1. Judgment and forgiveness
I started Chapter 2 by examining excerpts from Jesus'
Sermon on the Mount. The text of Luke which I then examined
continues with the following verse:
«Judge not, and ye shall
not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:
forgive, and ye shall be
What can be made of this?
What does this text actually say?
The first thing to do
is to check the operative verbs found in this verse. The Greek
verb translated by «judge» is «krinete»
It means «separate»,
«sort out», «distinguish», «decide», «accuse», «judge», «condemn»,
«bring to judgement». The Greek term «katadikazete»
«condemn» means: «pronounce judgement against», «condemn».
The two verbs which define what we are not to do are very similar:
they both imply a condemnation.
So what Jesus
(God Incarnate, the Voice of the Father) says in the first part
of this verse is: we are not to find anyone guilty of anything.
Why? Because if so, Jesus says, we will also not be found guilty.
The second part of the verse uses the verb translated
by «forgive». The Greek word is «apoluete»
which means «untie»,
«unbind», and so: «absolve someone of an accusation». That the
meaning «forgive» comes from the verb «untie», «unbind» is
crucial to understand what it is really about. Intricate
philosophical and psychological analyses have been done on
what it means to «forgive» and, in my personal opinion, these
have no relevance whatsoever with what Jesus is talking about.
Philosophy in the ancient world was reserved to the very
few; and they never turned up with such intricate notions as
philosophers have today. Let us see what popular terms are used
about the process where forgiveness takes place.
process is as follows: he does something to her; she wants
reparation or revenge. She considers that the one who did
this to her «owes» her something: either he «pays» it by
reparation or he faces revenge from her so that she can equal
the score. He has contracted a debt towards her by doing
something to her.
If she forgives him, she forgives
this debt of his, gives up any claim on him: he owes her nothing.
He is free of any revenge or demand on her part. This process
of forgiveness requires only a decision from the injured party.
The injuring party can either refuse to accept
responsibility for the injury or feel totally justified in
his action. That does not matter. If he does not recognize
his debt and neither does she, there is no problem. If the
injuring party refuses to accept the forgiveness while accepting
the blame, again there is no problem. His debt is cancelled
as far as she is concerned. If the other party is ready to
make reparation, she can accept it as a gift with thanks.
That pleases everybody.
So what Jesus (again, the
Voice of God Father) is saying is: if you cancel the debts
owed to you, your debts will be cancelled. You owe nothing
to anyone if you cancel what every one owes you.
is said again in slightly different form. When in Matthew
Jesus tells His disciplines how to pray, He includes
forgive us our debts, as we forgive our
The Greek word «aphète»
translated as «forgive» means «let go»,
«loosen», «abandon» and the word translated by «debt» can also
be translated by «obligation».
Jesus quickly reinforces
this by «For if ye forgive men
their trespasses, your heavenly
Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their
trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
Again the word translated by «forgive» is «let go»; the
word translated by «trespasses» has as its first meaning
«defeat», «set back» and as its second « error», «mistake».
(Translated by such terms, this passage sounds much less
So it is clearly stated that it is
God as Father who cancels her debts if she cancels the
debts people owe her.
2. The Parable of the unforgiving servant
Jesus comes back to this
theme, though in a different way, in the following parable
about the Kingdom of Heaven that I will divide in three
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven
likened unto a certain king, which would take account
of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was
brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But
forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to
be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had,
and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down,
and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me,
and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant
was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave
him the debt.
But the same servant went out,
and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an
hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him
by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his
fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him,
saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison,
till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants
saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told
unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after
that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant,
I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant,
even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and
delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all
that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly
Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive
not every one his brother their
This parable makes it quite clear that the debt
a human is owed by her fellow human is very small compared
with the debt that she owes to God but that if she forgives
completely («from your hearts») the debt she is owed, God
will forgive completely the enormous debt she owes Him.
As she was indebted to God for an enormous sum, she
was not able to pay and had to face the consequences and
lose everything - that is the judgement according to our
world order: you pay your debts or else.
for time to repay what she could not as she is desperate;
not only does He first let her go instead of keeping her
prisoner, He then cancels her debt out of compassion. This
is the way of the Kingdom of Heaven, of God's way of life.
The Greek word translated by «compassion» here is
which means in its passive form «have
one's entrails moved», «be moved», «be touched» in a very
physical way. God is so strongly moved with pity that He
looses her (the Greek verb used here is «apolusen»
is translated by «forgive» elsewhere though its original
meaning is «loose») and the debt that was owed Him is
also let go (translated by «forgive» while the Greek term
which means «let go» as we also have seen.)
It is after this cancellation of her huge debt by God
that she demands immediate repayment of the small debt owed
her by a fellow human. This has terrible consequences. The
Lord considers that just as He cancels her debt, she must
cancel the one of her fellowservant. She must take example
on Him. If she wants to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, a
Kingdom where God forgives His humans as is His way of Life,
she needs to do likewise. If she insists on being repaid,
on acting according to our world order, so be it. But then
she forfeits the Kingdom. She is in the world she has chosen:
this world order. So she has to face the consequences of that
world: «And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the
tormentors, till he should pay all that was due
God acts out of
His compassion because of Who He Is. This is God's order,
God's Kingdom. But we can insist on living according to our
human order, the one where repayment is necessary. In this
order, in this way of living, in this world, God cannot be
the God who loves and so forgives but has to be the God who
insists on each one paying his/her failings to the full.
We then make God into our own image. We cannot accept Him
for Who He Is. We cannot accept that He can actually forgive
us: it is impossible for us to even consider this as we insist
on justice and the right of vengeance.
3. The beam in the human judge's eye
There is another
very useful text on this subject in Matthew:
that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye
shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be
measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that
is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that
is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let
me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam
is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam
out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast
out the mote out of thy brother's
The excerpt starts in the same way as the one we
saw earlier in this Chapter; and again we are told what we
will end up being judged on the same terms we judge others.
But then Jesus goes further on this theme. Judging here means
correcting people: taking the speck out of her eye. It is
ostensibly to help her that one is correcting her. But not
so, according to Jesus. Because the simple act of judging
the behaviour of the other (finding that speck in her eye)
means that you have a beam in yours.
This need to
judge others is a huge impediment to doing so correctly.
(How can you take that speck out if your vision is affected
by a beam?) Which translated means that if your judgement
is according to this world's order (that beam in your eye),
it is impossible for you to do a good job at judging as
your set of values is wrong. You pretend to be virtuous but
are a hypocrite if you judge others, if you find them
faults. If you are sincere, honest, you will concentrate
on your faults and failings: there is enough there to keep
4. The Pharisee and the Publican
Jesus gave a rather stark example of what He
meant. He examined the prayer of a just, honest, God-fearing
man thanking God for his good behaviour and comparing himself
to a poor wretch who has sinned much, knows it and asks God
Two men went up into the temple to pray;
the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee
stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that
I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers,
or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give
tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar
off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but
smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather
than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be
abased; and he that humbleth himself shall
This Pharisee was really a good man. He was a
pillar of his society. He gave to the poor, fasted and kept
the commandments. He did not sleep around and steal but was
just and honest. He was like good, God-fearing Christians.
He even thanked God for it just like they do! It is not at
all obvious what is wrong with his prayer. As I just pointed
out, many Christians pray like that, feeling smug about their
progress in the spiritual and the moral life.
They have good reasons to compare themselves
advantageously to the dregs of
For Jesus, the problem is that the Pharisee
is comparing himself to somebody else with whom he is finding
faults: he is finding the speck in his neighbour's eye. We saw
what Jesus thinks of such a way of doing. It is the way of doing
of this world's order, where judgment is paramount and the
prisons, full. A world order of comparisons and judgements.
Jesus sees the Pharisee's prayer as worthless
because it is founded on this world's order. Basically, the
Pharisee's prayer is like a presentation given to a superior
by an employee bragging about her performance. Jesus sees the
Publican's prayer as efficacious because he recognized his
sinfulness and begged for mercy. This is why God acquitted
him of all his wrongdoings. He assumed that God would be
merciful to him, that He cared for him enough to listen to
him and grant him his request. He believed in the existence
of God's way of life, of God's Kingdom of forgiveness.
This parable ends by: «for every one that exalteth
himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall
be exalted.» The Pharisee thought of himself as good while
the Publican thought of himself as bad. In the afterlife,
the Pharisee will be made aware that God does not consider
him such a success and the Publican, that God does not consider
him such a failure. That awareness will come when they both
find that God loves them equally, that He has no favourite.
The Pharisee will have a huge problem in accepting the fact
that God loves the Publican as much as He loves him while the
Publican will have no problem in accepting that God loves the
Pharisee as much as him. So the Pharisee will be scandalized
and will condemn God (which is Hell) while the Publican will
rejoice in God's love (which is Heaven). For the Publican,
God is the One who loves and so forgives; for the Pharisee,
God is a God of Justice Who must consider him better than
5. Forgiving sins rather than condemning
While on earth, Jesus was made to judge an adultureous woman who
according to the Law of Moses had to be stoned
He should have pronounced this sentence on her as provided
for by the Law because she was guilty of adultery having been
caught during intercourse with a man other than her husband.
After all, there were enough trustworthy witnesses to vouch
for the fact that the man they caught copulating with her was
not her husband. Not only did He not, but He put it in such
a way that no one else could :
«He that is without sin among
you, let him first cast a stone
After they all left, and Jesus «saw none but the woman,
he said unto her, Woman, where
are those thine accusers? hath
no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said
unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go,
and sin no more.»10
Jesus does not pass judgement. And Jesus is the Word, that is,
God. Nowhere in the Gospels does He do so. If Jesus does not
judge, it is that God does not. He does tell her to change her
ways: He is not blind to what she did but He does not condemn.
In many cases, Jesus does more than not condemn,
He actually acquits in the sense that He remits debts (forgives
sins). A magnificent case in point is the following story of
Jesus' supper at a Pharisee's house being intruded by a woman
well known in that town as a sinner:
And, behold, a woman
in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat
at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of
ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began
to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs
of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the
ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it,
he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet,
would have known who and what manner of woman this is that
toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
And Jesus answering
said unto him, Simon,
I have somewhat to say unto thee. And
he saith, Master, say on. There
was a certain creditor which
had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other
fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave
them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave
most. And he said unto him,
Thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon,
Seest thou this
woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for
my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them
with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this
woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath
anointed my feet with ointment.
Wherefore I say unto thee,
Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much:
but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And
he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
And they that sat at
meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that
forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman,
Thy faith hath
saved thee; go in peace.11
I have cut the story in four parts. In the first part
we have this woman who comes in and cries copious tears over
Jesus' feet. She is obviously there as a supplicant. She abases
herself publicly by being at His feet and covering them with tears.
She dries them with her hair: she uses the part of her which
is normally standing tall to be in contact with what is in contact
with the dirt found on the streets; she clearly states that
He is well above her. She kisses His feet with ardour. All this
must have been sensual if not sexually charged. This woman is
submitting herself to Him.
She definitely wants
something from Him. She pours ointment on His feet and massages
them. She stays at His feet. She says nothing. It is as if all
she wants is to touch Him, to be with Him, right at His feet,
like a dog. The host is shocked: Jesus is letting Himself be
touched by an impure woman! Surely He should know who she is if
He is a Prophet?
In the second part, Jesus aswers His
host's objection by a story. Someone forgives two people their
unequal debts. Who of these two will thank him the most? will it
not be the one who was forgiven more?
In the third part,
Jesus points out that the woman has acted towards Him in a more loving fashion
than His host the Pharisee. As Jesus' story suggested that the
difference in loving is the consequence
of the different amounts
forgiven, we have to conclude that God had already
and forgiven her more than He forgave the Pharisee.
make this clear, Jesus, as God the Word, tells her in the last
part that indeed her sins are forgiven, that God has answered
her prayer, has forgiven her debt. He provides the assurance
needs that God has forgiven her many sins, that He loves her.
Jesus states clearly that the proof of God's forgiveness is in her
love for Him. That she believed that God could and would forgive
her is made clear by Jesus who tells her :«Thy faith hath saved
thee; go in peace.»
As she had confidence in God's love and mercy,
that confidence was actualized. She accepted God for Who He
really Is: a supremely loving Being who does not condemn but
generously forgives all sins. All Jesus did was to state what
had happened. In a way, one could say that Jesus did not forgive
her: God as Father did. Jesus only stated what should have been
obvious to all. (But of course He and the Father are one!)
Of course, for the bystanders, it was Jesus who forgave her her
sins; but this is not what Jesus said. He did not say
«I forgive...» but «thy sins are forgiven».
forgiveness from God is exceedingly easy (it seems): all one
has to do is to believe that God is Who He Is, the One Who
forgives. Of course, the consequence of this is that one starts
to act like God, as His child, by showing love and forgiveness
There is another example where Jesus
«forgives» sin. It is found in the
Gospels of Mark12
as well as Matthew. With
great difficulty, a paralytic is brought to Jesus on a stretcher.
The paralytic and the people who brought him there did not get
through all this trouble without a real hope that Jesus would
cure him. They had faith:
And, behold, they brought to him
a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their
faith said unto the sick of the palsy;
Son, be of good cheer;
thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes
said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing
their thoughts said, Wherefore
think ye evil in your hearts? For
whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say,
Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath
power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the
palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed,
and go unto thine house. And he
arose, and departed to his house.14
Instead of curing the sick man, Jesus tells him out
of the blue that his sins are
Why should He say such
a thing? One could reply that He wants to make the point that
He has the power to forgive sin. This would work in the following
way: to cure that man requires God's favour; you do not have
God's favour if you blaspheme, so He cannot have blasphemed as
He actually cured the sick man. If He did not blaspheme, He told
I must agree with this analysis. Jesus
states categorically «but you may know that the Son of Man has
the power (freedom, faculty) on the earth to let go sins...»
But to me it begs the question. He could have forgiven anyone of
the by-standers and «proved» His truthfulness by curing the
paralytic. The above argument does not require that Jesus forgive
the sin of that particular man. One can reply that Jesus wants
to show that just has He can cure people of physical infirmities,
He can cure them of «spiritual» ones, their sins. I again agree
but still think there is more to this story. I have suggested
that God loves everyone equally and forgives all.
does not seem to go well with the fact that Jesus is recorded
to have forgiven sins in only the two cases examined here. So
let me look at the whole incident from a different angle, which
in no way contradicts what has been said so far.
the important words are «Jesus seeing their faith». It is because
of this that Jesus can announce that the man's sins are forgiven.
He and his friends trusted in God's mercy and this trust is
always realized. Again, what Jesus does is state the obvious,
God's infinite forgiveness.
Now He also knows that His statement
cannot be verified. To prove it, He shows God's mercy by
curing the man of his infirmity, something for all to see.
God makes explicit the fact that this man's sins have been
forgiven because he believed, through faith. Belief in what?
In God's saving power, in God's love and compassion for him.
So Jesus as God's Voice, as God's Hand, cures him both of
his physical infirmities and his sins.
What Jesus said about judgment
and forgiveness can be understood in terms of my interpretation
of Who God Is and what Heaven and Hell are. To be forgiven, all one must do is
believe that God is a God who, as Love, forgives. But she who
really believes this will love God in return and will feel
compelled to act as He does and so forgive. The ones who
cannot forgive do not believe in the Kingdom but in a world
of justice. They cannot accept (believe) that God loves them
as sinners. If they cannot accept His forgiveness, they cannot
accept that He Is Who He Is. They will also rage against His
forgiveness of others; they will rage against Him taking «sides»
against them, as they will insist that there be «sides» in
which they will force Him into. They will judge God and find
Him in the wrong, just like the Devil does. And so being in
His presence will be Hell instead of Heaven.
started this Chapter by this saying of Jesus: «Judge not, and
ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be
condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.». It states
that what will happen to us will mirror how we acted towards
others. It says that we will be «judged» by our standards.
This is easy to understand if the human fully expects to be
judged by a God Whose standards are hers, a God in her own
image. It is also easy to understand if the human accepts and
tries to live by God's standards as defined by Jesus because
she will be «judged» by that God Whose standards she is
trying incarnate, that God revealed by His Word, our Lord
Jesus. The first human will be reacting to an illusion while
the second will be reacting to the Truth that God is Love.
1 Luke 6:37
2 Matthew 6:12
3 Matthew 6:14-5
4 Matthew 18:23-35
5 Matthew 18:34
6 Matt 7:3-5
7 Luke 18:10-14
8 John 8:3-11
9 John 8:7
10 John 8:10-11
11 Luke 7:37-50
12 Mark 2:3-12
13 Luke 5:18-25
14 Matthew 9:2-7
15 The exact sentence in the KJV
is «thy sins be forgiven thee»
except in Luke where it is «thy sins are
(Luke 5:20). The exact translation from the Greek should be
«have been forgiven you the sins of you» which does not state
who forgave his sins but just that they have been.
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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 6th, 2004
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