Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Would you dare to have mercy upon someone who doesn't deserve it? Would you do good to someone who couldn't pay you back? Jesus tells us today, "Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful." Jesus teaches us what it means that God the Father has mercy on us sinners and He calls us as His disciples to learn that mercy for our neighbor, for the people who are in our lives.
“Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful." And how is our Father merciful? Our heavenly Father is merciful in this way: Rather than giving us what we deserve for our sins, He sends His Son to take our sins away. Rather than punishing us, He sends the Son to take the punishment for us. Rather than give us what we've got coming, He sends Jesus to arrange eternal life and salvation for us. God's mercy is that He saves us from our sins when he doesn't have to. God is under no obligation to forgive us or save us. He doesn't owe us anything. But He is merciful. That means we don’t get what we have coming. It means we get Jesus instead, who obeys the Father and accomplishes our salvation by dying for sinners.
"Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful." How do you do that? Jesus tells us: Don't judge. Forgive others and don't complain about your neighbor's speck while you've got a plank sticking out of your own eye. When Jesus says not to judge, we need to listen closely. This doesn't mean that parents don't judge their children and pastors don't judge doctrine and call people to repent when they're doing wrong or that actual judges don't condemn and sentence prisoners. No, when Jesus tells us not to judge, He's telling us not to treat others as if their sins are greater than ours. As if we are holier than they are. As if they deserve what they've got coming and we don't. Are you merciful? Or do you deny mercy to your neighbor and those around you? We love to come and receive forgiveness for our sins, but we just as easily turn around and withhold that same forgiveness from others. Brothers and sisters in Christ, this must not be! With all of His words, Jesus calls us to repentance for wanting forgiveness for ourselves but not passing it on to others. You should know this: If you want forgiveness but you refuse to forgive, if you want God to turn away from judging you while you judge someone else, then don't claim that you are a Christian. Repent of that hypocrisy and cry out to the Lord that He will be merciful and take the plank out of your eye.
To have your plank removed is to be baptized and washed clean of all your sins. To remove the plank is to confess your sins and receive Holy Absolution by which those sins are declared no longer held against you. To remove the plank is to kneel at the Lord's altar and receive the body and blood of Jesus through which God is merciful and forgives your sins. That is how our Lord takes the plank out of our eye. He continually pours out His mercy upon us, continually showers His mercy upon us in Jesus Christ.
"Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful." That means now you are clear of the plank in your eye to deal with the speck in your brother's eye. How do you do that? You deal with them as God has dealt with you: with mercy—mercy like the Father's mercy. My brothers and sisters in Christ, mercy means that, just as you have been forgiven and God does not hold even one sin against you in Jesus Christ, by the same Lord Jesus Christ you don't hold anything against anyone else. Don't hang on to their sins. Let them go. Treat them as they do not deserve, just as your Father in heaven deals with you in Jesus Christ. But what if they sin? Gently, with love and patience, correct and teach as you need to.
"Be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful." With those words, Jesus destroys our self righteousness and delivers what we don't deserve: mercy and forgiveness. With those words, "Be merciful," we learn what sort of mercy our heavenly Father has for us in Jesus Christ. And with those Words, Christ calls you to exercise that same mercy toward others, to forgive as you have been forgiven. How else does someone live who has Christ dwelling in them? And when we fail at mercy, as we surely will? Come back to the Lord's mercy poured out from font, pulpit, and altar. It is mercy that pours into you, forgiving you all your sins, and then spills out of you onto your neighbor. That's the kind of mercy that God the Father gives you in Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.