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 6:37-38
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Fifty-seven words in this translation give us the basics of peace and prosperity and a happy, fulfilling life. I don’t suppose a person even has to be a believer, though, if this life were all, the oatmeal would get watery at times, and it would be tougher to stay the course.
If I want to be happy, the best thing to do is quit grabbing and snatching and, instead, make someone else happy. Of course, being a true Scotsman, I went about learning this the other way. Early in life I discovered that what I took from others was taken from me, that creating fear in others caused me to be afraid, that rejecting and mocking others led me to be rejected and ridiculed. Well, I didn’t actually figure it out early. It took many an encounter with the arrogant, the resentful, the cruel, and the ungrateful before my eyes were opened to the source of all the ugliness.
Even when I found I was the problem, it was hard to start being the solution. You have to sow that first crop in faith to get the seed for the next one. I had sown so much meanness that the field was overgrown with the briars and brambles of bitterness. I was going to have to be nice to people who were going to take advantage of my change of heart. I was going to have to risk a lot of pain and loss before I ever started reaping kindness and understanding.
At least that’s what I thought, and maybe it happened, but I don’t remember it. That’s not to say that I don’t remember a few incidents with a few individuals, but there was the grace of God. It was all around me, all the time. Looking back, I know that I was around a lot of really bad, even dangerous people and situations for quite a while, but I remember it as being almost blissful. Sometimes I feel a certain amount of nostalgia for those days. There was just so much grace. It was like getting thrown off a building and finding out you could fly.
Still, it is a lesson I lose to some degree from time to time. It must be practiced constantly. The good news is that there are always plenty of opportunities to get back on track, to measure out to others the things I would want for myself. I can listen without criticism, speak without cynicism, and advise without condescension. I can apologize sometimes even when I know I’m not wrong. I can take the hit I don’t have coming, turn the cheek and carry someone’s load a mile that I don’t have to.
One more thing about forgiveness is that you can say, and Wuest’s Expanded Translation does say: Be setting free, and you shall be set free. Forgiveness is freedom.
If you’ve ever seen Rio Bravo … Angie Dickinson … What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, and Ricky Nelson are holding Claude Akins in jail until the judge comes to town so Ol’ Claude can be tried for murder. But, Claude’s rich and ruthless brother and his small army of henchmen are going to try to break Claude out. So it happens that the good guys holding the prisoner are about as much prisoners as the criminal.
You can’t keep a prisoner without a jailer. If you don’t want to do that job, you have to let the prisoner go. Unlike the case in Rio Bravo, the Judge is always in town fully aware of whatever crime or trespass has been committed, knows all the circumstances, and has all the evidence. He will see that justice is done. We don’t have to worry about it. We are, by refusing to release the prisoner, keeping ourselves in bondage needlessly and preventing our own trespasses from being pardoned.