthew 7:2 — For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
The Lord does not tolerate unforgiving recipients of forgiveness and ungracious beneficiaries of grace. While we were still sinners, before we ever asked for forgiveness, Christ died for us, suffering the Cross, paying the penalty of our sins, and giving us His righteousness rather than claiming it for Himself. While in unimaginable agony on the Cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) So Christian, who are you having trouble forgiving? Who are you condemning? Who have you given up on? “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3, 4)
Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t confront others concerning sin as some have misunderstood these verses to mean – that would be unloving and would promote lawlessness. Jesus is saying we must rebuke others humbly and lovingly with the goal of reconciliation, never for self-interest but as ambassadors for Christ with the message of the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 5) He is also saying we must emulate the character and behavior we hope to see in others. Saved by grace, we are compelled to live by grace as ministers and messengers of grace. As Christians, or ‘little Christs,’ we are called to follow Jesus’ example in relationships and ‘go to the cross’ daily for hurting, hurtful people –
- Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Matthew 5:43-48 — You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Luke 6:35-38 — 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. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. 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.
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
As you will soon see as we continue in our readings, some of Jesus’ harshest words are reserved for those who don’t give grace as they have received grace. Yesterday Jesus taught, “Pray then like this: …forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Are you ready to pray that God would only forgive you the way you forgive others? “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 11 Jan 22: Forgive unconditionally today and use the opportunity to share the Gospel. If there is anything unresolved between you and someone else, forgive them from your heart, pray for them and seek reconciliation without delay. As an ambassador for Christ, resolve to never stand in the way of grace and peace.