Wasted Rough Cut: Pastor Chip’s stream of exegetical-consciousness, Luke 6:37–49, and what’s “stop judging” means
First a sermon illustration to start us off: There is an old illustration of Hell that still speaks and I think it sets up my point from Luke 6:37-49:
Hell is like a long banquet table with all sorts of food and delights, but everyone at that table is getting thiner, more gaunt, more haggard from hunger. They are starving with all that food before them. You see, the utensils they were given and had to use were six foot long chopsticks. If they’d only thought unselfishly and fed each other, no one would be starving and all would be enjoying the great banquet. Thus, the Adamic nature of the human-being and why the existence of Hell.
Now, the point of the illustration, here, is the audience of Luke’s Gospel, the listeners/readers before the text, that is, those house-churches (associated with Theophilus) with believers sitting around those tables enjoying a meal (aka breaking bread) and lifting that fourth cup of wine at the end of the supper, celebrating together and acknowledging that Jesus is Savior and King. And us, now . . . Still, for now, imagine those tables with former enemies and individuals of clashing social status all confessing Jesus is Lord, a new fellowship of unequals and strangers. Love your enemies and stop judging makes applicable, narrative sense (Luke 6:27, 37). It makes church sense.
So, let’s take a look at the text and context, beginning with Luke 6:37-38a:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you”
What do we have here? There is an obvious structure that helps us read it properly:
This whole pericope (i.e., set of commands) should be taken as one thing. Yet, still there are questions begged to be asked . . .
➤ Stop judging what? And, what will we be not judged of?
➤ Stop condemning what? And, what will we be not condemned of?
➤ Forgive [others] of what? And, what will we be forgiven of?
These are all left open-ended, unanswered by the command and promise. Most supply don’t judge sin in others and sin will not be judged of you . . . forgive others of sin and sin will be forgiven you. We might infer this, but the sentences do not demand or necessarily imply this reading.
Now, the last command . . .
➤ But . . . the “give” is already in the context and, thus, can be applied to the whole: “Give to everyone who begs [“borrows” is a far better reading] from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back” (Luke 6:30); “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return . . .” (vv. 34-35).
So, how does this help us with reading and applying this element of the Sermon on the Plain? Pretty much most see the judging and condemning related, as I mentioned, to sin--you know, don’t judge the sins in others (i.e., the specs) before you deal with the sins in you (i.e., the logs/beams). Nothing in the text nor the context warrants this reading. However, something else is within range. Let me suggest: there is a social and cultural association/relationship implied that I believe we can reasonably and appropriately infer.
We have the “poor” and the “rich” already referenced in the Beatitudes (vv. 20-26) and there are the references to “enemies” (v. 27b), “those who hate you” (v. 27c), “those who curse you” (v. 28b), “those who abuse you” (v. 28b), “the one who strikes you on the cheek” (v. 29a) and “the one who takes away your cloak” (v. 29b), including “the one who begs from you” (v. 30a) and the “one who takes away from you” (v. 30b), and, especially, there is the patronage giving-lending-for-return (vv. 32-35)–all pointing to social and cultural castes of relationships (very much the poor/rich referents mentioned in the Beatitudes). . . this “giving” et al. idea is drawn into this set of instructions (as already pointed out above), which, based on how the instructions is structured, infers to the whole (all of the commands). Simply: stop judging-stop-condemning-start forgiving-start giving is an extension of “love your enemies . . . do good to those who hate you, which leads to the give/lend expecting nothing in return.”
Seriously, this reading actually solves the “poor” and the “rich” referents . . . and supplies how it is the “poor” and the “rich” are now breaking bread together as members of the family of God (around those tables).
There is a social and cultural shift amid the new community of God in Christ Jesus around those tables—something both attitudinally (i.e., renewed in mind) and concretely (i.e., a behavior, a lifestyle that is) different, wholly distinctive about this community of Jesus followers. There is something missionally different (and imperative) and something intrinsically different (relationally), even something ontologically unalike the social and cultural milieu (the social location, what makes the empire adhere and maintain, the tiers of human hierarchy) that surrounds the church–these congregations, these tables, these local, neighborhood house-churches are a new creation, unlike anything else now or before.
Missionally important because this redemption in Christ is for all people—using Paul’s language in Romans 1, for the elite-Greek, barbarian, Jew, educated and uneducated; using Luke’s (i.e., Jesus’) the poor and the rich, the beggar/borrower and the lender. The message itself (i.e., the gospel), those to whom the message was to be shared (missional importance), and the new relationships at those tables need to match, align. Thus, enemies are also to be loved—out-there among those to whom this gospel would offend and threaten, these cultural enemies. First, all made visible at those tables of gathered Jesus followers (i.e., disciples). And, made outwardly relevant by doing the same among neighbors and in the community.
Can’t reach and minister to those whom you are judging and condemning—and I take this to mean socially and culturally judging and condemning (given the narrative context) . . . and as such among the socially and culturally unacceptable* (read both ways—poor to rich, rich to poor) that we are to love, do good, forgive, lend, give) . . . and this gospel is made visible and real around those tables throughout the local house-churches. It seems, given the diversity at those tables and the new rules (if you will) of who can and should be at the table, there would indeed be a need to stop judging/condemning and a whole lot of forgiveness to go around and new patterns of giving to be had. There is no privilege (or patronage) at that table. There is no cursed at that table. Only new relationships in Christ.
Given that the Sermon on the Plain ends with the house parable, which speaks to the actual house-church-settings (Paul uses the same in Ephesians 2) and is about discipleship, specially listening to (meaning, obeying) Jesus’ words—those who hear and does them—what I have proposed here seems a good, reasonable (exegetically, narratively, and contextually) faithful reading of the Luke text regarding “judging” et al. And, thus easily and significantly applied to our own church fellowships and witness (mission).
*socially and culturally unacceptable are those in castes that are despised, shunned, hated, outside blood-lines, social groups, vocationally loathed, economically reviled, and religiously held in contempt (of which the Christians because of whom they follow and because of this new socially destructive teaching would also find themselves)--this can, nonetheless, be applied (i.e., done) reciprocally from one group/caste to the other and visa versa.
Other Sermon on the Plain Wasted Blog thoughts
Following Jesus Around: How do people (outsiders) know that the kingdom of heaven has appeared? (Matthew 4-11), a Sermon (Part III)
III. We demonstrate the presence of the Kingdom by sending Laborers into God’s Field to do what Jesus did
We have moved into the Hill. We relocated. (You all made this possible—thank you.) This is important: most pastors of churches in places like the Hill don’t live in the church’s neighborhood. Our moving into the Hill is a big deal—that’s what our neighbors tell, too. This is huge because there is a connection between the gospel and the community . . . between Shepherds and the community . . . between churches and the community. No wonder Jesus calls for laborers for the harvest. Another summary at the end of Matthew 9.
The reason for Jesus’ compassion is that they were sheep without a shepherd, harassed and dispirited. Jesus mixes his metaphors and says that there is a need for Shepherds for the Harvest is rip. “Harvest” is a great eschatological, end time word used throughout the Old Testament. “Harvest” means we are in the age of the appearance of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it also suggests that the end is near (of course eschatologically near, but also timely, the time to harvest is now; this gives us an urgent frame for the task). We should not be surprised that there is a relationship between this crowd of outsiders, unclean, lame, diseased, their condition (harassed and dispirited), and the absence of a Shepherd. People die without a shepherd. This is why we pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers, send Shepherds into the field.
I am humbled by how I am greeted on our apartment’s street: “Pastor.” “Rev.” “Park Pastor.” My favorite is “Hey, Preach.” But the one that honors me the most is when my neighbors call me, “Pastor of the Hill.” That’s crazy, right?
I had just walked out of our apartment front door, heading to my car for a meeting, when I heard, “Pastor, come here.” This happens often. I do not carry cash on me. This is an important rule ministering where I pastor. Usually it is, “Do you have a dollar?” or “I need $8.50 for a bus ticket.” It’s hard, but I need to say, “No, I don’t.” Yet, I am a neighbor. And, a pastor (which most of our neighbors know) . . . so, sometimes I try to find other ways to help. This morning an older gentleman, who lives across the street (he admits his drinking problem and has a hard time walking because of his heart), pulled me in close and whispered to me, “Do you have a bag of groceries?” This is a tough one . . . I gave him my normal reply, but added, “When I get back, I’ll see what I can do to get you some food.”
I located a $20 and found him still sitting where I left him. “Let’s go to the corner store and get you $20 bucks worth. No cigarettes though.” We walked slowly, stopping every 25 feet or so for him to catch his breath. Once inside the corner store . . . it was missional . . . a small crowd was there. Some teens shouted, “Hey, Pastor Chip!” I introduced myself to the others. Fist bumps all around. My older neighbor then surprised me when he started introducing me to his friends in the store, “This is my pastor.” Didn't expect that. And, he said it more than once. I held back tears.
Of course, there are plenty of food resources, shelters, and food pantries in New Haven, which is my usual go-to reply. But, my presence in the neighborhood isn’t to be a social-worker or case-worker. This is a neighbor, someone I talk to regularly, and to whom I have given some street pastoral counseling—hard to just defer when, in some way, he’s one of my sheep (at least a street sheep). Plus, this man is abused by his boarding roommate, his food stamp-card taken regularly, and his landlord won’t do anything—and complaining just makes it harder on him. All this gentleman knows is his drinking, bad health, and sometimes Jesus shows up as his neighbor who also happens to be hispastor. These good people need a shepherd . . .
It is no surprise that immediately after having compassion for the sheep that do not have a shepherd (9:36)
and praying for the needed laborers to go harvest (9:337-38), Jesus appoints his twelve and commissions them (10:1-15). Although there is far more to this list (vv. 2-4) and their mission (vv. 5-15), I want to call attention to one thing very much related to our thread: Jesus instructs the twelve to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (v. 7).
Jesus calls the 12 disciples (10:1a) and gives them authority to do exactly what he has been doing (v. 1b)–exactly what they observed in following Jesus around as we have observed thus far. Now, they are to be fisher-followers by casting out demons and healing every disease and every affliction (10:1) and, so, they demonstrate that the kingdom of God is present (v. 7): Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons (v. 8a).
*This sermon was preached at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Concord, MA on Sunday, May 19, 2019. The full sermon maybe downloaded as a PDF (here). An audio version is also be available >> Audio version
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV
The church at worship:
“If there is to be a ‘committed people as the sign and agent and foretaste of what God intends, it can only be insofar as their [church’s] life is continually renewed through contact with God himself’ in worship . . . ‘True worship enables us [as church] to be conformed more and more inwardly to the Cross of Jesus.’ The cross of Jesus means a total and costly identification with the world [around us], on the one hand, and yet a radical separation from its idolatry, on the other. Worship renews us in this life of Jesus.”
~Michael W. Goheen, in his The Church and Its Vocation, as he reflects on Lesslie Newbigin's concept of God’s missional means of grace.
Unashamed promotion of Wasted Evangelism: All Royalties from Wasted Evangelism go to support our church plant and ministry in the Hill (New Haven, CT)
Almost all works on the relationship between evangelism and social action, most books on the church and the poor, and every book out there on the subject of Christians and social justice are argued from experience, a theological bent, a political aisle, or a church experience. Although such platforms have value and have their place, there are few, if any, volumes that seek an exegetical foundation for the author’s conclusion: a what does the text imply? My Wasted Evangelism is an exegetical argument for understanding that social action can be a component of biblical evangelism and ought to be an element in a church’s task of evangelism.
Please consider purchasing a copy of my Wasted Evangelism: Social Action and the Church's Task of Evangelism, a deep, exegetical read into the Gospel of Mark. All royalties go to support our church planting in the Hill community of New Haven, CT. The book and its e-formats can be found on Amazon, Barns'n Noble (and most other online book distributors) or directly through the publisher, Wipf & Stock directly.
Here are some excepts from each of the chapters: Samples
Been dwelling some in Luke’s parable of the Father, stay at home son, and the prodigal son. First, the trio-parable set in Luke 15 is not about our individual salvation nor a focus on simply the Father’s love for me--it is incredibly more and speaks loudly to the habits and form of church.
We need to hear how, in fact, Luke starts chapter 15:
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’ (vv. 1-2).
So, the issue is pretty clear: The temple-leadership had a problem with Jesus’ welcoming of the unclean, marginal, socially unacceptable to the table of fellowship. What is often overlooked in the wider context is that Luke’s chapter 15 set of parables is surrounded (preceded and followed) by “feasting” and “eating” lessons. (We’ll get to this in a moment.) Additionally, Luke’s three-parable set is also about “feasting” and “eating.” For in both the first two Luke 15 parables, after what was lost is found, there is a gathering of friends and neighbors for rejoicing:
“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’” (v. 6).
Likewise when the prodigal son returns, he is welcomed into a feast as the honored guest (vv. 24-27).
The wider narrative in Luke suggests that it is whom we invite to these “feasts” and times of “eating” that is at issue. For Luke 15 is bracketed by chapters/stories of "feasting" (i.e., "eating"). First, there is the parable about proper kingdom table etiquette (the inviting of the marginal and socially unacceptable) vs. the acceptable social norms (chapter 14) and, then in the preceding chapter, the story of a rich man, who “feasted sumptuously” and poor Lazarus, “who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table” (16:20-21).
The lost-dead-prodigal-son isn’t just a picture of the wayward sinner, the lost law-breaker, but is a figure representing--to keep with Luke's theme--the socially unacceptable that are now welcome, equally, without hesitation or qualification (save faith) to God’s kingdom table.
These parables, including Luke 15's parable of the prodigal son, are forming for church and missional church-life. Luke 15 is one of the parables that scream out: “Go do likewise!” Who are you eating with? Who are you intentionally inviting and compelling to come be a part of your local church? Maybe even more so, who are you making second class citizens of the kingdom by how we do church?
Brad Brisco has put together a good list of Missional church related books. Additionally he includes a four-part series of blogs that will help us understand the term and use of “missional.”
A number of the books on the list I have read--some I need to. From his list, here is a few I can highly recommend. If you are a church planter, concerned about evangelism and missions in the local church, these will feed your soul:
Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America by Lois Barrett and Darrell Guder
Missional Essentials by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford
The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from Big Business, Parachurch Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and Other Modern Maladies by David Fitch
ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost
The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America by George Hunsberger, and Craig Van Gelder
Misisonal: Joining God in the Neighborhood by Alan Roxburgh
Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus by Smith, Christopher Smith and John Pattison
Confident Witness – Changing World: Rediscovering the Gospel in North America
by Craig Van Gelder
The Ministry of the Missional Church: A Community Led by the Spirit by Craig Van Gelder
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.