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The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

[Luke 6:36-42] Jesus said: “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.

“Judge Not”; What Does that Mean?

“Judge not, and you will not be judged.” The negative is emphatic in the original Greek. “Judge not, and you will by no means be judged.” “Don’t condemn, and there is no chance you’ll be condemned.” “Forgive, and you’ll be forgiven.” For, with whatever measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

Jesus says here, “Don’t judge”, yet elsewhere Jesus says, “Do judge”. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” [John 7:24]. Scripture requires us to discern what is right and what is wrong. God has given us commandments which show His judgments, and Jesus isn’t telling us to neglect any of this.

Instead, Jesus has commissioned His Church to teach all that He has commanded – “Make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:18-20]. And Jesus has commanded us to preach repentance to all peoples – “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” [Luke 24:47].

Preaching repentance to all peoples requires preaching God’s judgment and God’s commands. And repentance calls for the putting away of a sinful life.

And, in fact, Jesus gave us specific instructions for making judgments within the Church about the sinful actions or false teachings of our fellow brothers and sisters: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” [Matthew 18:15-20].

In the world, “Judge not”, is used to justify those things which our conscience knows will be judged. When someone points out our sin, we shout “Judge not!”, as if Christ spoke these words so that we could curtail God’s reign over our lives. We get mad at our neighbor for noticing our moral flaws, but it’s really God we are mad at.

And God does judge. And, yet, God has had mercy, forgives, and delivers from judgment. How has God done this? And what does that have to do with Jesus’s words today, “Do not judge.”

First, we should admit, right off the bat, that this statement of our Lord, “Do not judge, and you certainly will not be judged”, leaves us all under God’s judgment. You do judge wrongly. You do. The comfort sought in trying to deny this fact is a thin veil that tears easily.

The words, “Condemn not, and you won’t be condemned”, leave you condemned. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” leaves you unforgiven. It shouldn’t be, but it is the truth that, though we forgive, we also have hidden grudges under the surface. We sometimes forgive, but we also often condemn. When we think we’ve accomplished what our Lord has commanded today, judgment and an unforgiving heart quickly flare up inside us again unexpectedly.

“With the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Have you given such a measure of good that these words comfort you? Or do these words rightly worry you?

“None is righteous, no not one” [Romans 3:10]. No man has done all that is spoken in today’s Gospel except the one man who spoke it, Jesus Christ. And in Christ is where God’s judgment and His mercy meet for your sake.

“But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” [Isaiah 53:5]. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him… His soul makes an offering for guilt” [Isaiah 53:10]

He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. “God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him” [John 3:17].

Only Jesus’ death on the cross in your place could forgive your unforgiving nature, and He has done it. God’s judgment and condemnation against my condemning and judging nature fell on Jesus, the spotless lamb of God.

Jesus forgave without reservation, forgiving those who were crucifying Him – “Father, forgive them” – even while the judgment against our unforgiving nature fell upon Him.

“Judge not”; “Condemn not”; “Forgive”; “Give” – this is what Jesus did for you by His own self-giving on the cross. And He continues to forgive even as we still fall so short of these commands.

THEREFORE. Therefore, because He has done this for you, you ought also to do this for one another. Forgive – forgive even those who have not perfectly forgiven you. Don’t make demands for apologies and perfect repentance before forgiving - because the Lord hasn’t waited for your perfect repentance before dying for you.

Don’t judge and condemn even those who tend to judge you – because God has set the judgment you do deserve on the shoulders of His innocent Son. Give also to those who will give you no return, just as Jesus has willingly given Himself for you at a cost you cannot repay.

“Do not judge”, “Do not condemn” – they mean this: How you treat your neighbor is not determined by their worthiness nor by how they have treated you. How you treat your neighbor is determined by how Jesus has treated you.

So, Scripture now says, “Forgive as you have been forgiven” [Colossians 3:13]. And our Lord Jesus told a parable about a servant being forgiven a large, unpayable debt – and therefore, in return, that servant was to forgive those who sinned against him. In all that you do toward others, keep in mind what Christ has done for you though you deserved otherwise.

Keep all that Jesus has done for you in mind as you teach repentance and the true way of God’s moral commands to your neighbor and to your families. Because you are commissioned by Jesus to make judgments in this world. You are called to teach and preach His Law and Commands. You must not compromise God’s Word in fear of those who twist our Savior’s command, “judge not”, to justify their own disobedience.

We are called to preach repentance to all people. Yet it’s not a finger-pointing repentance, but a repentance “unto the forgiveness of sins” [Luke 24:47] and for a new life.

And, according to our Gospel today, you are called, within the Church, to be your brother’s keeper – to help your brother or sister in removing that speck and sawdust of sin in their eye – sometimes by pointing his (or her) sin out to him. “Don’t judge” means that while I assist my brother with the speck in his eye, I keep in mind this large oak beam of sin in my own eye – and that I remember the two greater beams of wood that our Savior died on for both of us.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness [Galatians 6:1]. Be true and hard about sin. But be gentle about sinners. In dealing with each other and others, keep in mind what your Savior has done for you. Amen.

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