Sermon: Hermeneutics of grace

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” (Luke 6:37, 38 NET)

I want to suggest today that these two verses represent a spiritual law. Jesus is saying that in your spiritual life, what you receive is limited by what you give away. Our heavenly Father stands ready to pour his “good measure” of blessings into your lap. It is our choices that will always limit what God does in our lives. One way that we do this is by adopting a “hermeneutics of suspicion” in our lives.

“Hermeneutics” is the process or the tools used for interpreting something—usually a document of some kind. One author portrays a hermeneutic of suspicion as a person who “advances holding a shield, scanning the horizon for possible enemies, forever fearful of being tricked or taken in.” She goes on to say that suspicion favors “distance rather than closeness; guardedness rather than openness; aggression rather than submission; superiority rather than reverence; attentiveness rather than distraction; exposure rather than tact.” Nearly all of these qualities are relationship killers. And so, Jesus goes on to say, we become blind.

“Someone who is blind cannot lead another who is blind, can he? Won’t they both fall into a pit? Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:39, 41-42 NET)

When we use a hermeneutic of suspicion to navigate our relationships we limit our view with a giant shield. Intent on protecting ourselves, we examine every interaction for hidden or ulterior motives. We never see the good in people because we are blinded by their brokenness. We see evil intent in the actions of others while at the same time proclaiming that our own motivations are pure. We want to receive the benefit of the doubt, but never want to give it.

And that brings us back to Jesus’ spiritual law: in your spiritual life, what you receive is limited by what you give away. Give nothing but suspicion? Receive nothing but suspicion. Give grace? Receive grace. Perhaps not from acquaintances, friends, or family. But always from Jesus. He is ready with “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” to pour out in your life.

Today, let go of your suspicion, distrust, and desire to “do unto others before they do unto you.” Abandon the hermeneutics of suspicion that comes so easily and naturally to you and invite the Holy Spirit to teach you a hermeneutics of grace. Ask him to open your eyes so that you can see what is good in others. Learn to see the image of God in each person you meet. Take the love and grace that you have received and pour it out into the world so that you can receive more!

Bob McAlpine is the pastor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church.