Fourth Sunday after Trinity
July 5, 2009
Emmanuel Lutheran Church—Dwight, IL
Revised and updated June 19, 2016
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
In + Jesus’ name.
“Be merciful,” says Jesus. Why? “Just as your Father is merciful” (v 36). Jesus’ prescription for us who believe in Him to be merciful isn’t just some good advice that He came up with one day. The mercy that Jesus wants to rule in our lives has its foundation and source in the Father’s mercy. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (v 36).
Our Father in Heaven Loves Mercy
While Jesus tells us to be merciful, we Christians often take more delight in judging and condemning others.
I once knew someone who carried around a picture of a sickly old man in his wallet. The reason why is so that whenever he felt low, he could take out the picture and convince himself that there was always someone worse off.
This same pattern of thought is what makes Christians so likely to judge and condemn others. It gives us a feeling of superiority. Like the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank You I’m not like the other people: robbers, wrongdoers, adulterers, or even like that tax collector” (Luke 18:11), we Christians take comfort in knowing that we’re not the worst sinner who are out there.
Yet it’s a false comfort, for a Christian who judges and condemns another sinner is like the blind leading the blind. He pictured it to them in this way: “Can a blind man lead another blind man? Won’t they both fall into a ditch?” (v 39). Christians are also sinners worthy of judgment and condemnation.
Thus it’s the utmost display of hubris for a Christian to self-righteously point out the sin of another. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye,” asks Jesus, “and don’t notice the log in your own eye?” How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ as long as you don’t see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite” (vv 41-42a).
Judgment and condemnation are works of God, but He does not take delight in judging and condemning His creation to eternal death. For God desires that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 3:4). God’s work of judgment and condemnation are alien to His nature.
The nature of God, rather is to be merciful and superabundantly generous with His grace. A good measure, pressed together, shaken down, and running over, will be put into your lap. You see, the measure you use will be used for you” (v 38).
Our Lord gives us His gifts of forgiveness in manifold ways—through the washing of regeneration in Baptism, through the preaching of His Word of forgiveness, through Holy Absolution, through the meal of His body and blood. He even gives us forgiveness so that we might forgive one another. The Lord is certainly not stingy with His giving.
Thus, Christ wants us Christians to love forgiveness, not judgment. He wants us to cherish giving, not condemning.
“Don’t judge, and you will not be judged. Don’t condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given you” (vv 37-38a).
In regards to the specks we so often find in the eyes of our neighbors, Jesus says, “first throw the log out of your own eye. Then you’ll see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (v 42b).
How do you remove the log from your own eye? Go to confession. Hear God’s Word of Absolution for you. Go to His Supper. Eat His body and blood for the remission of your sins.
When the Father’s mercy is the rule of your life, then the way you view your fellow sinful man will change. No longer will you see the speck in his eye while ignoring the plank in your own; no longer will you judge others and condemn them for failing to meet your standards of Christianity. Rather, when you see the speck that sticks in your neighbor’s eye and say to him, “Friend, I often have the same problem with my eye—even worse sometimes. I know the place to go to get it removed.”
The Father’s nature is to be merciful. And though He judges in righteousness and condemns evil, He does not love that work. Rather, He loves forgiveness and giving His gifts.
In + Jesus’ name.
Jacob W Ehrhard