Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sermon: Trinity 4 - 2019

14 July 2019

Text: Luke 6:36-42

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Judge not,” says Jesus. 

And yes, He did say this.  But He didn’t stop with those two words.  This verse, Luke 6:37, may have replaced John 3:16 as the most popular verse in the Bible.  “Judge not” is a saying of Jesus that conveniently serves the purposes of the unrepentance.

“Don’t judge me!” they say.  “Jesus accepts everybody and doesn’t judge,” they say.  And so, if “they” are right, than we can say nothing about racism, sexism, and other forms of exclusion and bias, right?  If “they” are right, then we must not judge the Nazis; we must defend slavery and segregation and bullying – not to mention billionaires arrested for trafficking children.  Jesus said, “Don’t judge,” or did he?

In John’s Gospel, 7:24, our Lord says: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

So what are we to make of our Lord saying, “Judge not, and you will not be judged”?

Dear friends, it is the church’s job to preach and teach and proclaim the Word of God – both Law and Gospel.  It is the Church’s job to stand for what is right and just, and to condemn that which is wrong – and that means judging “with right judgment.”

And in fact, there is a godly vocation called “judge,” one whose job it is to hear testimony and to judge the facts of a case for the purpose of justice.  And what’s more, there is a book in the Bible called “Judges” – for these were the wise rulers of Israel before they had kings – judges who had to figure out who was innocent and who was guilty.  The job of the king was also to be a judge – and King Solomon was known for his wisdom in the famous case where he threatened to cut a baby in half (which was really a trick to smoke out the child’s true mother).

And which parents among us would urge our children not to exercise judgment – both in matters of right and wrong, as well as in deciding which people to trust, to count as friends, to listen to for advice, and to marry.  Don’t we want our children to, in the words of Jesus, “Judge with right judgment”?

So what is our Lord talking about?  It’s really pretty obvious, isn’t it?  This is not complicated unless we want it to be because we’re trying to keep from being judged.  Our Lord challenges us: “Why do you not see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”  Jesus is using a little bit of irony here, if not outright humor.  He says, “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?  You hypocrite, 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.”

Notice that Jesus does not tell us, “Do not judge.”  He doesn’t tell us, “Just look after your own eye.”  He wants us to love our brother by calling his attention to the speck in his eye.  But our Lord understands that in order to love our brother in this way, we dare not be hypocrites.  We cannot love our brother and help him regain his sight if we have a log in our own eye.  So our Lord tells us to repent.  Take out your own log, and then you can help your brother.

The world has a very different interpretation.  The world says, “Anything goes.”  The world says that it is nobody’s business to say what is right and wrong, and the world says that Jesus agrees with them.  The world says, “Bake the cake,” and “Arrange the flowers,” and “Take the pictures.”  The world says, “Kill the baby.”  The world says not to judge the propriety of dressing children in suggestive clothing and have them wiggle around for dollar bills.  The world says not to judge the doctors in France who refused food and water to a handicapped man until he died.  

The world doesn’t believe in the Bible but tells us how to interpret it.  The world does not believe in Jesus, but tells us what He means.  The world judges the church harshly – even in courts of law – while telling us that we are not to judge.

Dear friends, the easy way out is to take the world up on its advice.  The easy thing is to bake the cake, arrange the flowers, kill the baby.  The easy thing would be for the church to approve of parents allowing their children to be sexually exploited.  The easy thing would be for the church to look the other way as the handicapped are euthanized.  

It would sure make our lives easier if we did.

But can we do that, dear friends?  Would we not be the very hypocrites that our Lord warns us not to be if we bear the name “Christian” but betrayed the very Word of God for the sake of making our lives easier?

We are not called to coexist, but to bear the cross.  We are not called to shut up, but to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

Does this sound like our world, dear brothers and sisters?  

We are called to judge wisely – not in such a way as to puff ourselves up, but rather in such a way as to win over our brother.  This calls for humility.  This calls for introspection.  This calls for repentance.  We are called to judge “with right judgment” not in the service of self-righteousness, but rather in the interest of truth, and in love for our brothers.

And when we are sinned against, dear friends, we are to forgive, “and,” says our Lord, “you will be forgiven.”  And when a sinner repents, when a sinner calls upon the name of the Lord for forgiveness, it is the church’s job to judge “with right judgment” and declare the repentant sinner to be forgiven.  For our Lord, upon ordaining the apostles into the Office of the Holy Ministry, said, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.  If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  This requires judging “with right judgment.”  This requires truly forgiving one who repents, but it also means withholding forgiveness from one who refuses to repent.

And this is where our Lord teaches us about mercy: “Be merciful, even as Your Father is merciful.”

It is the church’s wish that no-one be condemned, that all repent, that each and every person acknowledge his sin, and hear the glorious words of the Gospel that by the blood of Christ, by our Lord’s death upon the cross, by the Lord’s pronouncement of forgiveness and mercy – even as the Father is merciful – that all who confess and believe the Gospel have forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Each and every one of us should wish fervently that nobody – not even our worst enemies – should perish.  We should have the courage to speak the truth in love and call sinners to repentance (according to whatever our vocation is).  And in order to love our neighbors in this way, dear friends, we need to remove the logs from our own eyes.

We need to repent.  We need to judge ourselves first and foremost.  We need to be our own harshest critics and judges.  And when we have judged rightly that we too are poor, miserable sinners, we must also judge rightly that the Lord’s death upon the cross atones for us as well.  

For we are not righteous of our own works, but we have been rescued by our Savior, who is merciful even as our Father is merciful.

Let us judge rightly, dear friends, and let is judge lovingly, so that our Lord will use us to help remove the speck from our brother’s eye, so that he too may enjoy everlasting life.  Amen.

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

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