[Luke 6:36-42] Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 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? 42 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.
Like Father, Like Son
“Who are you to judge me! Only God can judge me!” Instead of an excuse, perhaps this ought to be a reminder that God does indeed judge. “God judges me. Therefore, I need repentance and the forgiveness of sins.”
Today, our Savior Jesus said to us, “Judge not…” What does that mean? What doesn’t it mean?
“Judge not” does not mean, “Don’t make judgments about moral issues.” Nor does it mean, “Don’t speak to others about the truth of God’s Law.” Nor does it mean, “Don’t preach repentance.”
Your brother, your sister, your neighbor – they need repentance and the forgiveness of sins, just as you do. Therefore, how could the Church truly love them and serve them without proclaiming and teaching God’s Law and will to them? Without making judgments about moral issues? Without proclaiming God’s will about their body, life, death, sex, male and female, marriage – these relevant, everyday issues?
To fail to proclaim God’s judgment ahead of time is to fail to love my neighbor as myself. Because I know God’s will and judgments from His Word, I know to repent and turn to the Savior for forgiveness – and I know I can’t use my Savior’s blood as an excuse to willingly continue in my sin. I benefit eternally from God’s Law pointing out my sin so His Gospel can point my heart to my Savior.
When “Judge not” comes to mean “don’t proclaim God’s judgments”, I’m not loving my neighbor anymore. I’m loving myself. It’s easier to get along that way.
My neighbor, my brother, my sister – they need to know their error just as I need to know mine. I love them when I, in love, show them God’s judgment ahead of time. “Judge not” does not mean “don’t tell others about God’s will, judgments, and Law.”
In fact, if that’s what it meant, Jesus would be contradicting Himself because elsewhere Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:19-20]. And, “Thus it is written… that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations” [Luke 24:46-47].
Brothers and sisters, the Church does proclaim God’s judgment. The ministers of the Church do proclaim God’s condemnation. You are to teach God’s will and Law. But we are not to condemn or judge from the heart. That would be hypocrisy.
“Judge not”, “condemn not” means that, though I am to proclaim God’s judgments, I am to have no heart of condemnation or hateful judgments against my neighbor myself. Instead, I am to recognize, first of all, that I myself am a lost and condemned sinner – on my own – that I am the “chief of sinners” [1 Timothy 1:15].
Those words of our Lord “Judge not”, “condemn not” are violated both when you act as if there is no judgment or condemnation from God and when you act as if you have the right to your own judgment and condemnation of others.
When I am personally hate-filled about the world around me – When I have ill will against those people who are guilty of such and such – When I feel justified in complaining about other people’s faults – When I list a person’s unlikeable characteristics as my reasons why I don’t need to forgive them – I am judging and condemning wrongly.
I am failing to believe that I myself am a sinner – an adulterer and a murderer [Matthew 5:21-20] – worthy of condemnation. That I am lost. And, if you’re not a sinner, then you have no Savior. Because He saved sinners. If you’re not lost, then there’s no one finding you - because He came to seek and to save the lost.
To “judge not” and to “condemn not” begins with seeing my own sins in the sinner. I am like them. On my own, I would be no different. I am no different, except that God has spared me from the paths my own sinful nature would’ve taken me. So, what room is there for me to be hate-filled from the heart? In truth, they need the Savior I need.
“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?” In others we ought to see the same need for help that we need.
Jesus began today’s Gospel reading by telling us to be like God our Father. Merciful. Like father, like son. Children of God who are like their Father.
Yet, we find in this very reading that we are not very much like our Father. We lack His perfect patience and mercy. Thanks be to God our Father that He does have a Son who is like Him. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” – and Jesus, the Son, has done it.
God the Father is merciful. One verse previously, Jesus said of God the Father, “He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” – and His sons will be just like that. And His Son, Jesus, is just like that. Because Jesus is like the Father, He has been merciful to you.
There is no way around it – the command, “Judge not” does leave us judged – and the command, “condemn not” does leave us condemned. We do fail to forgive as we ought.
Jesus, the Son of the Father, has been merciful beyond measure. On the cross, Jesus suffered condemnation for us who ought to be condemned. In your place, Jesus suffered God’s judgment for your continuous failure. Jesus kept His Father’s command, ‘Be merciful’, by giving His life in place of yours.
Because the judgment and condemnation due you fell on Him, you are pardoned. He even died for this failure in forgiveness and this tendency of the heart to condemn. Otherwise, we’re all lost. Because of Jesus alone, we are not.
Now what? Your mercy and forgiveness for others now starts, always, with His undeserved love toward you.
Our Lord’s commands today make you say, “I’m not the man I ought to be”, “I’m not the woman I ought to be.” This is true. But because of what God’s perfect Son has done for you, you are His sons and daughters and will one day be the men and women you ought to be.
That’s the gift of salvation, which will be complete on the Last Day. Now, we hope for it and yearn for it. Then, we see it and have it. Now, we are in training to be like our teacher. Then, we will be like our teacher. [Luke 6:40]
Our Epistle lesson tells us this:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” [Romans 8:22-25]
God is judge. We proclaim His judgments. God is merciful. We proclaim His mercy. God has given His Son who is just like Him to be Savior. Be patient with those who are not the men or women they ought to be – since you yourself are waiting for the Savior who will make you the son or daughter you hope to be. Amen.