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Looking to God to Live Today

As I prepared to preach two weeks ago, I figured the section I was preaching through in Luke ended in 6:36 (Jesus’ ‘sermon on the plain’ in Luke 6 has three parts: 6:20-26, 27-38 and 39-49. I wrongly assumed the second section ended at v. 36). But God taught me and I learned something new. Verses 37-38 should have been part of the last sermon. Since I skipped it this last week, I promised our congregation that I would write a small blog post on it. Here it is.

Luke 6:37-38

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. (ESV)

Jesus gives four commands, two negatives (judge not, condemn not) and two positives (forgive and give). Only the last one is further expanded on. So, the first two tell us not to do something and it won’t be done to us as well. And the second two tell us to do something and it will be done to us as well. But only the last one is further explained. Why? I think the last explanation becomes a representative of all of them. The explanation attached to the command to give is that we will receive generously if we give generously. Why?

Let me explain. We need to realize Jesus is not teaching us reciprocity in our relationships in this passage. We know that because of what He said in v. 35, that we shouldn’t expect to receive back from others (6:35).  

“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.” (ESV)

We need to see two things. First, we are to expect nothing in return from those we do good towards. Second, the motive to love, do and lend is in God. We functionally become like God and thereby our actions show we are already His children (This is not teaching how you become a child of God. Rather those who are already children of God will act like their Father in heaven.). In v. 35, Jesus is teaching that when we love we ought not to expect things in return from those we love and do good to and lend to. Rather, the basis of this sort of love is to look to God and expect from Him (“and your reward will be great”). Remember the context of that passage is loving our enemies (vv. 27-38). So, it very unlikely that we should be expecting the enemies to love, do good and to lend back to us. So, where will we find a vision to live this way? Where can we get an example to live like this?

As we move forward in the canon, we remember that God gave up His Son not instead of or on behalf of good people, but for the weak, the sinful, the ungodly and ultimately His enemies. Remember Romans 5?

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us... 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (ESV)

The Christian life is radically cruciform. It is shaped by the Gospel and how we have been treated by God. If we don’t look to God’s love for us at the cross, we will grow bitter loving enemies and giving our time to the ungrateful. So, we need to ask God to help us understand how it is He has loved us. Now that we’re armed with this knowledge of v. 35, let us go back to vv. 37-38.

This helps us see that when Jesus is commanding us to forgive and give, it is not based upon the fact that we should be expecting the same in return from others. Because He just finished telling us not to expect anything in return. Rather, this time we’re to look to the future instead of looking to the cross only. God will forgive us more than we have ever forgiven anyone! And God will give us more than we will have ever given to anyone! If you are in Christ, what you and I will receive from God on the last day should motivate how we treat others today. May He grant us the grace to eagerly anticipate with confidence His future grace and as a result live in this way today.

So, why don't we forgive others?[1]

  1. Debt is Power: We think we have power over the other person by using their weakness and failure over them.
  2. Debt is Identity: We find superiority (and we think we're more righteous) in our relationship by holding the other's sin over them. 
  3. Debt is Entitlement: We feel we are owed because they're wrong. So, we hold onto unforgiveness so we can have a basis to our feelings of entitlement.
  4. Debt is Weaponry: We can use their sin against them at any time, like a loaded gun.
  5. Debt Puts Us in God's Position: We want to be God, and we want to be the judge of all our relationships. We know we should not be the ones who hand out punishment for sin, but we love thinking we're in the place of God. 

If this is the case. Then what is forgiveness? Here is probably one of the most helpful things I have read in this book! First of all, "forgiveness is a vertical commitment that is followed by a horizontal transaction. Both aspects of forgiveness are essential..." And in that order.[2] We must give the offense to God in prayer. And this does not mean that we treat wrong as right. What it means is, you "do not carry the wrong with you (bitterness), and that you do not treat the other in light of the wrong (judgment)."[3] You see, "Vertical forgiveness clears your heart of the baggage of bitterness and condemnation so that you can face her with her wrong in a way that is kind, patient, loving, humble, and encouraging... While the first part of forgiveness is judicial, that is, entrusting the offense to God who alone is able to judge, the second part of forgiveness is relational."[1] The reason this is important to understand is we are not able to forgive someone who does not ask for forgiveness. That is why we want to first go to God and entrust to Him the wrong and in this way, our hearts can become spring-loaded to forgive. But we cannot forgive until the person has asked for forgiveness. Because the goal of asking for forgiveness and for forgiving is reconciliation. And reconciliation is a relationship. So, if the person does not ask for forgiveness, we cannot forgive. But we are obligated to go to God and leave to Him the pain and consequences of the sin. And trust Him to punish the evil either at the cross (if the person repents) or judgment day (where they will bear the consequence of their own sin.). And the thought of the latter is unbearable for us who have been forgiven so much. 

So, judge not, condemn not. Rather, forgive and give. And look to God to be able to do these things. For without the Gospel you cannot live the Christian life. May we daily remind ourselves of the cross of Christ.


[1]The rest of this section is adapted from Paul David Tripp's, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 90-94. 

[2]Ibid., 92.


[1]Ibid., 93.