Trinity 4 2022

Luke 6:36-42

July 10, 2022

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Not too long ago I was following a conversation on social media, which is a horrible place to argue theology.  One side was trying to state the Biblical position on some moral issue, the other side was throwing out phrases like, “you’re intolerant, hateful, ignorant, stuck in the dark ages, judgmental.” 

In our current American culture, this is a pretty common type of argument when one person disagrees with another.  It’s poor rhetoric, a bad way to argue, though all too often it is effective.  No one likes to be called hateful or intolerant.  This changes the argument then to be about emotions, rather than the truth. When that happens, one of the worst thing you say is that there a definite truth, an objective right and wrong, that the individual or majority is not the decider of morality, or what is good and true, but that God is. And then to make things worse, one of the worst charges brought back against a Christian when speaking the truth is that they are being judgmental, that the Christian isn’t perfect either, and/or they are being hateful, or triggering the sensibilities of another person.  “Judge not, lest ye be judged0” 

We’ve probably all been there at some point, or maybe even used, parts of our Gospel reading for today.  “Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned, forgiven, and you will be forgiven…” (Luke 6:36-37). This reading is part of Jesus’ sermon on the plain which begins with the Beatitudes followed by a series of woes.  Then Jesus speaks about loving one’s enemies, from which directly flows our Gospel reading. After this, we hear how a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bad, and then the to build the house of faith upon a firm foundation of the rock rather than upon the shifting sand.

So, this section, then, comes right in the middle of Jesus’ sermon.  What Jesus is telling us here is that, as Christians, as people blessed by Christ and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, we are to be merciful toward others as God has been merciful to us, for this is the fruit of our faith being built upon the rock that is Jesus. We are to be long-suffering, loving and doing good to any and all people, expecting nothing in return.

Keeping this in mind, it is a little easier to see how these words of our Gospel apply to us.  We are to judge not and condemn not, but rather forgive and give. The Lord has been merciful to us, despite us deserving otherwise, and because of this we ought to be merciful to others even when they don’t deserve it.  As a Christian, you ought to be more merciful than the unbelieving world, more willing to listen, to seek understanding, to serve.  Verse 38 of our text uses the illustration of honest marketing, not padding the product, but dealing with integrity and truthfulness. This is simply bearing the good fruit of faith.  To do otherwise, to withhold forgiveness and generosity is not befitting of one who has been blessed by Christ, but rather is a rejection of Christ’s mercy.

So what does this mean for us?  Does it mean that we should only be concerned with ourselves and not speak up about truth and sin and salvation to our neighbors, to our friends, to our family?  Of course not.  God is judge of hearts, not you. The role of judge and jury and executioner has not been given to you.  But as a Christian, it is your responsibility, it is your duty to proclaim both God’s righteous Law which shows us our sin and need for a Savior, and also Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.  Exposing sin where it exists, calling evil evil, is not being judgmental, it is repeating what God has said, and at times, pronouncing God’s judgment. It is not an act of hate, it is an act of love and correction.  It is not intolerance of a person, but it is intolerance of sin. It is not out of ignorance or stuck in old fashioned ways, but it is a morality, it’s a truth, it’s a life built upon the will of God, the creator of the universe. 

Who gives us the right to do all this?  Well, Jesus, the judge does.  Before His ascension, He says that all authority in heaven and earth belongs to Him, and then He sends out His people into the world to preach and teach the whole counsel of God. To do any less, to avoid proclaiming God’s judgment to the world, to never speak of God’s intolerance of sin and evil, to spare the rod is to spoil to hell.  This is all in light of the 8th commandment, You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor. Part of this is putting the best construction on things.  And the best construction is simply calling a thing what it is. To not speak against sin, to not call out the evils of society, to keep silent and do nothing is to live a lie, is it to bear false testimony.  Not calling sin sin is to be bear false testimony.  There is nothing more hateful, nothing more selfish, nothing more un-merciful than failing to proclaim God’s Law, followed always by the sweet Gospel and forgiveness we have in Christ.

And frankly, as a Christian, you need to be ok with believing the truth, confessing the truth, holding firm to the truth, even if the world thinks you judgmental or foolish in whom you show mercy. You need to be ok with showing mercy to those who deserve it the least, for forgiving more quickly and more fully than the cancel culture and the self-righteous.  You need to be ok with the idea that the world may hate you because you hold to God’s sense of judgment and condemnation, and to God’s sense of mercy and forgiveness. You need to be ok with the idea that holding to Jesus’ word may divide your family, that your children and grandchildren may think you are dinosaurs who hold to an outdated bias.  You don’t need to go out of your way to cram this down someone’s throat, but you can’t be afraid to trigger someone’s outrage by speaking the Word of God.  You can’t be paralyzed about the thought of being cancelled for speaking the truth, even if it comes from a family member or friend.  The Gospel does not call you to be nice, but to be faithful.  

Lastly, then, Jesus warns of hypocrisy in doing just this.  He uses the absurd analogy of having a log in your own eye while trying to pick out a splinter in another’s. The point is this: before worrying about out the sin in others, first recognize your own.  Repent. Repent of your own sin,.  Repent of your false beliefs, your lack of mercy, your quick judgments.  And be forgiven and receive God’s mercy.  Then, and only then, are you in the place to share God’s love through His Law and Gospel.  Then, and only then, are you empowered to be merciful even as your Father is merciful.  People have to be shown their sin in order to see their Savior from sin.  The point is mercy; mercy for the helpless, the hopeless, the despairing and downhearted, the rejected and dejected.

The way that we live this out ought to be an example to the rest of the world.  Confessing both the mercy of God and His judgment.  It’s not to ignore the sins of the world, nor dwell on them, but to judge them in view of God’s mercy shown in Jesus.  In that ultimately, the judgment of sin has been placed on Jesus.  The point of this is not to win an argument or prove you’re right and someone else is wrong. The point is faith.  That we would all have faith in Jesus and in His Word, each of us reflecting upon our sinfulness and need for a savior, and in seeing the Savior through the eyes of repentant faith, knowing that God’s judgment again sin has been given to Jesus so that all who believe might receive the mercy of God for the sake of Jesus.

Parents, grandparents, if you want your children to know how to do this, bring them to church and Bible study, teach them this at home.  If you don’t know how to talk to your children, if you can’t explain why homosexuality, or transgenderism, or abortion is both sinful and how other people’s sins affect you and your family, come and talk to me.  As a pastor, I am here to help you, to help your family, to know and believe the Word of God and live out your Christian faith. And send your kids to our school, to your school.  If you send your children to a non-Christian school, they will be catechized in non-Christian values, ideas.  Teach them the faith at home, be ready to give an answer as to why a man is a man and a woman is a woman, why marriage matters, how to be faithful in Christian convictions, how to live a life of godly virtue and character shaped by Christ and not have it undone at a school, or by social media, or TV or internet programs that conflict which entices the sinful flesh and works to undo the faith of your family.  This is a matter of life and death.