Family Matters


Jesus’ famous teaching on judging others, which is really another teaching on anger and condemnation. Again,I need to point out that Jesus great sermon really is just that – a sermon. Or really, a talk and teaching. It’s not disjointed teachings of Jesus randomly collected in one place by the gospel writer, it is an organized teaching with points that build, one upon the other. These points build one upon the other, and we must begin at the point in which Jesus begins and follow along point by point. We begin where Jesus begins, the nature of “blessedness” or well being in the beatitudes, and follow along. We must understand that yes, we too can be blessed, no matter how far down we may have fallen, no matter how we are treated or viewed by others, no matter if we are part of some group that most might think was definitively not blessed. Once we can understand this point, then can follow along point by point and see the unity of the discourse, and see point building upon point. We set aside anger and contempt, we deal with our lust, we learn not to manipulate with our words and fine print, we begin to desire forgiveness not vengeance. We learn (and live as if we have learned) not to depend upon our reputation and wealth, we are not dependent upon the ever changing opinions of others for our self worth.


It’s only after we have come to deal with and accept all these teachings that we can make any sense of the rest of the sermon on the mount. When we don’t read or understand these teachings with the backdrop of what Jesus is building here, we simply pluck them out when we want to use or weaponize them, we seek to use them without any context, and they just make no sense. We can read and analyze each section individually, we can use these sections and “sayings” by themselves, but without the context and knowledge of what Jesus has been building throughout his discourse, they just bring confusion and worse.

judge not
So, think about this and how we use it today. Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. We’ve all heard this, we’ve probably used it ourselves. But do you realize how often we actually live this out in our own lives on an almost daily basis? And yes, we can pluck this out and use it in almost every confrontation we have in our lives, but it really only makes sense once we’ve dealt with all the issues Jesus has dealt with earlier in his talk. We can only understand what Jesus is saying here, and only have any hope of living it out successfully, if we’ve gone through the preceding material and have dealt specifically with our anger and especially our tendency to look others with contempt.

We, as human beings, have a deeply rooted practice of condemning and blaming. This us what Jesus is getting at when he tells us to judge not. If we really want to be of use in this world, if we really want to “help” those closest to us and learn to live together with our friends, family, and all those neighbors in the kingdom of the heavens, then we must overcome this basic tendency to blame and condemn. Jesus says we can and should become the kinds of people that do not condemn or blame others every time something goes wrong (or, even if nothing has gone wrong!). If we can, we will have the power of that kingdom of God much more freely available to bless and guide those around us.
Of course, we don’t actually believe we can live this way. How can we live in this life, with these relationships, with these people, without letting know that we disapprove of what they are doing and think that they are wrong?? Giving (and receiving) condemnation on a daily basis is just how we live. It’s just a part of our life, and we can basically not imagine not using and having condemnation at our disposal. After all, how else are we going go be able to tell everyone how wrong they are? (How will you be able to tell me how wrong I am??!!).   

you're wrong
It’s just like when we first hear about laying down our anger, contempt, and lust – we don’t believe we can (or even want to) live like that. And – if we have decided not to submit to those teachings, then yes, this one is impossible. What will we do to “correct” someone, to “straighten them out”, to get them back on the right path if we don’t keep judgment, shame and condemnation at our disposal? What better way than a healthy dose of shame and condemnation to bring them back in line? We at least need to let it be known that we are right, don’t we?

But what is condemnation, really? When we condemn someone, we are letting them know that in some deep and intractable way, they are just bad, and need (deserve) to be rejected. They are not acceptable as they are. They are condemned to exclusion, unacceptable, unwanted.

Don’t think that this only applies when we are in church or our church communities. Jesus’ warning against judgment and condemnation are most important in our closest relationships, such as our spouses, children, and close relatives and friends. As the old saying goes – “familiarity breeds contempt.” It is in these familial relationships that Jesus teaching here could go the farthest to change forever. If you have kids, especially teenagers, you should be able to recognize this instantly. If you correct your children on certain behaviors you see, or try to teach them to do (or maybe more importantly, not to do) certain things, you are likely to get a strong, immediate response – “You drank when you were my age!! I heard you liked to go out!! You smoke, why can’t I??” Ever heard some of these? Ever said them? For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. It all comes right back around to us. We speak to our own children and our own families in ways we would never dream of speaking to someone else’s kids or people outside our own family. We insist on maintaining a level of respect (which, sadly, is to say any respect at all) for people we don’t live with everyday that we don’t even attempt to maintain in our own families. We heap endless judgment, shame and condemnation upon those we profess to love the most, which we would never dream of putting upon even our most hated enemy outside of our own family. Then we wonder why our marriages end up shattered and our children would rather be with any family but their own. Why are our children always out? Why do they prefer the company of every family but their own? In the words of C.S. Lewis – “Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?”


“”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

John Lewis

4 thoughts on “Family Matters

  1. John, you rightly point out that the sermon is a unified statement of statements building upon a contextual foundation. In fact you work at saying this for at least a couple of paragraphs (I think). We cannot look at the statements within as mere “pearls on a string” as the seminary prof’s are apt to put it.

    I commend you for working that out. There is a context there and the statements made within the sermon do business on the Gospel stage with the stage furniture. When we lift them out of context and drop them into another context, we do violence to the message – even if there is a grain of truth left in it. And actually, striving for that fuller understanding is fraught with pitfalls, but still, striving for it is step one without which we are already aimed in the wrong direction.

    However, making the esoteric/abstract point about preliminary understanding of context is only useful, really, when it is then put into practice. Even if the contextual analysis is flawed, which I presume it often is even when I make the attempt, stating we need it is not the same as having completed it or, more yet, having done so well.

    I wonder if we might not get a fuller context for this analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks X. I’ve actually been looking at the Sermon in the mount for a while now, and I’m just about ready to wrap it up, hopefully this week. I was really summarizing there, just trying to remind readers of all the points made previously. Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear in the church that we don’t treat this as a sermon or single talk working toward the same vision, but random teaching, or worse “sayings”, that we can then just pluck out and use however we “feel” today. Because, of course, life is all about how we feel in any one given moment, so that works just fine for us.

      My point here would be that Jesus did not just throw these hands out there individually, and taken individually we can use them as we see fit (in other words, for our own utility, which is mostly how we view Jesus and the Gospel these days anyway – something to be used when and how it benefits our own plans and purposes). Trouble us, as I hope I pointed out, Jesus had a vision he was bringing forth. First, all can be blessed in the kingdom of God, even those groups we might look at as less than or weaker or undeserving. We also forget that when we live as Jesus lives, we are not setting aside the law or the prophets. WE LIVE AS TGE LAW ABD PRPOHETS ALWAYS INTENDED FOR US TO LIVE. We thereby FULFILL all the law and the prophets.

      We set aside our anger. We don’t live in envy. We are not proud or rude or resentful. We don’t condemn. We dint shame blame and accuse. I haven’t gotten there, yet, but when we put all this together, we live in such a way that we have a deep foundation which can stand up to all the tidal waves of life.

      What is the fuller context you are thinking of??


  2. Good of you to respond… Thanx. I hope this will be meaningful.

    As I said in the previous comment, you made a good case for context in the opening portion of your post. I could not agree more with it. I commend you for it.

    But then in practice, there was a change of gears in the post, and I think it happened in the part I quote just below:

    “We can read and analyze each section individually, we can use these sections and “sayings” by themselves, but without the context and knowledge of what Jesus has been building throughout his discourse, they just bring confusion and worse. … So, think about this and how we use it today. Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. We’ve all heard this, we’ve probably used it ourselves. But do you realize how often we actually…”

    You move, in this section, from talking about getting the context right to plugging the verse under consideration into our modern context.

    So, your response suggests that if I read several previous posts, I will find the original context in which this verse does business (Is that right?), or so I think I understand you. If that is the case, fair enough. I did not read the previous posts, so I missed it do to lack of homework on my part.

    But even if that is the case, I see nothing pointing me back to that analysis (no link or citation) that would cue me up on it as I read your current handling of it. That would seem to be helpful, but it is not necessarily, necessary, I suppose.

    Perhaps we might try breaking the exercise up into three questions: 1) What did this sermon, passage, or verse mean when Jesus first spoke it? Or how would you suggest those first hearers of this message would have heard it? After all, they have a context I don’t particularly share – though I could learn by listening over their shoulders. 2) What did Matthew intend the sermon, passage, or verse to mean when he wrote it for the church one or two generations after Jesus spoke it? Is there a particular context Matthew is working in that may or may not be significantly different for his reader/hearers than what Jesus’s first hearers would have experienced? 3) What does it mean for us today?

    Based on this post alone (not counting analysis that went before), it appears that you jump straight to question 3 after suggesting we deal with at least question 1.

    I will admit that question 2 is of lesser value than the other two, but perhaps not worthless. And I am certain that the Holy Spirit intends for a strong continuity between them. However, I am also certain that sitting in an American church/Bible class, under electric lights and air conditioning, my context is vastly different from those original disciples who followed this peasant claiming to be God’s Messiah and the embodiment of his King up a mountain in a prophetic re-enactment of Moses on Sinai in the hills of Galilee where everyone feels the strong weight of Roman oppression and would like to kill their enemies in order to win freedom from this pagan yoke! And I suspect that by the time Matthew writes it, there is a sense of persecution among the believers gathered there – a good reason to fear being associated with this Jesus/Messiah – something we American Christians have to just use our imaginations to get in touch with.

    If this passage does business in those contexts first, will it change the way I see it and find application today? Will it have bearing on the way I think our nation conducts wars in foreign lands and so forth? – just as one very ugly but important example.

    Otherwise, I fear that since I am a mall shopping, Amazon shopping, Walmart shopping consumer trying out various spiritualities – even various “Christian” spiritualities, that treat consumers as if the customer is always right, then could I be short-changing the very this-worldly impact Jesus’s message has on politics and so forth too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to reread the post to see what you are talking about specifically. But – I am not sure specifically whether I dealt with every individual issue you talk about in my previous posts. I try to do my best to be sure it’s clear, again, that it us not an individual saying at any point, but a unified discourse. It’s just way too easy to cherry pick these verses for our own purposes if we fail to realize or keep in mind the fact that each part connects to the next.


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