Friday, September 5, 2008

Luther on "Judge not, that you be not judged"

Instead of Witherington's commentary, I find myself occupied by Luther. Currently, I have pastor's book out: Luther's Works volume 21, on the Sermon on the Mount. I should finish reading it and return the book.

Just quoting parts of "Judge not, that you be not judged".

After some qualifications about applicability in the secular realm and warning against sects who think they know the gospel better than qualified preachers, the "schismatic spirits", he goes on to apply the sermon to the Christian life and attitude.

OK, here we go.

"The other kind of judging or passing judgment deals with maters of life, when one person criticizes and condemns the life and works of someone else and is not pleased with what anyone else does. This vice is very widespread and common. Now, as in matters of doctrine we should be of one accord, with one mind and understanding and faith, so we have the command to be of one mind and heart in our external affairs. Since there are many stations in society, their works must be dissimilar and varied. Then, too, in this varied life there are also various kinds of faults; for example, some people are odd or short-tempered or impatient. This is inevitable in Christendom, since our old Adam is not dead yet and the flesh continually strives against the Spirit.

What is needed here is the virtue called tolerance and the forgiveness of sins, by which one person bears with another, pardons him, and forgives him, as St. Paul teaches in beautiful words (Rom 15:1): 'We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves.' this is the same thing that Christ says here: 'Judge not.' there are some in Christendom whose gifts are greater and better, and there must be, especially among the preachers. But such people should not put on a superior air or take the attitude that they are better than those people who do not have these gifts. In the spiritual sphere, therefore, no one should lord it over others. Outwardly there ought to be some difference. A prince should have a higher and a better position than a peasant, a preacher should be more learned than an ordinary manual laborer. A lord cannot be a servant, a lady cannot be a maid. Yet in all these distinctions of position the hearts should have the same attitude and pay no attention to the dissimilarity. This happens when I make allowances for my neighbor, even though he may occupy a lower station and have fewer gifts than I. When he is a groom taking care of a horse, I am just as pleased with his work as with my own work when I preach or govern land or people, though my work is better and accomplishes more than his. I must not look at the outward masks we wear, but at the fact that he lives in the same faith and the same Christ as I, that he has grace, Baptism, and the Sacrament as much as I, though my work and my office are different and higher. For it is the same God (1 Cor. 12:6) accomplishing and giving all this. He is as pleased with the tiniest as with the very biggest.

What is prevalent in the world, however, is the exact opposite of that commendable and beautiful virtue about which St. Paul speaks. Everyone is pleasing to himself. A man will come along in the name of the devil, unable to look at his own vices, but only at other people's. This clings to all of us by nature, and even though we are baptized, we cannot get rid of it. We love to beautify and decorate ourselves and to see what is good in us, tickling ourselves with it as if it belonged to us. In order to maintain our exclusive claim to beauty, we ignore and leave out of sight the good there is in our neighbor. If we notice the least little pimple on him, we fill our eyes with it and so magnify it that on its account we see nothing good, though the man may have eyes like a hawk and a face like an angel. That would be like seeing someone in a garment all of gold except perhaps for a seam or a white thread drawn through it, and then acting shocked, as if it were worthless on that account. Meanwhile I would be precious in my own sight on account of the gold patch sewn on my shabby smock frock. So it is that we overlook our own vices, which are all over us, while we fail to see anything good about other people. Now, once this natural inclination appears among Christians, then the judging begins. Then I am ready to despise and condemn a man as soon as he stumbles a little ore makes some other mistake. He treats me the same way, giving me the same measure I give him, as Christ says here. He searches out and he criticizes the worst things he can find about me. By such behavior love is suppressed, and all that remains is a biting and a devouring back and forth, until they have consumed each other and lost their Christianity."

Not finished, yet, have to go.

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