Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Just as Adam and Eve sought to be like God, we want to be like God. In fact, we want to be God because God being God isn’t good enough for us. No, we must be God so we can be in control of our lives and that of our neighbor. We want our neighbor’s life to spin out of control so he can be served that ice-cold dish of revenge, while we eat the warm plate full of satisfaction, power, and control. We want God’s power to judge and condemn every soul.
But God has not measured you in wrath. As you stand alone before God, He measures you graciously. If He were to assess you according to what you deserve, you would deserve only His wrath. You would deserve to have the earth swallow you up. Your entire life, you have conducted yourself in such an evil way that you rightly deserve death and hell. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Why do you seek revenge when your neighbor comes to seek forgiveness? This is not God’s way. He throws out everything that we deserve: the anger, disgrace, judgment, death, and hell. In its place He gives us heaven, grace, and freedom from the Law’s accusation and our bad conscience.
Your hypocrisy is forgiven. Your arrogance is forgiven. Your anger is forgiven. Your quest for revenge is forgiven. You are forgiven because of Jesus Christ. Jesus takes all these sins and dies for them. Jesus allows his flesh to be hung on the cross, His head covered in a crown of thorns, to pay for your sins. Jesus breaks the bonds of death and rises from the dead to destroy death and hell, giving you everlasting life. Vengeance truly belongs to the Lord, for He alone destroys death and hell for us.
Our Father’s loving mercy to us is to be the motive and measure of our mercy in our relationship with others. To love as we have been loved, we must be merciful in the same way our heavenly Father is merciful—not merely to our friends, not only to those engaged in wrongdoing, but to everyone. That includes those whom we dislike, those who dislike and persecute us, and people to whom we don’t even want to say hello when we see them. God would have His children live in His mercy.
God would have us live as Joseph lived. Joseph forgave his brothers. He thought nothing of all the evil that happened to him. He forgave, forgot, loved them, and took care of them and their families. Saint Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Nothing our neighbor does against us is so bad that we cannot answer it with the love of Christ within us.
God’s House is the place where we start living as brothers and sisters in Christ, anticipating Christ’s return. We sit together as the family of God. We confess our sins. We receive Holy Absolution. We give thanks and praise to God for all He gives us. We hear the Good News of forgiveness, life, and salvation. We receive frequently that Good News of forgiveness in the Body and Blood of Christ under bread and wine. We depart from this house redeemed, restored, forgiven, at peace with God and our neighbor.
God gives to you today as He does every Lord’s Day. He gives more: more forgiveness, more life, more salvation. He gives to you that you would then give to your neighbor. Though you walk in the midst of trouble, the Lord will revive you; He will stretch out His hand against the wrath of your enemies. His right hand will save you. "Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good; for His mercy endures forever." And it does endure, for you and for your neighbor. 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.