Brief message for Trinity 4
Isaiah 58:6-12 + Romans 8:18-23 + Luke 6:36-42
Dear Christian family,
Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Again, I give thanks to God for you and am looking forward to seeing you again in person, Lord willing.
You have the Scripture readings for today printed on the back of your service insert. You can follow along, if you like, as I read the Gospel from Luke chapter 6.
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. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” And He spoke a parable to them: “Can 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. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
In this Gospel, Jesus instructs His disciples to “be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” The Apostle Paul wrote similar words in his epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 5: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Mercy is a form of love. Love can be a sincere commitment to anyone, to the good and to the bad, to friend or enemy. But mercy is when genuine kindness is shown specifically to the unkind, to the wretched, the pitiful, the miserable, the helpless and the wicked. Jesus tells us to be merciful just as your Father also is merciful. How is He merciful?
In what way does our Father “judge not and condemn not”? Certainly He is the Judge of all mankind. His Law tells us what He judges to be right and wrong, and He does indeed condemn the wicked. The Apostle Paul says, Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
So in what way does He “judge not, condemn not, and forgive?” He says through the prophet Ezekiel, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel? Even when people wickedly rebel against Him, our Father doesn’t want to see them die, doesn’t want to see them burn in hell. Even though they hate Him, He still cares about the wicked, and wants the wicked to repent and live with Him eternally, because our Father Himself has provided the sacrifice of atonement for all sin. Our Father Himself, in His mercy, has chosen to judge and condemn His Son as the substitute for all sinners. Our Father’s desire is for all sinners to believe in Christ, to be forgiven through faith in Christ.
That’s how He judges not, condemns not, and forgives, by treating sinners kindly—far better than we deserve—by desiring their life and their repentance, and by sacrificing His own Son for them.
And He calls on His children to be like Him in this, to have a heart of mercy toward those who are unkind, wicked, nasty or mean. A judging and condemning heart looks for the faults in your neighbor and seeks to expose them, whereas a merciful heart seeks to help your neighbor and hide his faults.
Jesus also includes a warning in our Gospel against hypocrisy. You’re a hypocrite if you pretend you’re better than your neighbor, or if you pretend to know God and yet refuse to show mercy to your neighbor. The only ones who can be merciful as God is merciful are those who have first recognized their own great need for God’s mercy, who have noticed the plank in their own eye, the selfish heart in their own chest that loves to take offense, that loves to put others in their place. The more you recognize your own wretchedness, the more you will value your Father’s mercy, which moved Him to send His Son for you, and still moves Him to forgive you your sins as you look to Him for mercy. The more you value your Father’s mercy toward you, the more ready you will be to show it to others.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
Peace be with you.