The Fourth Sunday after Trinity: A Lesson in Judging

Lessons: Genesis 50:15-21, Romans 12:14-21, Luke 6:36-42
Hymns: 902, 696, 505, 627, 845, 649

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our theme for Vacation Bible School a few years ago was called “God’s Great Rescue.” In it, we learned how God rescued mankind from sin, death, and Satan by sending Jesus to pay for the sins of the world through His sacrificial death on the cross. A great example of rescuing others is perhaps the most subtle. Those who do not have the mind of Christ do not see it. God the Holy Spirit guided the Apostle Paul to write these words in Galatians 6:1-2, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Have you ever thought about how important it is to rescue those people who are caught in sin? Often we dismiss ourselves, figuring it isn’t our business, we’re not to judge, or maybe God’s ways have changed since He inspired the writing of the Bible thousands of years ago.

Today, we will consider what Jesus means when He teaches “Judge not.” And we will consider our role in helping people who are caught in any transgression. As we faithfully carry out God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is at work to rescue sinners from their sin and grant to them the salvation Jesus has earned for all on the cross.

A component of “God’s Great Rescue” included having rescue personnel visit with the children to teach them how these people help—and even rescue—others. We wanted to show the children that medical workers, firefighters, military members, and police officers are people we can trust, for their aim is to help.

Now, when firefighters break windows and pour water on a home filled with fragile mementos, they are not trying to destroy, but to save property and lives. When medical workers apply a tourniquet or amputate a limb, it is not to ruin a person’s life, but to save it. When the police arrest criminals and issue tickets for petty crimes, it is not to wreck people’s lives but to help them and to maintain a peaceful, orderly society for all to enjoy.

 Sadly, even before George Floyd died, many children have thought that the police are people to run away from, not seek help through. Many falsely have the impression that the police will just lock you up if you talk to them. And now the anger and resentment toward those who work to enforce our laws has heightened to the point were some cities are seeking to do away with police departments! Now, if there’s corruption, fix it. If there are bad apples, weed them out. But don’t wrongfully judge all of law enforcement as being corrupt, racist, or whatever buzzwords conveniently suit an ideology that would send us straight to anarchy or Marxism.

Sadly, many have similar views about pastors. God raises up ministers after His own heart to shepherd His children. Yet, many won’t share their challenges in life with their pastor, they don’t go to their pastor in times of spiritual anguish, and they won’t confess their sins to their pastor. Why? Just as many have false impressions on how the police treat people, so also many have false impressions on how pastors treat people as they engage in God’s work of soul cure.

Many prefer to avoid making use of pastors and the Church because they figure pastors and churches are busy judging. This is a false judgment made against pastors and churches. It is a snare of Satan, seeking to keep God’s people away from the means of grace.

Pastors are sent by God to serve God’s people. In curing souls, they must diagnose sin by the Law and apply the proper salve of the Gospel. It is their obligation to prevent sinners from living in carnal security and to comfort those who are troubled with their many sins. The aim in all of this is the salvation of the sinner. This is how God’s Word is applied to our lives. This is how God utilizes the means of grace to apply the forgiveness Jesus won on the cross to sinners today. But when people will not allow themselves to be treated in the way God would have it and instead avoid the Church under the false pretense of pastors always judging, then they put themselves on their own path of destruction.

Sometimes we come across people who absolutely refuse to receive medical treatment, even when their condition is obvious. Let me use an extreme example. Say you see someone who just lost a limb and is bleeding to death. You say, “Let me call for help.” That person replies, “No! It’s just a flesh wound! Don’t judge me or my condition!” If you obey, you will contribute toward that person’s death.

In the same way, if you see someone who is caught up in a sinful lifestyle and do nothing but dismiss their sin by figuring God says don’t judge, then you will also contribute toward that person’s spiritual and eternal death. In fact, you have used a measure that God will use against you.

In the Church, you will only find sinners. Same with the police, military, government, and medical field. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This means you will find people making mistakes. You will find people who, trying to faithfully fulfill their duties, will do the wrong thing. Many are forced to make split-second decisions that turn out to be decisions that are not the best.

How do we treat them? Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Be merciful.” Jesus says, “Judge not, condemn not, forgive.” Jesus says, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

In this reading, Jesus teaches the famous words, “Judge not.” He does so for good reason: we are constantly judging. He also teaches us to be merciful, for we find ourselves unmerciful all too often. He teaches us to condemn not, since we’re often ready to condemn. And He teaches us to forgive, for we often do not want to forgive others.

So, how readily do we follow these words? How readily do we meet those who have wronged us with great compassion, the love of Christ, and with ready and willing forgiveness? Impress upon your hearts these words of Scripture, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).

Some may call this talk of mercy and forgiveness as being weak, for they think that boldly standing up to others, threatening lawsuits or other forms of vengeance is the only right way to conduct themselves in this eye-for-an-eye world. But that is not the way of Christ, nor is it the way of a Christian.

The Founders of our country knew that the only way to enjoy the liberty and freedoms that we have is to practice a strong sense of morals. Once those are gone, then so goes our liberties. When theft and vandalism are downplayed as protesting, we are hurting ourselves. Some will say, “But Jesus said, ‘Judge not.’ Who am I to tell these protestors not to steal from business, destroy buildings, and tear down monuments featuring American history?”

Our Lord’s words, here, never give license to sin. Remember Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye” (Luke 6:42). You see, Jesus is teaching you to remove your neighbor’s specks, but not blindly or hypocritically. He is teaching you to look at yourself in the mirror. He is teaching you not to point fingers all the time. He is teaching you to put the best construction on everything.

If you feel that you have been so righteous that you have no longs in your eye—that is, you have little or nothing to confess to God, then you are deceiving yourself. You are precisely the type of person whom Jesus is warning to refrain from judgment. You are like the younger son in last week’s Gospel who left his father’s house to live in reckless living. For you are unable to see those logs of sin in your life. Instead of running away from the Law and its accusations, you must heed them. Hear the divine pronouncements of your sin, so that the Holy Spirit leads you to repentance. In this, God is working in mercy.

But if you are weighed down by the burden of your sin, see your sin always before you, confess your sin to God, continually yearn for Christ’s forgiveness, then you are the type of person God wants to work at removing the specks from our neighbors’ eyes. For you are a Christian, crushed by the Law and brought up by the Good News of Jesus Christ. You are like the younger son in last week’s Gospel who came to himself and went to his father to confess, “Father, I has sinned against heaven and before you” (Luke 15:1-32). You trust in Christ and His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross. You treasure the forgiveness of sins and you want to see your neighbors enjoy that same forgiveness.

If this describes you, praise God! For you are a disciple of our Lord, shaped by His Word, and conditioned to face the challenges in life with a firm trust in the Lord and His promise of mercy.

Jesus Himself is mercy. He went to the cross to pay for the world’s sin. He shed His innocent Blood on our behalf. He covers us with His very righteousness. He forgives us. And, having been blessed with this mercy, we then serve as a blessing to others by also being merciful.  Amen.            

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen