Trinity 4 – July 13th and 14th, 2019 – Luke 6:36-42
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit +
“You have every right to be angry.” I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before, it’s probably been said to you. You may have even told it to a person – I have. You have every right to be angry, to be upset. Actually, we don’t; not the way we can think of it. Anger happens, it’s the response that we sinful folks have when we or the people we love are wronged. But St. Paul says, “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Yep, we on occasion get angry, get upset – occasionally we will be angry, but we have no right to stay angry, no right to let anger influence our actions. This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel lesson; He shows us why our anger is something we should avoid and beat down when it flares up. Let us listen to our Lord this morning.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. This is what you are to be – merciful. When you think about it, mercy is as about as far from anger as you can get. I know when I am feeling angry, when I am upset, mercy is the farthest thing from my mind. When I’m angry, I want vengeance, I want someone to get what they deserve, I want them to suffer humiliations galore. That’s not what I’m supposed to do, that’s not who I’m supposed to be. I am to be a merciful, loving person. The problem is my Old Adam, my sinful flesh doesn’t crave mercy. It craves power and control and respect, it wants to teach people a lesson. That’s not who we are to be. We are to be like God, God who is merciful – and not just merciful in general, but merciful to us. God has His way; His way is forgiveness. That’s how God likes, that’s how God prefers to handle sin. That is God’s plan – sin should be forgiven.
But if we refuse God, if we demand our own way and demand that sin be punished, if that’s how we want to be, God will do things our way. You want people’s sin to be on their heads, you want them to suffer for their wrongs – okay. Have it your way – but that’s how it will work for you as well. God says, “You don’t like forgiveness, you want judgment and punishment and condemnation to be the way things work, so be it.” Jesus warns us of this. Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned. It’s really quite simple. How do you want it to be? Do you want to keep a record of sins done against you? Hear the Psalmist – If You, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD, who could stand? If you want to demand that vengeance be taken against another for their sins, if you want to abandon mercy – guess what comes to you. And this makes sense. I remember playing basketball on the play ground growing up – and most of the time, we wouldn’t foul each other, we’d pull off, we’re just having fun. But then, someone fouls, drops the hammer on a guy. And you know what happens? Next time, that guy gets fouled. And soon we’re all knocking each other around. Same thing here – God wants our lives to be ones of mercy – but if we want them to be full of judgment and condemnation – God will play that way too. And you know what? That’s not good for us. Growing up, I was small. I could never give as good as I got when we started fouling – it was bad for me. Trying to play the judging game is bad for us. Blame game, condemnation game, bad for us. Ends up with us in hell.
You see, that’s what we deserve. That’s what it means when we say that we are sinners. Sinners deserve hell. By rights, sinners ought to be damned. Period. But see what your merciful God gives you. Christ Jesus goes to the cross and bears the punishment of sin in your place, takes it all, takes it fully – and in return He gives you forgiveness – and forgiveness not just for yourself, but forgiveness for you to give out freely to all who have wronged you. Do you know why – because that person who has gotten you upset, the person you want to beat with a stick – it’s already happened. Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God was already beaten with a stick for them – in fact, He was whipped, had a crown of thorns put on His head, and crucified. And so Christ gives us forgiveness, fills us with it so we do not have to bear any grudge or anger. Any wrong that has been done you, Christ has made full atonement, born the full punishment for it already. This is why He says, “forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap.” This is how richly He has forgiven you. This is what Jesus has done for you. And on this, on His forgiveness, is where your focus is to be – and do you know why? Because when you are angry, when you are upset with someone and want them punished, when you condemn – you are denying Christ, or at least ignoring Him. You are saying that the punishment Christ suffered wasn’t enough, not enough for this person. “Surely, when Christ died for sinners, He wasn’t dying for this person who offended me.” Yes, He was. Be merciful, and show the same mercy that you have been given. Because the mercy you show isn’t your own mercy – it’s just the mercy that you’ve received from God, and you are simply passing it on.
You see, this is what Jesus is doing. He is training us and teaching us to be like Him. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Jesus trains us with His Word, with His forgiveness, to be forgivers, to be people who gladly speak His Word to all, even to those who have wronged us. He is teaching us to be like Him. Christ Jesus, who died for you even as you sinned against Him, is training you to show love and give forgiveness like He does. And this is hard. It’s not what our sinful nature wants. In fact, this side of heaven we never will be fully trained. We have to wait until the last day, until we rise ourselves and share bodily in our Lord’s Resurrection to be fully trained, to be fully like our Teacher. But we are to strive to be like Him. We are to struggle, to work on this, to show more and more forgiveness.
So Jesus gives us an image to help us, to keep us in check and move us the way we should go. “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? How can you say to your brother, ‘brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you do not see the log 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.” Tend to yourself and your own sin. That’s what Jesus says here. Quit your yapping and complaining about what the fellow next to you is doing. Why? Because your own sin is bigger – because you ought to be able to see your own sin so much more than you can see your neighbor’s sin. Because your own sin is great. It is big. However much that person has done to you – you’ve wronged God more. Plain and simple. That’s what we are to remember. When someone wrongs you, don’t think “Oh, I can’t believe what they’ve done. . . how could they. Well, I never.” Yes you have! In fact, when you are wronged, it should call you to repentance. Oh look, I’m still in the sinful world, surrounded by sin. Let me check myself and my own sin - oh yeah, I’m still a sinner, I still have my own problems to deal with, good night look at the size of this log in my own eye. When someone wrongs you, take a good look at yourself, and see your own sin. When that shoe of “he’s a sinner” is on the other foot, on your foot, you won’t be so quick to want to bash heads in.
Instead, God's Word and Spirit will focus you upon Christ. And this is where we give thanks and rejoice. None of us gets rid of the logs in our eyes. None of us get it cleared up enough in this life. But Christ Jesus has become our brother, the spotless lamb, without blemish or defect, without any log or speck in His eye – and Jesus comes to us, and He says, “Brother, I see that log in your eye. Let me handle that. I see your sin, and I forgive you and take it from you.” That’s what forgiveness is. It is Christ removing our sin. This is what Christ does to us freely and over and over again. That’s what He gives us – and what we give to others. When we have been forgiven, we see our neighbor’s sin, we see their struggles, we see the problems that they have, even the things they’ve done to us – and when we dwell, when we live in Christ’s forgiveness, we see clearly and say, “Let me get that for you brother – your sin is forgiven by Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s the way we are to be. And it’s a struggle. This is why we daily ask for forgiveness – Lord, forgive us our trespasses – because we need that forgiveness, and we nee d His strength over and over again so that we forgive the people He places into our lives. And so our Lord comes to us again and again – He speaks His Word of life to us and makes us whole.
Dear friends – God has not condemned you. Instead, He gives you forgiveness, and He spills this forgiveness up and over and through you into the people in your lives. He calls us here to His house to rejoice in His forgiveness, to receive it anew, and to give thanks to Him. To God our Father in heaven, all praise and glory be given for the abundant mercy He shows us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +