Great Expectations

October 26, 2017
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Listen while you read: "We Give Thee But Thine Own"1 (Lyrics)

Luke 6:37 – Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (NIV)

Of all the sayings of Jesus, I find this one to be among the hardest to put into practice. Whenever people upset me, whether it be family, friends, or acquaintances, I initially find it difficult to forgive them. I think unkind thoughts and harbour some resentment. I want them to be punished for upsetting me, or at least put through something similar. I dwell on the hurt and ponder another saying, definitely not from Christ: "Don't get mad; get even!" Even though I am a pastor with over thirty years' experience, I'm a human being first and foremost, with all of the accompanying common weaknesses, faults, and sins.

Because I'm so human, it makes me wonder why Jesus said this in the first place. If He knew that it was very difficult and almost impossible to practice, why set up His followers to fail? If we are all guilty of judging, condemning, and not forgiving others, does this mean that we have no hope of being saved? Did Jesus expect us to live holy and perfect lives in order to be accepted and embraced by God?

The more I read this passage, the better I understand my need for being honest with myself, as well as the absolute necessity of receiving God's grace. If I arrogantly think that I am perfect, do no wrong, and have no need of forgiveness, then I am deluding myself and placing my soul in danger of perdition. However, if I humbly acknowledge that I am as guilty as sin and often fail to practice what Christ preaches, then I am confessing my faults and placing my soul in His hands. Just like most of us, I would rather seek God's mercy and grace than rely on my own misunderstanding and graceless ways.

Points to ponder: Have I recently judged, condemned, or not forgiven someone? Have I confessed my failure to Christ? What does He expect me to do now?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never said that faith would be easy or that we could live according to our own standards as Christians. As Your people, You challenge and confront us constantly because we carry Your name wherever we go and whatever we do. Help us to become channels of Your mercy and conduits of Your grace. In Your holy name, we humbly pray. Amen.

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About the author:

John Stuart <>
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A good lesson, John. And thanks for the honesty.

    Hi John
    Thanks for the devotional — is well said!

    John – great devotional. Thank you for explaining the context of this passage. God help me not to judge others. God Bless you.

    Thank you for writing this devotional. Yes, it’s so easy to strike back, to give as good as we got and then some, instead of forgiveness and a soft answer. Blessings.

    Thank you very much for this message, John.
    It really “hits home”!

    Greetings John,
    Thank you for your most meaningful devotional this a.m. We are so blessed that we can ask for the Lord’s grace & mercy to forgive our human frailties.
    Blessings upon you,

    Hi John,
    Thanks for this.
    I find forgiveness is a process, and we can ask for help in it. When we do the Holy Spirit gets into action and helps us along. Otherwise we would never make it.
    I am sure Jesus knew how damaging to us an unforgiving spirit is. I know it has disastrous results for me, physically. And as an elder I well know how much abuse clergy often get, people seem to think that is part of the job!

    Dear Pastor John,
    Thank you for this devotional: it really speaks to me. The second paragraph describes how I spent my teen years – wallowing in the despair of my sinfulness and the impossibility of my achieving “holiness” (how I hated 1 Peter 1:16!). The liberal church I grew up in did not teach the gospel and I did not know about God’s saving grace through Jesus. I join you in thanking God – for keeping me alive and reaching out to me, and bringing me to the place of confession, grace and mercy, which you describe.
    Thanks, and God bless you and your ministry.

    Dear John Stuart,
    You write:
    If we are all guilty of judging, condemning, and not forgiving others, does this mean that we have no hope of being saved? Did Jesus expect us to live holy and perfect lives in order to be accepted and embraced by God?
    I have to depend on Jesus whose way is: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1;9).
    Yes, he is faithful to forgive this sin too. He has undertaken the big job of causing us to lose our unforgiveness. Let’s trust him for this.
    For Jesus’ sake.

    It’s not so much that I want to get even, but I do want others to know that they have hurt me or treated me badly and how much they have hurt me as a result. I’m willing to try to forgive, but not without rubbing their noses in it first. If that could be called seeking revenge or whatever, I am truly sorry. I also know that’s not what Jesus had in mind, but I do know He understands and will forgive me and eventually I too will forgive and no longer hold a grudge.
    Thank you for the devotional. It’s a good reminder that we need to be honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge that we are sinners and far from perfect even though that is not a pleasant thought to accept. AND THAT IS WHY CHRIST HAD TO DIE FOR US. For His mercy on to mean something we too need to exercise that mercy to others as well as ourselves.
    God Bless.

    I always find your devotionals remarkable for their relevance to a situation in my life at the time.
    For instance, forgiveness. I am struggling with this and have really come down to a conclusion based on my management experience of many years and upon Jesus’ behavior when facing a person’s sin.
    You forgive the person but not the behavior (sin). Everyone comes with baggage and this baggage influences their behavior. You must look past the behavior and forgive the person but ensure the behavior is dealt with in a constructive and non-threatening way. This may include dealing with the underlying reason for the behavior.
    Jesus forgave the person many times but also gave the instruction to sin no more. Again, focusing on the behavior and not the person. That leaves us to deal with our underlying issues that cause us to sin but then prayer and contemplation can help here.
    Just a thought in my current struggles of forgiving when faced with poor behavior.

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