Trinity 4 – Luke 6:36-42 – July 17th, 2011
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +
When our Lord teaches, when He gives us instructions, there is always a very good reason for this. This we should know, for we see it in all other aspects of our life. If a loving parent tells something to a child, if a police officer gives an instruction, if your boss tells you to do something, you assume that there is a good reason for it. Likewise, when Jesus instructs us, teaches us to act a certain way and to not act in other ways – there is a reason for it.
This morning, our Lord gives us quite a few instructions – and I would submit that these instructions are not just random bits of advice, they are not hoops we jump through to show that we are good little Christians – but rather these instructions cut to the heart of who we are as Christians, who we are in Christ. Two options, two ways of behaving are laid out before us. On the one hand, we can live like accusers – we can spend our time focusing on and delighting in the faults of others. We can believe that we are right and justified in our hatred and disdain for others. This is not good – for this is what Satan does, this is why he is called the Accuser. On the other hand, we can live as confessors, as one who confesses his own sins and dwells in God’s forgiveness. This is the contrast, these are the two ways of approaching life that Jesus holds before us this day. So let us examine what Christ teaches us about how we as Christians are to approach life.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 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.” At first we might look at these words of Jesus as the justification for a self-righteous attitude. What I do determines what I get – it’s all about me. Not quite. What does Jesus instruct against? Judging and condemning. Our lives are not to be spent in judging and condemning our neighbor for his actions. We are called to serve, to show forth love – not to sit in judgment. Even parents who have authority over their children, who have the responsibility of disciplining and punishing them – is that what defines your relationship to them? Thank you can punish? No, punishments are just meant to correct and guide. A parent isn’t supposed to punish in order to condemn or belittle a kid, but in order to train and instruct a child, to keep them from wandering into wickedness and vice. That is service and love.
The problem is, ever since the fall, since we first listened to Satan the vile accuser we tend to like to do things his way. Is it not easy to look down upon your neighbor? Is it not easy to see his faults? Then what do you? How do you react to the neighbor’s sin? Do you judge and condemn – or do you confess your own sin, your own faults, and give the same forgiveness you receive? Do you act like wicked Ham, who when he saw his father Noah drunk and naked pointed out his folly to everyone, gossiping and rejoicing in Noah’s folly, or do you act like Shem and Japheth, who covered their father’s nakedness respectfully, and did not speak or think ill of him? Which way do you wish to live, oh Christian? Shall you sit and judge your neighbor, declaring how much better you are than him – or will you confess your own sin and live in Christ’s forgiveness, forgiveness which spills out onto the neighbor? This is the contrast, these are the two lifestyles Christ sets before you. If you wish to live your life as one who judges, as one who condemns, as one who delights in pointing out the sin in others – Jesus will play that game with you. If your delight is in pointing out sin, Christ will indeed show you your own sin – if your delight is in condemning others, Christ will give you eternal condemnation. But if you confess your sin, if you see your sin and what it deserves and flee to God for forgiveness, He will richly give you forgiveness – a good measure of it, pressed down to cover all your sins, shaken together so there are no pockets of wickedness not covered by Him, indeed, even over-flowing so that forgiveness runs out and onto the very people who sin against you. This is the beauty of the Gospel that you have received, this is the new life you have been given in Christ.
The thing is, when we accuse others, when we judge, when we condemn them – what we are doing is simply forgetting who we are. Hear Jesus’ Words – “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Do you see what Jesus says? You are in the same boat with your neighbor You are as blind as he is, you are as wicked and evil as he is! In fact, perhaps more so – “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own? 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?” Jesus is rather blunt there, isn’t He? That wickedness that you see in your brother, it is as but a speck, a mote, a small trifling thing. But you, you have a log. We can forget that sometimes, can’t we? That our own sin is big and nasty, that our own sin, my sin, is always bigger than my neighbor’s sin? That there is never a time or place where I should think, “I am a better person than this one here.” We so rarely put the shoe on the other foot. We will look down upon what someone else does, we will rant and complain, all the while we continue quite comfortably in our own sin. How would you like it if that hard, cold eye you use to look at your neighbor with were turned upon you? David says in Psalm 51 that his sin is ever before him. Paul says that he is the chief of sinners. Isaiah says that all his righteousness, even the best, most wonderful things that he does are as but filthy rags. Could you stand before that, could you stand before that withering gaze that you so freely cast at your neighbor? There is not one who is righteous, no not one – and if you wish to be an accuser, to be like Satan who delights in pointing out the sin of others, your fate will be the same as Satan, and the fires of hell will be your eternal home.
No, we are called to be confessors – we are called to be those who confess our own sin. Hear again Jesus’ Words – “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.” What is our first action, our first task to be? To confess our sin – to act in all things with humility, to admit at all times that we are flawed sinful beings, that we sin in thought, word, and deed, and that we have no righteousness in ourselves. Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy – these are not mere words but descriptions of who we are – we are as Christians confessors – we confess our sin, we say to God “We have heard Your Law and know that we have fallen short of what You demand. Have mercy upon us.” We are to call out to God for forgiveness. That is the shape and scope of our life – to confess our sins and to receive forgiveness. When Jesus instructs us to forgive, it’s not as though we earn forgiveness by forgiving – but rather that we are to remember at all times and in all places that we ourselves can only live, can only endure by the forgiveness which He gives. Without this forgiveness, we are lost – and so forgiveness is to be first and foremost on our minds at all times – even when we see our neighbor’s folly, even when we see our neighbor’s sin. When we see our neighbor sin, it should not be a time for gloating or snide comments – it should rather be a time where we remember that we too are sinful beings and that we live only because God is merciful, and that for the sake of the death of Jesus Christ our Lord He gives us forgiveness. We live in Christ’s mercy, otherwise we have no life.
Jesus gives another fantastic insight here into this contrast – shall we live as those who seek judgment or those who seek forgiveness? Hear what our Lord says. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. We are disciples, we are in training to be like our master Christ Jesus. So what is Jesus like? Is His first impulse to condemn us or to give us forgiveness? Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. The simple fact that Jesus is here, speaking to us by His Word, preparing to go to the Cross, shows us the answer of what our Teacher is like. Christ’s goal, Christ’s desire, Christ’s purpose in coming to earth is to see that forgiveness is won. Christ desires not condemnation, but to give forgiveness. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. That’s who Jesus is – and in fact our Lord’s instructions here are simple. Don’t be like Satan – don’t go around accusing others and delighting in their wickedness. Rather, be like Jesus, who desires forgiveness.
We all know this is easier said than done. Not one of us is fully trained yet – and we always find new ways to sin and to struggle in this world. But the day will come when we will be fully trained, when we will be like Christ Jesus our teacher – that is the last day, when we will stand next to Him in our own glorified Bodies, being like Him. But until that day, Jesus calls us to be those who are learning – calls us to confess our sins and receive His forgiveness, that we might be strengthened in the one true faith unto life everlasting. Christ instructs us by His Word that we might repent of our sin and believe in Him, that we might not ignore our sin but receive the forgiveness which He won for us to do away with that sin. Indeed, He teaches us, and by the power of His forgiveness which conquers over our sin, He makes us to be more like Him – until the day where we have this in full. Amen.