Monday, June 1, 2015

Sermon on the Mount, part 12


Jesus now summarises the rules and the concept:
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
‘Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Mat 7:1-6)
The concept is now very clear: do not judge. The word translated judge (krino) also includes sue, for example ‘And if anyone wants to sue (krino) you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.’ (Mat 5:40). So do not sue, do not judge, do not condemn. Do not feed the legal violence machine with oaths, sworn testimony, and lawsuits. Do not sit as a judge and sanction violence. Do not carry out court orders to do evil to any man, however deserving of it he may be. The measure used is whether or not one measures out wrongdoing as the remedy for wrongdoing. Measuring is a symbol for judgement (e.g. Gen 15:16, Is 65:7, Jer 10:6, Rev 11).
This teaching is in contrast to the law of Moses: ’judge your neighbour fairly.’ (Deut 19:15). While Moses required us to judge, so long as we do it fairly, Jesus prohibits it with a reason being the consequence of rejecting his injunction. He is not permitting us to judge so long as we are willing to accept the consequences he lists as reason not to. He tells us not to measure out wrongdoing to others for the wrongs they have done to us or anyone else. We are prohibited from dealing in and sanctioning wrongs.
Refusing to measure out wrongdoing to others can also make them more kind to us and save us from their enmity by making them our friends.
The plank is the use of wrongs to respond to the wrongs of others. To use wrongs to respond to wrongs is not to put them right, but to do further wrongs. Compared to the use of judicially sanctioned violence to respond to the first wrongdoing, the first wrongdoing is but a speck!
The purpose of the metaphor is not to address the hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another, it is to address the hypocrisy of doctrine and of law in maintaining the position that the law both prohibits wrongs and justifies them as a means of deterring and recompensing them. When Jesus said the teachers of the law ‘devour widows houses’ (Mark 12:40) he is likely referring not to theft or fraud on their part in their private lives but to their giving of court orders to attach the property of the widow to satisfy her debt according to regular legal procedure as part of their judicial functions.
When we remove wrongdoing from our dispute resolution procedures, then we have good eyes (generosity and mercy) filling us with purity and light to address the underlying wrongs giving rise to the dispute without sanctioning further wrongs. Then we can be truly meek peacemakers, guiding disputing parties to honourably settle their disputes and to pay or compromise their debts.
Judging others, whether in the form of filing lawsuits or judicially condemning a person or executing a judicial sentence against someone is now something we no longer have a justification or excuse to do, and if we do so we are doing the very wrongs we are supposed to be redressing, as mentioned by Paul:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Rom 2:1)
Likewise, James:
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbour? (James 4:11-12)

The reference to sacred things and pearls are referring to God’s law and wisdom. If we possess these things, we are wise enough to understand that they cannot be imposed on others who are hostile to it and to us. We cannot bring justice and peace to the world by forcing our ‘peace-making’ services on them. Such efforts do not produce peace, they produce conflicts that harm us.

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