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“Nevertheless love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing back, and your reward shall be much, and you shall be the sons of the Highest; for He is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked. Therefore be merciful, as your Father also is merciful. And judge not, and you shall not be judged; do not damn, and you shall not be damned; release, and you shall be released. Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured back to you.” Luke 6:35-38 (Kempton trans.)

“That we should not think evil of good and truth is meant by the words, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged, and condemn not that ye be not condemned.’ To think evil of what is evil and false is permitted to everyone, but not of good and truth, for these in the spiritual sense are the neighbor. Because it is charity toward the neighbor that is meant it is added, ‘Remit and it shall be remitted to you, give and it shall be given unto you.’ That the spiritual affection, which is called charity, will continue after death according to its measure and quality, is meant by ‘With what measure you measure it shall be measured to you again….That no other thought or judgment is here meant than concerning the spiritual life of another can be seen from this, that it is permissible to everyone to think about the moral and civil life of another, and to judge of it; without such thought and judgment concerning others no civil society could subsist. Therefore ‘not to judge and condemn’ means not to think evil of the neighbor spiritually understood, that is, of his faith and love, which belong to a person’s spiritual life, for these lie concealed in his interiors, and therefore are unknown to anyone except the Lord alone.” Apocalypse Explained n.629:13

Jesus tells us to be merciful and make good judgments. Surely, only a wise person can treat another with both mercy and fairness at the same time! Perhaps people will all be wise enough when the kingdom Jesus promises is finally established on the earth. then all teachers will be wonderful and will show students how to be just as good as they are. Everyone will be so good and smart and wise that natural occurrences-–like floods–will not cause any tragedy because everyone will know how to avoid them. Employers will listen to complaints and react with loving care. Fellow drivers will have more awareness of what is around them, causing fewer accidents. And so forth.

But then again, maybe Jesus doesn't really expect the world to be this way, because He still asks us to forgive others for the wrongs they do, and describes how each of us will have faults like other people do, and that there will always be incidents of people acting ignorantly, or stupidly, or inconsiderately or even evilly!

The point is that hell exists and evil spirits will continue to lead people to love being mean and negative, and unrighteous. Our job, Jesus is saying, is to learn to be kind, affirmative and just. So He describes what it looks like to be that way. He says we are to love our neighbor, and in that context, demand fair treatment. When we do what He says, we will learn how to be like Him, the perfect Teacher. When He said this, people lived by the law of retaliation: an eye for an eye. But, He says, instead of trying to be fair by making sure everyone is criticized and punished when they make mistakes, we should seek to forgive. Those who still want to hurt others from a love of evil judge and condemn themselves when they run up against the law. Of course, that may not be civil law, which is frustrating to us all! Yet the Lord says they are still being punished in ways we cannot see. Just think if the hidden punishments you have suffered!

Here is an interesting thought experiment: what if our courts had three possible outcomes to a trial: guilty, not guilty, and forgiven! And here is a challenging spiritual discipline: pick a day (or, if you really want a challenge, take a whole week!), and verbally forgive everyone who in any way affronts you. It will take considerable creativity and practice to avoid being sanctimonious!


Precursor March 2007