Fourth Sunday after Trinity
ďDo You Want Justice or Mercy?Ē
June 19, 2005
When we think we need justice
more than we need mercy we had better think again.
Justice is fine if you are just.
If not, you deserve whatever penalty Justice requires.
So take a serious look at yourself before you judge or condemn
your neighbor. You think
you know what is wrong with him. You
think you have the right to say so.
You think you may pass judgment and call for justice.
Is that what you think?
We think this way because we
forget what we are. We
forget what mercy is because we lose sight of how much we need it.
Receiving mercy is a bit like having little children.
You remember it only for a little while. When the children grow you have a hard time remembering what
it was like. It is
something you need to experience and even when you do, you forget, so
you need to experience it again and again.
Mercy must be experienced.
No, you donít have to have a certain kind of feeling or
emotion. But you cannot give what you havenít received.
Jesus says, ďDonít judge.
Donít condemn. Forgive.
Give.Ē Jesus is
teaching us that we must do for others as our Father in heaven has
already done for us. He
says, ďBe merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.Ē
If we havenít received Godís mercy, we wonít be able to do
as Jesus here tells us to do. We
will remain judgmental, unloving, unforgiving, and stingy.
We need a life-changing spiritual experience.
Confessional Lutherans are often accused of elevating doctrine
above life as if we donít care much about the Christian life as long
as we have the sound doctrine. But
we cherish the pure doctrine because of what it gives to us.
It brings us a new life to live.
There should be no conflict at
all between the true teaching and the right experience.
In fact, these two go together.
Jesus says, ďCan the blind lead the blind?
Will they not both fall into the ditch?
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is
perfectly trained will be like his teacher.Ē
Jesus is the Light of the world.
Jesus is the teacher. Jesus
teaches us about mercy and forgiveness and generosity.
But he doesnít just say words to us.
Jesus brings us mercy. Jesus
takes away Godís judgment and condemnation.
Jesus forgives us our sins.
Jesus gives us eternal life.
He teaches us by doing for us what we couldnít do for
ourselves. This is how we
learn the true nature of God.
When Jesus bore all of Godís
judgment against sinners on the cross, He revealed true mercy to the
world. Jesus did not argue
that God should simply set aside His judgment against sinners.
Jesus knew the justice of God because He was and is God.
He met justice. He
never denied it or tried to evade it.
And because He loved us He chose to do what justice required of
us. He chose to suffer the
punishment that Justice demanded of us.
He met Justice with Mercy.
If Christ is not for us, God is
not merciful, we stand under judgment, we remain condemned, our sins are
not forgiven, and we have nothing in this life worth anything at all.
If Christ is not for us, we are losers one and all.
But Christ is for us.
And this means that Godís mercy is not just talk.
When Jesus says, ďBe merciful, just as your Father also is
merciful,Ē he is talking about a real mercy, not just words about
mercy. For many centuries
the Holy Christian Church on earth has gathered together on Sunday
mornings to hear the gospel and to receive the Supper of Christís body
and blood. At the beginning
of every service is the Kyrie, which is Greek for ďLord,Ē as in
ďLord have mercy upon us.Ē This
is how the church service begins. It
has always begun in this way. We
come before God and we plead for mercy.
We invoke the name of Jesus.
And as the Divine Service progresses, we see quite concretely and
specifically how God is merciful to us.
We sing of Christís birth, which brought Godís peace and
goodwill to this world. We hear the Scriptures tell of this same Jesus and we confess
our faith in the words of the Creed.
We sing praises to God for what he had done for us. We hear the gospel preached.
We sing of what God gives us in the Lordís Supper.
We eat and we drink Christís body and blood.
What is all this about? It
is about people who need mercy receiving mercy.
Thatís what church is all about.
Itís about receiving mercy from the Christ who is for us.
He lived for us. He
died for us. As the Creed
puts it, ďWho for us men and for our salvation was incarnate by the
Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.Ē
Jesus teaches us about Himself. But this is never just facts to memorize.
It is about our relationship with God.
We experience Godís mercy.
The experience isnít simply a matter of feeling or emotion.
It is Jesus telling us that Godís judgment against us and His
anger against us are now gone. Jesus
really did face divine justice on the cross.
He really did gain for us our heavenly Fatherís mercy.
It is not a wish or a dream or an idea.
Itís the truth.
Consider this truth.
God knows you. He
knows everything wrong about you. He
knows the sins youíve committed.
He knows when you broke your word and lied to cover up your lie.
He knows when you stole and when you cheated.
He knows you. He
sees the plank that is stuck in your eye that blinds you to your own
sin. But instead of
standing in judgment against you, your God lifts off of you all of your
sin and guilt and He lays it on His dear Son, Jesus.
He sends the Holy Spirit into your heart who converts you and so
you repent of your sins and trust in Christ.
This is mercy.
Now you know what mercy is all
about. It is about removing
judgment. It is about
setting aside condemnation. It
is about forgiving people who have done wrong, even when theyíve done
it again and again. It is about giving to those who have nothing to give in
return. You know this is
what mercy is because this is what you have received from God. In receiving this you are changed by it.
Thatís the way it works. You
believe the teacher when He teaches you.
Jesus teaches you and in so doing He takes the beam out of your
eye so that you can see. Now you can see enough to show mercy to others.
People worry about being used or
taken for granted. They
donít want to waste their time, their effort, or their goodwill.
But goodwill or mercy can never be wasted.
Was it wasted on you? Did
God do wrong by showing you kindness and taking your guilt away? Did God act foolishly by meeting His judgment against you on
the cross and taking it away by the sacrifice of Jesus for you then and
there? Was it a good idea
for God to give His dearest treasure for you?
We say yes, of course.
What else can we say? We
say yes by doing what God has done.
And this is the point of Jesusí sermon to us this morning.
Have you received mercy from God?
Then give it! Did
God take away his judgment against you?
Then stop judging your neighbor!
Did Jesus bear your condemnation and set you free from it?
Then donít demand that your neighbor pay for his own sins if
God hasnít demanded it of you! Has
God forgiven you? Then
forgive those who sin against you.
Has God stopped forgiving you?
Then donít you stop either.
Even when it requires you to put up with more than you think you
can tolerate. You cannot
show too much mercy.
As traditional Bible believing Lutherans who insist on holding to the pure doctrine of Godís word without compromise we are often accused of being judgmental. All you have to do is to insist that you know the truth and someone is sure to think you are standing in judgment of everyone who doesnít know the truth. To be dogmatic about your Christian convictions is less than a popular thing to do. But at the center of our Christian convictions is the fact that God, for Christís sake, has removed His judgment from us and forgiven us all our sins. Letís be dogmatic about that! Letís insist that our doctrine is true and that it is focused, not on the judgment of God against sinners, but on the mercy of God revealed in Christ. God doesnít judge us for our sins in order to leave us under His judgment. He judges us in order to lead us to Christ in whom there is nothing but pure mercy and forgiveness.
Listen to the promise Jesus
gives: ďA good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running
over.Ē God isnít cheap.
He doesnít try to fake us out by appearances.
He always gives us much more than we give in return. He rewards generosity because he rewards his children and his
children learn generosity from Him simply by trusting in Him.
He gives and He gives and He gives.
He wonít stop, because He loves you.
And He wonít stop telling you that the greatest gift you can
ever show anyone is the kind of mercy you have been shown.
Everybody needs something we
have to give. The boss
needs your hard work. The
church needs your offering. The
wife needs your kindness. The
husband needs your respect. The
parents need your attention. The
children need your care. But
what people need the most from you, dear Christian, is precisely what
God has given you in Christ. They
need your mercy. They need
you to forgive, to stop judging, and to love as God has loved you.
In this way you show what it means to be a Christian. You act as a child of God.
And when you fail, cry out for mercy once more.
God will hear your cry and he will answer.
He will give you what you need.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus