Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sermon for 6/23/13--Trinity 4



As We Forgive…

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Judge not and you will not be judged.” As I’ve told you before, these are probably the most misused words in all of Scripture, and they are the words non-believers most enjoy using against Christians. So let's start with what these words don’t mean. They don't mean you can’t tell someone that what they're doing is wrong. In truth, the Lord gives us the authority in our various callings to do exactly that. Parents are to teach their kids right from wrong. Teachers have to discipline students who misbehave. Police officers have to enforce the law. Pastors have to remind people of the Lord's Word and call them to repentance. As Christians, the Lord gives us the task sometimes of speaking the truth to the world which doesn't want to hear it. That's when the world throws these words of Jesus back in our face.

But that's not what these words mean! When Jesus says, "Do not judge," He is urging His hearers to forgive. One who judges is condemning someone for their sins, treating them as their actions deserve. Forgiving means not treating someone as their sins deserve. Look at Joseph. If there was anyone who could punish his brothers for what they did, it was Joseph. He could have made them suffer just as he had suffered. He could have put them to death. Who doesn't like a good story where the hero suffers at the hands of villains, and then in the end finally brings justice?

These words might sound familiar: “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We don’t like those pesky words in the Lord’s Prayer. It's much more satisfying when the bad guys get what they deserve. That's because we'd rather pay back than forgive. When someone wrongs you, do you act like it never happened? That's forgiveness! Or do you condemn them or give them the silent treatment? That is the judging which our Lord forbids. We like to forget how our Lord deals with us. God Himself becomes man and makes Himself our brother. We sell Him into the slavery of our sin, give Him over to the hands of evil men and kill Him. In our sinfulness we put Him to death and pretend to the Father that it's not our fault. And just as Joseph rose from the dungeons to be Pharaoh's right hand man, even so Jesus rose from the dead to sit at the Father's right hand with all majesty and power. When we stand before Him now, will He condemn us? No. He treats us like brothers, like we had not done all those things to Him, like we are holy and righteous. He takes us to Himself so we may share in His eternal glory! Jesus does not judge; Jesus forgives.

The Lord promises that there is no judgment or condemnation for you. Your baptism says so. Holy Absolution says so. The body and blood of Jesus say so. Christ's Word and gifts are His promise that He who could condemn you without a word instead loves you, forgives you, and has prepared a place for you with Him. When someone sins against you, forgive as you have been forgiven. Don't judge. Be merciful and forgive them, treating them as if they haven't done anything wrong. That’s the way the Lord sees you. But what about when you don't want to? What about when it's hard to do? Then go back to your Baptism and the Supper and the Word so that you may hear again your own forgiveness—for it is through those gifts that the Spirit enables you to forgive others.

Dear brothers and sisters, the plank has been removed from your eye. God's judgment is turned aside. For you it's all mercy and forgiveness from the Lord. For you it's a good measure, pressed down and overflowing. In Christ, you too are merciful, forgiving and not judging, able to gently remove the speck from your brother's eye—not by pointing it out in judgment, but by taking it out with forgiveness. 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.  Amen.

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