To Judge or Not to Judge

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity based on Luke 6:36-42 (Gen. 50:15-21)

Dear forgiven children of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

We heard the world’s favourite Bible passage in our Gospel lesson. It is quoted all the time, especially by the most hardened pagans. “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” They have no idea what Jesus said before or after, and quite frankly, they don’t care, but they think they know what Jesus is saying.

They think that it means that if you say that their lifestyle is sinful, it is you who will be judged. They think that with this one sentence, Jesus is allowing them to do whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, and Christians better keep their mouths shut. They think that Jesus is saying that public sin and false teachings must be tolerated so as not to be “judgmental.”

How can they possibly think this considering everything Jesus says that is contrary to such thinking? Because they do not care what He says. They just take this one sentence and misapply it without understanding, because they like what they think it means.

What does the Bible say elsewhere about judging? Jesus says, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (Jn. 7:24). We are not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to judge whether they are from God (1 Jn. 4:1). Jesus says, “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” (Lk. 12:57). Paul tells the Corinthian church that he has already judged the sexually immoral man in the congregation, and that man is to be purged from the church and delivered to Satan, being expelled from the communion of the church (1 Cor. 5:3, 5, 13). That sounds awfully judgmental. That’s because it is. Finally, Paul writes, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:9) This too, is judging.

Clearly God tells us to judge, but there is judging that is wrong, and there’s judging that is right. Certainly all judgments must be made according to the Word of God. All Christians are called to judge what is right and what is wrong. All Christians are called to judge doctrine.

If you hear a gospel other than that of Scripture, you are to judge it as false doctrine. Paul goes so far as to not only judge the false doctrine, but to judge such a false teacher as accursed. This is really no different than Jesus saying that it would be better for false teachers to have a millstone tied around their necks and to be cast into the sea rather than causing others into sin (Luke 17:2). We are not told to tolerate and compromise on what is right and wrong, but to judge what is right and wrong. What God has revealed in His Word cannot be altered. The Gospel of God is the power of God unto salvation, so if this Gospel is replaced with a different gospel, it surely leads to be accursed in hell for eternity. We must continually judge right from wrong, truth from error, God’s Word from lies.

So, what judging does Jesus forbid us? We have to look at what else Jesus says in the context. He says, “Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; Condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Then he asks why you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye.

Jesus is talking about showing mercy and forgiving, rather than being a fault-finder and finger pointer. Wrongful judgment is unmerciful and unforgiving.

Consider Joseph. His brothers tore his special coat from him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave to Ishamelites that were passing by, who in turn sold him in Egypt. They brought his coat covered in goat’s blood to their father, to suggest that he had been killed by some wild animal. God blessed Joseph, and over time, through prison and hardship, he became the ruler of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.

Joseph had the opportunity to get revenge. Not just revenge, but justice. He was the ruler of the land. He ruled over his brothers and had power over them. His brothers knew that it was in Joseph’s hand to punish them and that they would deserve it. They said to each other, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”

According to every dictate of human reason and justice, Joseph had every right to punish his brothers, who asked him for forgiveness. Joseph responded by saying, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” Joseph forgave them their heinous crimes against him, even though he was in a position to punish them for their wickedness.

This is mercy. Joseph did not give his brothers what they deserved. That would have been unmerciful. Joseph showed them mercy. Mercy is not just ignoring sin or turning a blind eye to it. Mercy is not pretending that everything is ok. Mercy is confronting sin head on, exposing it, and forgiving it. Mercy is not judging our neighbour, but forgiving him, as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven us.

God rules over us, and He has power over us. According to every dictate of human reason and justice, God has every right to punish us for our sins. But instead, He has mercy on us. God the Father turned His anger and wrath away from us, and poured it all on His Son, His only Son. He showed no mercy to Jesus, who suffered and died in our place, so that He would show us mercy.

Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful. This mercy which God has shown to us, we are to show to each other. We are not to be fault-finders and finger pointers. We are not to be unmerciful and unforgiving. Rather, we are to forgive as God has forgiven us. We are not to seek revenge or remain angry when others sin against us. We are to recognize our own sins, those logs in our eyes, and ask for forgiveness from those against whom we’ve sinned. We are to forgive our brother’s sins against us, which are nothing more than a speck in their eyes compared to the logs of sins in our eyes which we have committed against God.

God is merciful, so for the sake of Christ, He will forgive us. We don’t have to wonder if He might forgive us. He will forgive us.

God is merciful. This is not an empty hope to which we cling. God Himself has told us that He is merciful. It is His very nature to show mercy and compassion on us, His dear children.

You cannot see His mercy or compassion better anywhere than the cross of Jesus. The Father gave up His only Son into death for you, to pay for your sins, and show you mercy. God the Father was unmerciful to His Son, judged His Son, condemned His Son, so that He would show you mercy, not judge you or condemn you, but forgive you.

God does not just ignore your sin or turn a blind eye to it. God does not pretend that everything is ok. God, through His Word, confronts your sin head on, exposes it, and forgives it.

This forgiveness He once again today gives to you in the body and blood of Jesus. God shows you mercy and compassion. He gives you the forgiveness of sins. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Jesus Sinners Doth Receive

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Trinity based on Luke 15:1-10

Dear lost sheep who have been found: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

What a scandal, the Pharisees and scribes thought. Jesus received sinners and ate with them. These people’s sins were known to everyone. They were known thieves, traitors, and prostitutes. They were those who had made bad decision after bad decision, and found themselves living a life against the Word of God and as pariahs and outcasts of their community.

Jesus received them and ate with them. Onlookers thought this meant that Jesus approved of their sin. This was not the case. Jesus received them and ate with them to call them to repentance. This is why Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. As the shepherd searched for His lost sheep and the woman searched for her lost coin, so Jesus searches for lost sinners.

A lost sheep cannot find its way back to the shepherd any more than a lost coin can find its way back to its owner. The shepherd and the owner need to seek out that which was lost. So Jesus seeks out sinners who are lost in error’s way, who cannot find their way to Him.

A sinner cannot find his way to Jesus. A sinner who is lost is blind and cannot see the truth. He is dead in his trespasses and sins and cannot choose life over death. Sinners need Jesus to give them sight so that they can see and life so that they can live. Jesus does this through the forgiveness of sins.

Without Jesus giving forgiveness, a sinner is ignorant of God, despises Him, lacks fear and confidence in God, hates the judgment of God, flees this judging God, is angry with Him, despairs of His grace, and places confidence in the things of this life (cf. Ap II.8).

Only through the forgiveness of sins do we learn that God loves us, and we then in return love Him. Only through the forgiveness of sins do we trust in God, love His righteous will, cling to His grace, and place our confidence in Him alone.

Our trouble with understanding forgiveness often stems from thinking that forgiveness must be earned. We therefore struggle to forgive those who have sinned against us, because we feel they don’t deserve our forgiveness. The thing is, we are right. No one deserves our forgiveness. Forgiveness cannot be deserved. Forgiveness is always undeserved.

So also we do not deserve forgiveness – not from our neighbour that we have sinned against, and not from God. Sinners don’t deserve forgiveness. Sinners deserve punishment.

Consider a cold-blooded murderer in court, found guilty by the judge. The murderer deserves to be executed. In this day and age, especially in Canada, we’ve bought into feminist notions about rehabilitating criminals and releasing them back into society only to reoffend, but that’s another story. The murderer deserves execution. That would be justice. If the judge were to say, “I forgive you. You are free to go.” That would be injustice. Even the laws of our nation, as weak and criminal-favouring as they are, do not allow such forgiveness. Neither does God’s Law allow forgiveness.

God’s Law accuses us. It finds us guilty. It says we deserve punishment. There is no forgiveness from the Law.

Forgiveness comes from the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus stepping into the courtroom where we stand tried, convicted, and found guilty, and taking our punishment for us. It is not merely a statement from the Judge saying, “I forgive you. You are free to go.” For there to be justice, the punishment still had to be carried out.

Jesus willingly took the punishment for me and for you. The punishment that we deserve for our sins was put on Jesus. His brutal suffering and death was for our sin, so that we stand before the Judgment Seat as not guilty, acquitted of all charges against us; as forgiven saints of God.

This is why Jesus received sinners and ate with them. He received them not to approve of their sin, but to give them forgiveness – free, unmerited, undeserved forgiveness.

Another error we sometimes think is that God loves us less when we sin. While it is true that our sins sever us from God, God seeks to breech that gap by forgiving us. He loves us so much when we sin, that if He needs to discipline us like a loving father to turn us away from sin, He will do it. He loves us even in our weaknesses and sins, continually turning us in repentance to Him for the forgiveness of sin.

Jesus seeks His lost sheep. He seeks His lost treasure. He seeks us sinners when we have strayed.

Christ does not eat with sinners today, but He feeds sinners today. He receives sinners and gives to us His body and blood.

Some might call it a scandal – sinners gathered to eat and drink the holy body and blood of God in the flesh. We don’t deserve it. He gives it to us by grace. He gives us free, unmerited, undeserved forgiveness in His body and blood, and heaven rejoices. There is more joy before the angels of God in heaven over us sinners repenting, than over the whole world who thinks they don’t need repentance. There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

 

Jesus sinners doth receive;

Oh, may all this saying ponder

Who in sins delusions live

And from God and heaven wander!

Here is hope for all who grieve:

Jesus sinners doth receive! (LSB 609 st. 1) Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.