Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Luke 6:37 is probably one of the most well known verses in the Bible. At least the first three words are. Many people use it to judge and condemn others that they accuse of being judgmental.
The problem, to put it bluntly, is a common desire for us to poke our nose into other people’s business.
As the Reformist John Calvin puts it, “This vice is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people’s faults.” (Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries, Kindle Edition, loc. 294499)
Our Messiah warns against this. It is tempting to watch the news and see what is happening in the latest scandal. But we shouldn’t be gleeful when we find someone caught in their sin.
The Compact Bible Commentary puts this a lot simpler.
“The point of this verse is that the Christian should not have a spirit of carping criticism and fault-finding.” (Compact Bible Commentary, 2004, Thomas Nelson, pg. 671)
It’s true that there may be times when we have to call out a brother or sister for their sin. Scripture has a way to do this that shows respect and discretion by approaching the person on-on-one in order to correct them. Only when correction is refused does it escalate within the community, and never in a public forum involving unbelievers (Matthew 18:15-18).
But instead of seeking out faults in others, we’re called to a higher road. Instead of judging and condemning, we should try to pardon when we can. Pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines pardon in this verse as releasing a debtor. To not press one’s claim against him.
We are meant to pardon freely when we can. To give up our right to repayment for the offenses another has committed against us.
This falls in line with Matthew 6:14-15:
“14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Here it’s made clear that our willingness to forgive others is a sign that we’ve been forgiven. If we refuse to forgive then we have no forgiveness from our Father.
What is forgiveness? What does it mean to you?
It humbled me when I looked up this word. I always thought I knew it’s meaning but this really surprised me.
According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, forgive in this verse means to let go, give up, a debt by not demanding it.
This is a valid debt. It’s something legitimately owed. It’s something that belongs to someone and they have every right to claim it.
But, instead, they simply give up that right. For little or even no reason, they decide not to pursue the justice due them.
When we ask friends and family for forgiveness, we’re admitting we owe them something, but we’re simply asking them give up that claim over us.
With that in mind, we should use the words “forgive me” with a lot more care. It shouldn’t be a flippant phrase that comes out of our mouth with little thought. We should consider carefully what claim we’re asking someone to give up on our behalf.
Imagine a dinner party with 20 of your closest friends. Appetizers, drinks, dinners, desserts, the food is ordered without any concern.
When the waitress presents a very large tab, you look at her and say, “Can you excuse us from paying this bill?”
That’s what we’re doing when we ask someone to forgive us. For whatever reason, we are throwing ourselves on their mercy.
And it’s what we’re commanded to do.
Matthew 5:24 says we need to make things right with our brothers before we come before G-d to seek His forgiveness. This is the way to keep peace and unity in the community.
Since we’re asking them to release us from a real debt that we owe, we seek forgiveness with humility, sorrow and regret for the wrong committed. We match the request of the tax collector of Luke 18 who cast his eyes down, beat his breast and simply said, “G-d, be merciful to me, the sinner.”
Not only are we commanded to seek forgiveness from others but also from Adonai.
The prayer that Yeshua taught His disciples asks G-d to forgive us from our trespasses. He is ready and willing to abundantly forgive a penitent heart. He delights in the turning of the wicked towards His path.
Walking free in the pardon from Adonai brings a peace to our lives knowing that we are not under the condemnation of death. This is what we have asked G-d to take away. It is the bill we have asked him to annul.
And He has taken away the payment of death that we owe Him. That was done through the death of His Son, Yeshua. Since the payment had to be made (not all debts can simply be wiped clean) our Messiah gave His life for us.
The Bible marks this as the greatest love. Laying down your life for another so that they may live.
But to continue receiving G-d’s forgiveness, we must practice forgiving others. This is not to place a condition or work on our salvation. It is a foundational act for a true follower of the Way. One who loves Adonai will forgive.
A mark of all true believers is that we show love for each other. While laying down one’s life for another is the greatest way to show love, forgiving freely is a consistent and obvious way to demonstrate love to others in our community.
This shows the world that we are united in our Savior and committed to each other. It builds up the ekklesia and brings a testimony to a dark world in need of repentance and forgiveness.
As we enter the Ten Days of Awe, let us reflect on acts of forgiveness. Freely we have been forgiven, freely we should forgive.
Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who pardons us by the death of Your Son, Yeshua, so that we might have life everlasting.