4th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 6:36-42 + June 19, 2016

The Catechetical Recitation
Hymn #263 O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe
Hymn #288 Lord Help Us Ever To Retain
Hymn #444 Rise to Arms, With Prayer Employ You 
Hymn #262 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Introit - TLH pg. 74
Isaiah 58:6-12
Romans 8:18-32
Luke 6:36-42

Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by Thy governance, that Thy Church may joyfully serve Thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The meaning of this text is quite simple. Christ does not want His Christians rushing to judge and condemn their neighbors. If we rush to judge our neighbors in their sins then we should expect that same judgment to be used against us when we sin against our neighbor. “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you,” Jesus says. If you are quick to judge and condemn your neighbor when they sin against you, when they break your trust, when they damage your reputation, then that judgment and condemnation will come back quickly on you. However, if you are quick to forgive the sins of your neighbor then that same forgiveness will be given to you when you sin against your neighbor. Jesus teaches us that we are to be humble when dealing with our neighbor’s sins because we have plenty of our own, or as we say in the Small Catechism, “for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment.[1] To drive this point home Jesus paints the comical picture of men walking about, trying to remove specs of sawdust from each other’s eyes, while large beams of timber protrude from their own. In short, this entire gospel lesson is about how we treat one another, and specifically that we should deal with one another in mercy. Jesus opens today’s lesson by saying, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Since we have been made into children of God in Holy Baptism, since God has adopted us so that He becomes our dear Father and we become His dear children in the sacrament of water and the Word, we ought to behave like our heavenly Father, who is chiefly known in showing mercy to sinners. So when our neighbor sins, we cover their sin according to the eighth commandment, seeking to put the best construction on their actions before others. When our neighbor slights us, we should not become easily offended and pass over the offense, realizing that that is exactly what God our Father does with our many and great sins.

2)         And while this text is fairly simple, it has become one of the most abused texts in our day. “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” has become a favorite knee-jerk reaction of people who want to remain in their sins. I’m sure you’ve heard it used this way before. Someone says that homosexuality is a sin of which people need to repent. Someone else chides them with Jesus’ words, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” meaning, “Jesus said we’re not supposed to judge one another, and here you are doing just that! You can’t say that homosexuality is a sin, or that what they’re doing is a sin! That’s being judgmental!” What’s so frustrating about such a tactic is that it has the appearance of piety when in reality it’s the argument of the Devil himself. It appears pious simply because the very words of Jesus are being used. But it is devilish because Jesus’ words are being used against the message of Jesus, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17). Or what Jesus tells His apostles to preach after His resurrection, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). It is not we who are condemning such sins, it is the Law, for the Law is how God condemns sinners in their sin so that they might flee to Christ for the forgiveness of all their sins. When someone says, to stick with our example, that homosexuality is a sin of which someone else needs to repent, what they are in effect saying is, “What you are doing is not right. It violates God’s institution of marriage and sexuality and is contrary to the Scriptures. It is not me condemning your sin, it is St. Paul, it is the Holy Ghost who has already condemned your sins, because Jesus has also said the Holy Ghost “will convict the world of sin” (John 16:8). Now, when we speak thus we should not be haughty about it, but humble and meek, but we must also take heart that God does not want to leave us in our sins and cast us into Hell, therefore we, in mercy and love, to not want others to remain in willful sin and cast themselves headlong into Hell either.

3)         Another way which this text is so terribly abused these days is when it is used as shield against false teachings or bad practices in the church. It goes the same way as the preceding abuse. Someone points out that another church isn’t following Christ’s mandate to baptize all nations because they withhold the gifts of baptism from children. Or that said church does not have the sacrament at all because they publically confess that Christ is not present in the bread and wine other than perhaps symbolically. We could point out any number of practices in churches that are harmful to souls because they focus the worshiper on themselves and their own emotions rather than on Christ and His sure and certain promises, practices like contemporary worship or altar calls. You get the point. Calling out another church for its misuse of, our outright unbelief in the Word of God, and inevitably someone will the play the “Judge not, lest ye be judged” card. This is what makes this text one of the most abused texts of the gospel in our day. It becomes a shield for impiety and false doctrine. Too often it is used as a cloak for sinful behavior that is condemned by the Holy Scripture. It is also ridiculously difficult to defend against, for the use of it in such a way is designed to shut the conversation down by labeling the one who cares for God’s Word as intolerant, bigoted, or pharisaical. The only remedy against such a tactic is the truth of this text.

4)         Jesus isn’t telling His disciples that they should never confront anyone in their false doctrine and practice. Otherwise, St. Paul sinned a great sin when he “withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11). Peter had been seduced by the Judaizers who wanted the Gentile converts to Christianity to submit to circumcision and the dietary laws. Peter was wrong. Not only was He wrong, but He was wrong about the gospel, and by his behavior, would have burdened souls and changed the gospel of Christ into a preaching of works-righteousness. So Paul confronted Peter, to His face, in front of everyone present. Did Paul sin by confronting Peter in his sin and false gospel? Not at all. St. Paul had the office of teaching and oversight, the apostolic office of Christ, as Peter did. Therefore it was Paul’s duty to judge doctrine and condemn false doctrine, but only by using the Word of God. Otherwise it would not be true in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” It is not we who do the condemning, it is the Word of Holy Scripture. Paul had the Office of the Holy Ministry, so it was his duty, given to him by Christ Himself, to preach the pure gospel and defend it from error. So we see that pastors today ought to do the same thing and preach against those doctrines and practices which run contrary to the gospel by inserting human works, human reason, and human imagination into the gospel, thus turning it into “a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).

5)         Nor is Jesus telling His disciples that they are not to confront their neighbor when their neighbor falls into sin. That would be the height of hatred and unloving to allow someone to remain in their sin so that they fall under the wrath of God for impenitence. Consider what St. Paul instructs us to do in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The apostle of Christ does not want the saints of his congregations to simply allow a brother in Christ to be overtaken by idolatry, by lust, by greed, by wickedness, or any sin. Rather, St. Paul instructs the Galatians, and all Christians, to work for that man’s restoration, that is, his repentance and faith in the gospel that God forgives the sins of all who believe Christ. To claim that we are not to work for the restoration of sinners is to destroy the entire gospel and ministry of reconciliation, which preaches that God forgives the sins of all who repent and believe the gospel! To reduce the gospel to “live and let live,” or “God is love, therefore we can’t condemn sin,” is to reduce the gospel to a mere belief in “tolerance.” But this is truly Satanic, for God does not tolerate sin, but desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth that God promised to forgive our sins because He is faithful to His promise in the gospel.

6)         This is why Jesus, in the gospel lesson, explains, “First remove the plank form your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the spec that is in your brother’s eye.” “First. . . then.” We all have to confront people that sin against us, but we must do so having our sins absolved first and being aware of our great weakness. When it is beneficial for our neighbor that we do confront them about their sin or their false belief, we must do so gently and as St. Paul says in Galatians 6:1, “in a spirit of gentleness.” We do not fly off the handle. Nor do we confront them in an angry rage, for that is not how God our heavenly Father deals with us when we sin. When we sin, He mercifully shows us our sin by His Law and teaches us to flee to the Throne of Grace, our Lord Jesus Christ, because only there does He promise to show us the fullness of His mercy. The entire point of this gospel lesson, simple as it is, is that we are to be merciful to our neighbor when they sin against us, because God our heavenly Father daily showers us with great mercy by covering our sins by faith in Christ. When, for the good of our fellow-man, we must say something about their sin, or their false belief, or the false teaching of the congregation to which they belong, we must do so gently and meekly,speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

7)         So we see that this text is a wonderful text for us, teaching us that all our dealings with our neighbor, who daily sins against us, should be in mercy because our lives should continually reflect the mercy we are daily given by God our Father. When we must speak, and when must confront someone in their sin, we see that Christ first bids us remove the plank from our own eye through repentance and faith, and that we speak the truth of God’s law and gospel in love, just as our Father in heaven has done for us, and continues to do for us, through His Word and sacraments. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism. Part III. The Lord’s Prayer. Fifth Petition.

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