Sermon on the Mount – Week 5(a) – Matt. 7:1-12

This Tuesday we are gathering to discuss Matthew 7:1-12 of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In the first part of this reading, Jesus instructs us “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (v.1). Jesus gives us this commandment, not so that we will be nice, but for our own spiritual benefit. Judgment stands in opposition to Christian humility. Setting ourselves in judgment of someone else is spiritually corrosive. When we judge someone, we set ourselves over that person, and at that moment our spiritual life is now lost. Paul tells us that to judge our brother is to despise him. Rom. 14:10. Like the Pharisee in the temple (Luke 18:9-14), or the men who caught the woman in adultery (John 8:1-11), or the older brother of the prodigal (Luke 15:11-32), those that judge others are left outside of the Kingdom because they have justified themselves in condemning others and have lost God.

Judging someone else is also an exercise in futility. Think about the one person over whom you (should) have complete control – yourself. If you are honest, you will realize that you too sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and fail to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect (5:48). If you cannot control the one person over whom you have complete control, then to what end do we judge those over whom we have little or no control?

Finally, judging is the flip side of forgiving. We are judged to the extent that we judge (v.7:2) just as we are forgiven to the extent that we forgive (6:15). In “Love’s Like-for-like” (Ch. 31 of Provocations), Soren Kierkegaard makes this direct connection between forgiveness and judgment. When we are wronged, we have two choices – we can forgive and therefore experience forgiveness or we can complain to God asking for judgment and thereby complain against ourselves and suffer God’s judgment. “There is not a more exact agreement between the sky above and its reflection in the sea below, that there between forgiveness and forgiving and complaining and judgment.”

I have attached excerpts from Oswald Chamber’s Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (pp.75-88) and Oliver Clement’s The Roots of Christian Mysticism – Texts from the Patristic Era (pp.280-301) on the issue of judgment. I would particularly urge you to read the final page of Clement’s excerpt which contains the “Vision of Carpus.”

Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken lettuce wraps. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual; there is nothing of the likeness of Jesus Christ. A critical temper is a contradiction to all our Lord’s teaching. Jesus says of criticism, apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

Our Christian faith forbids us from spying on the sins of others and demands that we are strict and merciless judges when it comes to our own misdeeds. Patients in the hospital are concerned with their own condition and have neither the time nor the inclination to check up on others or to mock their afflictions.

St. Nikolai Velimirović (1881-1956)

With judgmentalism, the Grace of God automatically leaves and immediately generates coldness in your communication with God. How can you pray after? Your heart becomes ice, marble. Judgmentalism and condemnation are the greatest sins and remove the Grace of God more than any other sin. As Saint John Climacus wrote: “As water extinguishes the fire, so does judgmentalism extinguish the Grace of God.”

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (1924-1994)

We have rejected the light burden of condemning ourselves, and we have chosen to carry the heavy one of justifying ourselves and condemning others.

Abba John (3d c.)

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult, and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833)

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