Judgment vs. Grace Rom. 2:1-5, Matt.18:21-35
I’ve always loved that song. Relient K are really great at expressing the wonder of grace I think. ‘Cos we’re all guilty of the same things, we think the thoughts whether or not we follow through.’ ‘I know that I have been forgiven, and I hope you can forgive me too.’
Judgment and Grace, we all know the topic well. We all know that judgment is something that we need to be very careful of carrying out. We all know that grace is the gift we’re now expected to give to others.
Do you remember looking at the difference between religion and the gospel a few weeks ago? Do you remember what that difference was?
What’s the opposite of a hard earned prize of legalistic rituals and stringent moral behavior that religion offers? The free gift0f Radical Grace! Do you remember that?
The acceptance of radical grace from Jesus gives us such peace, knowing that we’re free from judgment and condemnation but in accepting his grace, there’s a catch. Do you know what that catch is? Accepting it takes any right to judge others!
Judgment vs. Grace, what’s our attitude as followers of Jesus meant to be?
Paul says in Romans 2:1, ‘You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.’
I was in the supermarket getting my weekly groceries, yes I have to shop for myself now since my entire family has abandoned me. But don’t cry for me dear people, for I am becoming a man…I hope…
Anyway, as often happens a young mother with a wailing child came into the store, and I don’t know what was wrong but the crying just went on and on and filled the entire supermarket.
Well, being who I am, I was filled with compassion and felt a deep pity for the young mother, yes, I did dear people, the best thing about myself, I find, is my humility…
But as I was walking down one of the isles I overheard a couple of women really laying into this mother. ‘How can she let that poor thing cry?’ ‘Pick him up for goodness sake!’ And the ungraciousness of it all really struck me…
These women were probably mothers themselves who had undoubtedly been in the same situation and had probably felt the helpless anxiety a young mother feels at these times but had no room for compassion; they had no room for grace.
As I was reflecting on the attitude of these two women in the supermarket, I took a look at Google as you do when thinking on these things…to see how it defined ungraciousness, and it defined it as an offensive lack of good manners…If that’s what it means to be ungracious, does being gracious mean that you’re someone with great manners then?
This definition just doesn’t quite get there does it? Don’t you think its missing something vital? Go through the Bible and swap the word grace or gracious for ‘good manners’ and it’ll be one shallow book!
And yet, for many of us, it’s what we’ve been shown. For many of us, that’s really all there is to it and that’s really sad don’t you think? So what then, does it actually mean, to be someone full of grace, to be someone from whom grace overflows into the lives of others? Because that’s who Jesus would have us be!
I once read a list of the manliest religions in the world and needless to say, Christianity didn’t rate too high, and it was for this very reason - grace. It’s a shame that grace is seen as such a weakness, don’t you think? Or would you agree with the survey, that grace, mercy, forgiveness, are weaknesses?
‘Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you not seven times but seventy seven times.’ Other texts say seventy time seven…I think we get the picture – lots!
How gracious should we be to the people around us, friends, families, strangers…young mothers with wailing children at supermarkets? Over and above our initial instincts. Whatever our natural reactions to frustrations and annoyances, Jesus wants them to be injected with grace far beyond what we think we should offer. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, Jesus says.
Christ pours out radical grace upon us on the cross and he expects it to then overflow into the lives of those around us. There’s a quote by an anonymous author that says, ‘Everyone needs love, Especially when they don’t deserve it.’ Well, to make it more specific to us this morning, ‘Everyone needs grace, Especially when they don’t deserve it.’
Read Matthew 18:23-30
Its funny, sometimes those who have experienced the most grace, are themselves the least likely to show it to others. Maybe this parable was a warning to the church, those who had accepted the Radical grace from God,
the forgiveness of sins for we are often the least gracious people.
We are condemned for being narrow minded, legalistic and judgmental…too judgmental, we who’ve experienced the fullness of grace the grace that filled the entire universe! Its ironic isn’t it? And sad.
Read verses 31-33
Jesus says to each one of us here this morning who’ve accepted his gift of radical grace, ‘Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?’
I said earlier that the definition for ungraciousness just didn’t quite measure up. So what is it to be someone who pours out grace upon others?
And we see from this passage that a part of it is to be a person of forgiveness.
To be a person full of grace is to be someone who can show mercy and forgive others, even the unforgivable.
To be gracious is to be someone who recognizes that we are no different from the very worst person, Do you really believe that?
‘Cos we’re all guilty of the same things, we think the thoughts whether or not we follow through’…
But how can we become people who show mercy, who can forgive in such a way – beyond measure? It takes a lot more than the recognition that we’re all sinners! Though it is the first step. How can we gain, grace-shaped hearts?
We can only do so by knowing the grace of God. The knowledge that he sent his son to die not only for you, but for everyone. We can only gain them by the work of the Holy Spirit molding and shaping us to be more like Jesus. Its not our work that gives us grace shaped hearts, its God’s work, and that is such a relief!
CLAY is named after this fact. Isaiah 64:8, God is the potter, we’re the clay, we’re all being shaped by him! Do you have a grace shaped heart? Jesus warns us again and again, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you’ll be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.’
One of the secrets of graciousness, is a self-aware heart, that sees our own plank in the eye.
‘In anger the master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly father should treat each of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart.’ Do we have a grace shaped heart?
Do you know what Jesus calls those without grace? He calls us hypocrites. Hypocrites, there’s another description unbelievers give church goers, hypocrites! Why? Because we who have experienced radical grace and preach it, don’t show it to others! Because we, who teach about the change of heart, don’t have self-aware hearts, shame on us! Where are our grace shaped hearts?
The moment I heard those two women condemning that poor young mother, I judged them, I’m a hypocrite.
Grace, Philip Yancey says in his book, ‘What’s so amazing about Grace?’, Is one of the few uncontaminated words left in the English language. I often wonder if that’s still true when some definitions point to grace as being simply ‘Overwhelmingly good manners.’
Well how are we supposed to respond to this? I could quote you a number of scriptures to do with grace. How about Col. 4:6 where Paul appeals to us to let our ‘conversations always be full of grace’. I could mention James 2:13 that says, ‘Judgment without mercy will be shown to any who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.’ Col. 3:13, ‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’
Forgiveness, mercy, gracefulness, these are the things that the Bible expects from us, judgment, blame, condemnation, they’re warned against, not encouraged! But we all know this don’t we, we all know what Jesus wants of us, so what is the issue that we struggle with?
Well for many of us, grace is simply head knowledge. Have we let Jesus transform our hearts? Have our once grace shaped hearts reverted back to judgmental ones?
We must find our grace shaped hearts, without them we’re nothing more than the judgmental, narrow minded, condemning people that so many in the world see us as. The kind of people Jesus came to change! We must let the Holy Spirit shape our hearts, otherwise, we’re in danger of judgment as well and not only human judgment, but divine judgment!
So may we allow the Jesus to transform our hearts, may we allow him the unquestioned right to be the only one on to pass judgment.
May we be a flavour of grace in a world starving for it. And may we be able to turn to believers and unbelievers alike and say, ‘I know that I have been forgiven, and I hope you can forgive me too.’