|The Fourth Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| June 28, 2015| St. Luke 6:36-37|
“Therefore 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. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. St. Luke 6:36-37
I cannot think of a passage in the Bible that is more commonly misinterpreted and twisted to mean what it does not say than the words of Christ: Judge not. Before we can understand what Jesus is saying to us when he tells us not to judge, we need to understand what he is not saying to us.
He is not condemning all forms of judging. Parents obviously must have the right to judge their children’s behavior. God gave the civil authorities the right to establish laws, judge human behavior, and punish criminals. Jesus told Pontius Pilate that Pilate’s authority was given to him from above. St. Paul, wrote that the civil rulers are God’s servants when they exercise the power of the sword. If no one has the right to judge criminals, they will get away with their crimes. We will live in a dog eat dog world where the weak are at the mercy of the strong.
It is not just the civil authorities who have the right to judge. Every Christian has the duty to judge doctrine. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets.” You cannot beware of false teachers unless you judge what you are taught. Does it agree with the Holy Scriptures? Pastors, especially, have the duty to judge doctrine and to warn those under their spiritual care of threats against the truth. St. Paul repeatedly urges pastors to teach only the pure doctrine. This entails judging false doctrine as well. St. Paul concludes his list of qualifications for a pastor in Titus 1:9 with these words:
[H]olding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
“Judge not,” Jesus says. He is not denying either the civil authorities or the ministers of his church the right to judge, according to their office. He is not denying us Christians the right to judge what is true and false, right and wrong according to his holy word. This kind of judgment is necessary or we will be swept away by the current of godlessness that is engulfing our nation.
To understand the kind of judging that Jesus forbids, read what he says in its larger context. He says:
Therefore 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. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Jesus is talking about applying the gospel we have received to others who are in need of it. How has our Father in heaven treated us? He has shown us mercy. He has withdrawn his judgment against us. Instead of condemning us for our sins, he has forgiven us. Since our Father in heaven is merciful to us, we should also be merciful to others. He is our Father and we are his children. As he withholds his judgment, sets aside his condemnation, and forgives, he gives us the power and the desire to do so for others.
This is what our Lord Jesus is teaching us. It is called the Golden Rule. What you want others to do for you is what you should do for them. Love your neighbor as yourself. The life of the Christian should be marked by the mercy he has received from God. Living by mercy means that we give the mercy we receive. We receive and give. We give and receive. That’s the Christian life. Mercy is the hallmark of the life of a Christian. This is the meaning of our text.
“Judge not.” Don’t pick at your neighbor’s faults. Consider your own sin. Faultfinders aren’t showing mercy. They are setting themselves up as their own gods, and doing a poor job of it. Only the true God is truly merciful. He reveals who he really is in the crucifixion of his Son where, instead of condemning the world, he condemned his Son. From that act of supreme mercy all mercy flows: from God to us and through us to others.
Mercy met justice and mercy won. Mercy won, not by denying justice, not by throwing out right and wrong, but by doing right and suffering wrong. It is a counterfeit and deceitful mercy that calls right wrong and wrong right. God said through the prophet Isaiah:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20
Those who twist our Savior’s words, “Judge not,” into a license to sin despise the blood of Jesus shed to forgive sin. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews warns of those who, in the name of God’s grace, deliberately sin against God’s commandments, as we read:
[H]ow much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29)
Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all fifty states must recognize same sex unions as marriages. They struck down the laws of Montana and North Dakota and all other states that define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Pretending that the Constitution of the United States gives them the right to change the definition of marriage that has existed among civilized people for thousands of years, they are not just imposing their political views on us. They are imposing their religion on us. It was a religious decision. It is an imposition of a specific religion on our country. The religion of the Supreme Court majority is identified by St. Paul, the Apostle, in his Epistle to the Romans, chapter one:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. Romans 1:18-27
When the state regards homosexuality as a good thing that should not only be tolerated, but endorsed and protected by law, it is attacking the God who made us male and female in his image. More than that, it is denying the natural knowledge of God and of his law. Homosexual lusts and behavior are an expression of this denial. Christians who worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ must bow before this godless religion or be ostracized and persecuted.
A subtle form of this persecution are the lies spoken against us and our faith, as if we are disobedient to our Lord Jesus who told us not to judge when we say that homosexuality is a sin against God and nature. Do not be intimidated. To deny sin as sin is to deny the Savior as Savior. Remember that! When sin is defined away, it will become a sin to believe, teach, and confess that Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross to take away all sin!
Don’t be deceived. The Supreme Court decision is an attack on our Father in heaven who made us male and female in his image. But here is what the Supreme Court majority and their coreligionists all across America don’t understand, as they stand in judgment of us Christians for standing on the word of God. These people actually think that they are being merciful. They are blind. When the God who made us male and female in his image is denied, so is mercy. They can’t see this. By imposing, according to their godless religion, perversions against God’s law – all in the name of mercy – they deprive themselves of the God who is merciful.
There is no mercy, no forgiveness, no removal of judgment and condemnation except through Christ, who suffered condemnation on the cross for the sins of adulterers, thieves, murderers, homosexuals, drunkards, wife-beaters, pornographers, liars, and everyone else who hates God. The mercy we receive comes from our heavenly Father who gave us his only begotten Son. His love for us required payment for our sins. Only Jesus could make the payment. It was not an indulgent love that winked at sin as if sin isn’t sin. It was a strong love that confronted sin on the cross, and by paying its wages, washed it away.
Those who promote same sex “marriage” do not love homosexuals. They love themselves. They congratulate themselves on their enlightened view of morality, as they call evil good and good evil. They mistake the fulfillment of perverted and sinful passions as love. They deny the God who made us, male and female, in his own image. They leave homosexuals under God’s judgment, pretending that they can get rid of sin by denying it.
True love for homosexuals and all other kinds of sinners is the love of Christ who commanded that repentance and the forgiveness of sins be preached in his name to all nations. True love directs sinners to put their sins on Jesus, trusting in his blood to wash them all away. When we live under the mercy of the cross, then, and only then, can we show genuine mercy to those who need it.