Christians are to have compassion because God our Father does. Last time we heard Jesus telling us to love our enemies. We’re to do good to them, to bless (not curse), and to pray for them.
The surprising thing is that we’re to be like that because that’s what God is like. He loves his enemies. You and I were once his enemies. We lived in the world he gave us, but disregarded him and refused his rule.
You and I were so far away from God we didn’t realise the mess we were in. The best good for any human being is to be with God. But we naturally go our own way. So, in love for his enemies, and in great compassion for you, he sent his Son into the world to rescue you from your own sin.
His compassion flows through his people, which is why you’re expected to be as he is: Love your enemies, do good, bless (not curse), and pray for them.
His compassion and blessing continues to flow. Jesus tells you more about how.
Have the mind of Christ (36-38)
It’s worth remembering that Jesus is emphatically speaking to his own disciples – his followers, not a random crowd of sceptics. He gives you two “don’ts” followed by two “do’s”.
The don’ts: Read Luke 6:36-37a.
You’re not to judge, not to condemn.
You might remember that God judges hearts, so judgement can’t be any kind of sin.
- Remember too that there are two main meanings.
- Judgement can mean discernment – a wise reading of information to reach a conclusion (“in my judgement, England will exit the world cup a the quarter final stage.”)
- Judgment can also mean condemnation. You are judged and found guilty and will serve punishment (judgment).
By pairing them together, Jesus is saying that you’re not to have a judgmental spirit. You’re not to have an attitude of moral superiority, looking down on others:
- Don’t judge and look down on people who aren’t Christians. Have compassion, as God has compassion on you.
- More relevant here, don’t judge and look down on other Christians who see things differently from you.
- Cut the pride. Cut the superior attitude. Have compassion.
Jesus also has two “do’s”. Read Luke 6:37-38.
You’re to forgive and to give.
- Forgiveness absorbs the cost of the offence. If forgiveness doesn’t cost you, you probably haven’t forgiven.
- The command to forgive is immensely challenging – we like to get our own back, to see justice, vindication.
- But Jesus goes even further. You’re not only to forgive and absorb the cost offence, you’re to add to that and give more!
- If you keep an eternal perspective, you keep clearly in mind the wonders of being with Christ forever. The treasures he has given you! The language is a picture of it:
- Grain, poured into a container. Shake it to settle.
- Put more in. Over-fill, then pour into your lap with over-abundance. That’s how he gives to you.
- God’s lavish grace to you is to flow through you, naturally, like water passing through a colander.
As you have the compassion and mind of Christ, you’ll have the attitude and inclination to love, to do good, to bless, and to pray. You’ll seek the good of others over your own comforts.
That’s what Christ’s own compassion for you drove him to do. He gave up divine privileges and honour, to become human. He gave up his life to take the punishment you deserve. Jesus loves, and has a heart to be forgiving and giving.
Does he judge and condemn?
- Yes. 2 Thess 1:7-8 …when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus.
- Judgement and condemnation for those who refuse his forgiveness and grace. They choose judgment.
- But God’s heart offers forgiveness and grace.
Sometimes, though, someone does something to you that’s hard to forgive. Do you have to forgive everyone everything?
- Have the mind of Christ and the compassion of your Father
- God does not forgive everyone (else all would be saved).
- But he is ready and willing to forgive anyone of everything if they ask. He will forgive totally, absorbing all the cost of offence at the cross.
Which, of course, includes you. Will you choose the judgement of God? He knows everything you ever did, and your sins deserve punishment – hell and separation from all that is good. Or will you come to the God of all compassion, and forgiveness, and lavish love? To a God who opened his arms out to be nailed to a cross, and now opens his arms out to welcome you to himself?
Come to the God of lavish, abundant grace and goodness. He calls you to adoption, to be his cherished child for all eternity. And that reality can begin this very moment as you turn to him and ask him for that forgiveness he promises.
But remember, Jesus is teaching his disciples here. Don’t judge; don’t condemn. But who’s most likely to do that? Often, it’s those who are making most progress in other areas of their Christian life. It might be you.
Be a godly example (39-42)
As you grow in Christlikeness, maturing in faith, things that once seemed boring or less important now become central to you:
- You value more and more the fellowship of the church. It’s not that you have to go to church, but you want to.
- You used to feel guilty and that you ought to go to the prayer meeting, but now you find it encouraging to hear others praying – and to see the Lord answering!
- Daily Bible reading always felt a chore (and sometimes still does), but more and more you’re seeing the connections and God’s big plan for humanity.
- Serving in the church is something you do cheerfully, not out of duty or obligation. You do it for Christ himself, giving time and money and love without counting the cost.
But you’ve noticed something, as you’ve made these changes. Some people are lagging behind. Some (it seems to you) aren’t pulling their weight. You find yourself nit-picking and fault-finding, harbouring discontent at your ‘lazier’ brothers and sisters in Christ.
You’ve made such progress. Surely, you’re something of a role-model aren’t you? Shouldn’t people emulate you? In truth, though, you’ve become so bitter and frustrated that you’re not fit to be an example to lead others into grace. You’re as blind to your own faults as others are to theirs. So read Luke 6:39.
If you lead others by example, no-one can rise above you. If you lead in grace, that leaves much room for others too. But if you lead in bitterness, you’re unlikely to lead others into Christlikeness: Read Luke 6:40.
- Where do these things surface? How can you see them?
- In the family conversations in the car on the way home.
- In the chatter over some washing-up, or after a service, or on the phone.
Logs and specks
But Jesus wants you to be careful and be aware of your own nit-picking and fault-finding. As you find faults so easily with others, you often miss the bitter, judgmental spirit within you: Read Luke 6:41-42.
Those words are very much Christian-to-Christian (the word “friend” there is literally “brother”). He’s not speaking about sin, or gross theological error (we have church discipline to deal with such things).
He’s speaking about you, thinking you’re some kind of example to follow, wanting to correct and lead others, while actually looking down on them with a critical spirit. Or, indeed, even harbouring some other sin that disqualifies you from daring to correct someone else.
What kind of things? When can a mature Christian have a critical spirit on another Christian?
- You might be critical of someone’s lack of contribution to the church’s prayer life. Never at the prayer meeting, never ask for prayer, never offer.
- You might look down on someone who never seems to lift a finger to help in church. They don’t so much as move a chair or say hello to a visitor.
- You might look down on someone else’s approach to Christian parenting – maybe about schooling, or failure to prioritise church over other things in the diary.
These are all legitimate concerns a mature Christian could have towards another Christian. But, sinners that we are, we find a way to turn maturity into sinful pride!
Those logs need removing.
So what’s the antidote? How can you do right? Jesus has told you. Look at the flow of God’s blessing!
Have compassion; be merciful as your Father is towards you. Then remove that log! Swap out that pride for actual love.
- Forgive, where you need to forgive.
- Then give: Time, encouragement, help. Build others up directly, instead of chipping away at them behind their back. Invite people to things that will do them good.
- Love is action and direction. If you’re not doing anything positive towards someone, you’re not loving them.
All of which highlights something we must always strive for:
Be a godly disciple
From what we’ve seen, it’s clear that even the most mature Christian can turn that maturity into sinful pride. Which means we’re all, in truth, disciples. Christ is our teacher and our standard. He’s the example.
I know I have shortcomings. I’m grateful to anyone who points them out to me. That’s an act of love – to me and to the church.
We all need to be bold enough to speak the truth to one another in love. I’m a disciple of Christ and so are you. Pursue growth in him. Whatever you do towards that, you’re not collecting Scouts badges of Brownie points.
- You’re growing in your relationship with the eternal Son of God.
- Your eternal life has begun. Live in him, with him, increasingly forever.
- Put his things first. If he loves something, love it.
- If he gives you some blessing, take it.
Take up any and all opportunities to grow. For example, there’s no law, command or rule that says you must be at both services and the weekly prayer meeting.
- If you see those as chores, you’re missing the point.
- They are three Christ-given opportunities for your own growth and blessing, as well as opportunities to build up and encourage Christ’s people.
- For those of you who could do more than you do, please don’t imagine a judgmental attitude of others looking down on you: There is, in fact, a loving sadness that you’re missing out on growth in Christ.
We must all grow in Christ, and take every opportunity to do so.
What are you like?
Never stop asking yourself what it’s like to be on the receiving end of you:
- A sharp tongue? A drain of gossip? Moaning? Self-absorption?
- Or do you exude tender love, concern, genuine interest, and personal contentment?
- Do you think your attitude towards others could be traced back to the compassion and mercy of God? Or your own self-interest?
As yourself: What could you stop or start doing that would encourage and build up Christ’s people here today? Above all, remember that Christ is speaking to you, his people. “…be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”
You can only do these things in Christ’s power, by the Holy Spirit of Adoption at work in you. God’s love and blessing flows out in a constant torrent of overwhelming abundance. Make sure it flows through you!
- Love your enemies; do good; bless (don’t curse); pray.
- Don’t judge or condemn in a fault-finding, nit-picking spirit.
- But forgive and give, building one another up and encouraging one another in Christ.
In all this you will grow in Christlikeness and the abundance of his grace will fill you and overflow to others, to his glory and your very great blessing.