Readings: Genesis 50:15-21 | Romans 8:18-23 | Luke 6:36-42
Text: Luke 6:36-42
We are living in what could possibly be the most judgmental period in human history. Despite the efforts of previous generations to teach us not to be judgmental, the pendulum has swung back sharply and made us and the society we live in into critical monsters. Judging makes small men feel big, gives us a feeling of control in a chaotic world. We vainly imagine that we sit above it all, objective, fair, and wise, ready to weigh in with wit and insight that will garner the approval of others on and offline.
This is an age of great delusion, a time of chauvinism where we believe we can look with superiority over the actions and motives of others. Not only do we think that we’re competent to judge every decision which our supervisor makes, but even the public policies of nations and the way the neighbor cuts his grass. We think that we’re competent to understand complicated scientific and societal problems. After all, didn’t we read that 900-word article on the topic that our friend shared on Facebook? Didn’t we skim what Google has carefully curated for us? Ask anyone their opinion of masks, vaccines, and health policy, and you’re sure to bring the expert out in each of us.
Repent. These are all vanities. They do some harm, but we do worse. Technology has enabled and encouraged us toward judgment. We have laughed at compilations of America’s Dumbest Criminals. From the safety of the screen, we have been self-righteously disgusted with what media outlets and YouTube has showed us. Still, we have been worse. We have looked at our own family and friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and silently, or quietly behind their backs, labelled them idiots because they dared to have an opinion different than ours — as though we were all-wise and perfectly educated and reasonable and had the right to judge them. According to Jesus if you call a man a fool—even that man can’t hear you, even if he is only an image on a screen—then you are in danger of Hellfire. Don’t brush off the words of Jesus. That is what He says, and He means it. Repent.
Judging in these ways is unbefitting of our calling. It is condemned by the 8th commandment. Even if the judgments were accurate or fair, even of your brother-in-law is a fool, these judgements would damn us. They hurt people. They damage our faith.
The golden rule exposes us:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
We hate to be judged with the judgment with which we have judged. Who has never been bullied out of fear of judgment into silence or into towing the party line? In our day, a single misstep, the repetition of a thoughtless cliche, or even failure to praise and pander to the right group with the right words can end a career or incite violence. And if that can happen when the one being judged is actually innocent, imagine what happens when we actually deserve judgment, that is when we say something wrong or ignorant or mean out of stress or pain. You could be the next “Karen”—a called out white woman, that the world feels superior to and you could lose your job and your family and friends because of it.
We would be fools to not be careful in this social climate, but even so we are weak. We sometimes lash out in that weakness, from pain or fear or exhaustion. We sometimes cave to our baser desires. And if we weren’t enough of a problem in ourselves, the world’s standards are ever changing. We cannot appease them for the prince of this world is the father of lies. He loves the judging, the plotting, the putting on of appearances. If we think that we must win his approval through the world’s judgment we will be driven either to self-righteous delusion or to despair.
Instead, turn to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is more ready and eager to forgive than Joseph, of whom we heard in the Old Testament lesson. He has plans for us beyond this groaning world, adoption into His home and the redemption of our bodies. He has been the victim of slander, false accusations, and racism. He has suffered terrible injustice and cruelty. He has been tortured and betrayed and killed. He has borne all this in our place. His sorrow and suffering is our bride price. He has won and paid for us with His own life to free us not only of the punishment that our sins deserve, but also to free us also from judgment. For Christ’s sake we are spared our Father’s wrath and the judgment of the world is moot. He presents us as His immaculate Bride, clean and without blemish, free of the past, of guilt and regret, with eyes only for Him.
That is both a present and a future reality. Our guilt is removed. We are declared righteous by Christ now. And yet, we do not yet fully know this righteousness in our bodies or our minds. We must contend still with our own fallen flesh and the broken world all around us. This is not our home. We do bad things here, failing to live up to God’s Law, and bad things are done to us, some of which we deserve and should expect and some of which we shouldn’t. Thus, we are ever more eager to depart from this world, for us to die is gain.
While we are here, groaning with creation in eager expectation of our revelation to the world as the church, and ourselves as God’s own sons, we fight within ourselves. The old man is daily drowned by the Law. We hear Jesus’ command: “Judge not; condemn not; forgive” and we repent. We recommit and set our wills to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in what is good, in what He gives, in what He says, even if what He says accuses us. And we trust that our salvation is secure in Him, by His grace, not by our keeping of the Law, but by His keeping of the Law and facing judgment for us. We are saved by grace through faith.
When it comes to our own temptation to judge in the ways of the world and our failures to resist it, our repentance and amending our lives means that we must do the work of reconciliation. While the unbelieving world has a loud group of spectators ever ready to judge and criticize all actions by their own fickle standards, our homes and our families and our church do not. We must not. We cannot. We are not spectators, waiting to sweep in on those who make a mistake or who cave in to lust or anger or greed.
We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are bound by forgiveness and compassion. We kneel together in humility and joy. We pray therefore for courage and compassion, that we would act as true friends and companions. We ask that the Spirit would increase our love for one another and give us wisdom so that we would actually care for one another in word and deed and thought.
We are not interested in party slogans or posing as Christians, while we hold bitterness in our hearts. We do not care for code language meant to show that we are in the right tribe or on the right side. We love one another. We, the children of God, always have – even we have acted as though we did.
41 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? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is 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.
Forgiveness and tolerance are not novel ideals for us in this new, exceedingly judgmental environment. Forgiveness and tolerance are the hallmark of what Christ has done for us, how He sustains us, and who He makes us to be. Our prayer is that God honor us by allowing us to care for one another where it hurts and where we differ. We do not ignore the specks in one another’s eyes, nor do we seek to profit from them or to show our superiority in any way. Let there be no delight in the failure of our enemies or our friends—”20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:20-21) We continue, by grace, in what God has begun, in what we learned in the Catechism. We strive to speak and act and even think in love at all times and places, to put the best construction on why specks exist, and to see one another as Christ sees us, in compassion and mercy, and not as competition.
This, the measure that Christ has used with us, even though we have no right to it. In Him, we ask, that we might share His abundant patience and love also with one another and be His Church. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Original sermon by Pastor David Petersen of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN, adapted by Pastor Michael Miller.