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Trinity 4 – Luke 6:36-42

by pastorjuhl ~ July 14th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            “Don’t get mad, get even.” “The best revenge is living well.” “Just you wait. Your time’s a comin’.” At one time or another, these words may have fallen from your lips. It’s not fair having to wait until Judgment Day to enact revenge or vengeance. It’s much easier to get back at someone now or sooner than later for an alleged injustice.

You plot revenge, but it brings pleasure for a moment. Remorse and regret are around the corner. Getting even leaves a bad taste in your mouth, not to mention the person hurt by revenge. When you fail to hearken to Jesus’ words in Luke chapter six, you place yourself in the Judgment Seat of God. You set yourself up as your own idol. You are god. You must be feared, loved, and trusted above all things. You must have proper respect and obedience. You have the gift only God Almighty has: the ability to judge men’s souls.

There is a right and a wrong way to understand judgment. When it comes to authority in the world, God has given authority to those who serve and protect us from wrongdoing. The police are there to protect you from the violent outbreaks of others. The fire department protects you from being burned in a fire, not to mention your possessions. Magistrates pronounce judgment over those who must be punished for breaking earthly law. Elected government officials work for the common good of the people, passing laws that we live by that there may be order in society.

The wrong way to understand judgment is to judge souls. Someone slights you in some way, whether it is intentional or unintentional. Perhaps that slight is a word not fitly spoken or forgetting to show appreciation for a job well done. Instead of letting the moment pass and commending the situation to God, you take matters into your own hands and cut the person out of your life. You won’t speak to them. You consider their carbon footprint to be of no account to anyone, let alone you. You begin to speak ill of the person to other people, hoping they will join you in your personal crusade to destroy a person’s reputation. When something bad happens to that person, you take pleasure. Maybe when you do speak to the person, the only thing you can say is, “I’ll see you in hell”.

How does any of these spiteful words and actions fit with our blessed Lord’s Words in Luke chapter six. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Jesus later gives a comparison between two people who hold grudges against each other. One is described as a speck, the other as a plank. If one nitpicks at another about a speck while having a plank in their own eye, what good does it do to judge? It’s like removing a splinter from your finger with tongs meant to flip hot dogs on the grill. Furthermore, you can’t see to remove the splinter because there’s a plank in your own eye.

It is given for children of God to be merciful, not to judge, not to condemn, but to forgive. Jesus says, for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. There are going to be people in life you don’t like. It’s a shame, but that’s life in this fallen world. You may not like someone for various reasons. However, it is not given to you to withhold mercy, or judge their heart, or condemn them to hell just because you don’t like them. Withholding mercy, judging hearts, and condemning someone to hell while saying you are a Christian is like taking God’s gracious love that dwells in you through Jesus’ blood and merit and throwing it in a landfill. It is hypocrisy. It believes one thing while saying and doing another thing.

Jesus says, first remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye. How do you get the plank out of your own eye? Repent. Show mercy. Stop judging other people’s hearts. Do not condemn them. Believe again that Jesus Christ has shown you mercy, Divine mercy from our Father in heaven.

Our heavenly Father’s mercy is much like the mercy Joseph showed to his brothers in the Old Testament reading. Joseph had every right to withhold mercy, judge them condemned, and hope they burned in hell. They wanted to kill him. They instead sold him off into slavery and told their father Jacob that he was dead. Joseph’s brothers put themselves before him as servants. Joseph’s response to his brothers sounds like something a fool would say. Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.

That’s not crazy talk, that’s wisdom speaking – Divine wisdom – Divine mercy. Joseph’s response foreshadows Jesus Christ’s willingness to suffer and die on behalf of our sins. Joseph was not given up as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Nevertheless, he suffered much for the sake of saving His family. Before there was earthly glory and responsibility for Joseph, there was humiliation and suffering. Joseph walks the Jesus way.

Jesus Christ delivers mercy, judgment, condemnation, forgiveness, and giving in His death and resurrection. His death delivers God’s mercy for you. The prince of this world is judged and condemned because Jesus first was judged and condemned in our place. Christ’s death declares your sins forgiven, paid for in full. You are not guilty. Saint Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans: the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. That is your gift because of Jesus’ blood and merit.

Jesus says, a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. You will never achieve perfect training this side of heaven. You also are not above your teacher, no matter how intelligent you are. The Means of Grace through preaching and the Sacraments nurture you this side of heaven in order to prepare you for eternal life yet to come, as well as life outside the walls of this church building. Because Christ is merciful to you first, you show mercy to your neighbor. Because Christ is judged on your behalf, you do not judge your neighbor, nor do you condemn him. Instead, you forgive him and give to him because you also are in need of forgiveness and the gift of God in Christ Jesus.

Saint Paul says in today’s Epistle: we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. The body groans to be with the Lord. The body groans to be redeemed. As the body groans, so does the soul. The soul thirsts for the living God. Body and soul, groaning together, have deliverance. Psalm 79 says: atone for our sins, for Your name’s sake! Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name deliver us. Psalm 9 says: You have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment. The judgment you seek is not one of vengeance for earthly slight. The judgment you seek is judgment for sin. Jesus Christ is that judgment. Because of Christ, you are not guilty. You are free. The plank is removed from your eye in order that you may see clearly your brother’s eye. Once his splinter is removed, you both walk together to the House of the Lord for His gifts that give forgiveness. When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall… The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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