Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 4 – 2017

8 July 2017

Text: Luke 6:36-42 (Rom 8:18-23)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

I recently saw an internet cartoon that featured today’s text with all of the words crossed out, except for two: “Judge not.”

The reason this is so witty is that this is how a lot of people treat Scripture: they grab hold of two words and ignore the entire passage.  And the reason that “Judge not” is so popular is because we live in a society that refuses to use the Bible – or even nature and common sense – as a means of sorting out right from wrong.  Because to say that something is wrong is to “judge” – and didn’t Jesus just say, “Judge not?”

Didn’t Jesus just say not to exercise judgment in matters pertaining to life in this world?  Didn’t Jesus just say all lifestyles, thoughts, words, deeds, religions and worldviews are equal?”  Didn’t Jesus just encourage Supreme Court justices, circuit court judges, and justices of the peace to quit their jobs?

“Judge not.”

According to those who repeat these words of Jesus (without the rest of His words), we should not say that anything is wrong (well, except for being judgmental, that’s wrong, along with violations of political correctness, that’s wrong too).  But to make use of Dr. Luther’s question from the catechism, “What does this mean?”

Well, if the Judge-notters are correct, then what about religion?  We cannot distinguish between idolatry and the worship of the True God. So there goes the first commandment.  We can’t render a judgment concerning the appropriateness of cursing with the name of God or Jesus, as that would be to judge.  Number Two is gone.  And we shouldn’t judge the practice of avoiding weekly worship, despising preaching and His Word to binge-watch TV or stay on bed.  There goes the first table of the law.

Similarly, we should not judge those who dishonor parents and other authorities, or judge between the killing of a mosquito and a human being, judge between sexual practices, judge between stealing and not stealing, judge between telling the truth or lying, or judge the practice of coveting.

There goes the entire ten commandments, which is most convenient for those who wish to break them.  To those who cling to the Lord’s command to “judge not,” we are to look the other way when people are being bullied or robbed or raped or beaten.  We are to accept anything and everything – no matter how destructive, unnatural, or harmful to children – without criticism.

Do such people really think this is what our Lord Jesus is teaching us to do?

But if they were to read beyond these two words, they would see the context of “judge not.”  We are to be judicious when we do judge.  We are to “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  And we are to forgive – which presumes that there is something to forgive, which presumes that there are sins, which presumes that we need to judge whether something is sinful or not.  Indeed, Jesus says we are to judge, but we are not to judge in such a way that indicts ourselves.

For a judge that sends a person to prison for being a crook, but is himself taking bribes, is not a good judge; he is a hypocrite.  Don’t judge like that!  A judge who makes a great show of wanting to “throw the book” at an unfaithful spouse, all the while he is himself unfaithful, is not a good judge; he is a hypocrite.  Don’t judge like that!

In fact, if it isn’t your job to pass sentence on someone, don’t.  But this is not to say that we are not to tell the difference between right and wrong, or that we are not to confess publicly that there are universally true morals, or that we should not teach our children to be upright and obedient to God’s Law.  But the Lord does say to be careful, very careful indeed: “For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Jesus doesn’t say that we should all just throw our hands in the air and accept the secular worldview that all religions are equal, all systems of morality are the same, and that we should simply embrace immorality as a virtue.

But he does say that we have a primary responsibility of self-judgment.  “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?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?”

And here is where Jesus Himself becomes very judgmental: “You hypocrite,” He says, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Our blessed Lord is in no way saying that every human action is morally equal.  Far from it.  And in fact, He wants us to help our brother with that speck in his eye, to serve him in love, not in hatred or mockery or smug self-righteousness, but out of a genuine desire to help bring our neighbor to healing and wholeness – the kind of help that comes from a life led as a struggle to keep the commandments and to strive for righteousness. And we can’t help our brother by pretending that he has no speck in his eye.

But we can’t look to others until we look to ourselves, until we repent, until we take the logs out of our own eyes.  This is the danger of hypocrisy, dear friends.  Hypocrisy chases people away from the church and repels people from the glorious Gospel by which Jesus has come to judge us “not guilty” and forgiven.

This brings us back to the beginning of our text: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  For our Father was merciful to the point of sending His Son to the cross on our behalf, to rescue us from the judgment of death and hell.  Instead, by the only Man who is not a hypocrite, by the only Man who is sinless, by the only Man who is God, our merciful Father judges us, and that judgement is that we are freely forgiven and brought graciously to the blessing of eternal life, for by this judgment, “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

That is the Lord’s judgment, and it should be our desire that all men are so judged!

And so let the Lord’s words not be crossed out, but rather let them go forth and work the miracle of redemption.  And let us judge not as hypocrites, but as forgiven sinners, seeking to humbly and lovingly share the Lord’s favor with all others who, like us, “sin and fall short of the glory of God,” and yet, by God’s merciful judgment, have obtained that gift of God, which is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Thanks be to our merciful Judge, now and forever.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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