Forgiveness and Judgment

Forgiving your fellowman and not judging others is a message that ties directly to the prime teaching of Jesus that we should love our neighbors as ourselves.  A simple study of our laws and social practices will show that punishment, prejudice, and suspicion are the guiding principles, while forgiveness is reserved for puppies, tolerance is rare, and trust is a foolish concept.  With the new “War on Terrorism” dominating almost every aspect of life guilt by association, racial profiling, and zero-tolerance.  Nobody is immune from suspicion, heightened awareness dominates our every movement, and even a lost package or misplaced backpack can generate a major police response.  
            Who can deny that we live in a world where forgiveness means that being a day late on credit card payment can double your interest payments instantly or a late mortgage payment can label you credit risk for years.  Even juvenile indiscretions can haunt a person for years into adulthood.  Judges have their hands tied and are not even able to pass reasonable punishment by mandatory sentencing guidelines; being fair is actually against the law.  Holding grudges is understandable, forgiving debts is bad business practice, and protecting ourselves and our property from unknown threats is an absolute necessity.  
            Even attempting to explain how Jesus and the apostles address forgiveness and judging others and why it has value to human relationships cannot be done logically in the reality of commonly accepted social norms.  Suffice it to say that it will take a major change in human relations and the entire social fabric before it is anything but an anathema to the human race.  In other words, until the return of Jesus and the radical change he will bring to the world’s social structure.  “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (I Corinthians 4:5)

God’s Mercy is Connected to Our Own 
            The way we forgive others is directly tied to how God forgives us:
♦  “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
♦  “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
♦  “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
♦  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)
♦  “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)
♦  “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11: 25-26)
♦  “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (Luke 6:37)
♦  “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:  Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:36-38)
♦  “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)

Unlimited Forgiveness
            There are no limits to the number of times we are required to forgive others:
♦  “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
♦  “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)

Turn the Other Cheek
            Forgiveness, as outlined in scripture, goes beyond any bounds human can even perceive:
♦  “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” (Matthew 5:25)
♦  “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.   For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 38-48)

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