Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father: You are merciful, and through Christ promised us that You will neither judge nor condemn us, but graciously forgive us all our sins, and abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul: We pray that by Your Holy Spirit You would establish in our hearts a confident faith in Your mercy, and teach us also to be merciful to our neighbor, that we may not judge or condemn others, but willingly forgive all, and, judging only ourselves, lead blessed lives in Your fear; through Your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
36 “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
38 “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.”
39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?
40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.
41 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?
42 “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.
Dear fellow redeemed,
“Judge not.” This and Jesus’ similar words in Matthew 7 seem to be the unbelievers’ favorite words from the Bible. They are used often against Bible-believing Christians. Even those who profess to be Christians, are influenced greatly by the culture, and use those words out of context against us. They say, “Judge not”, as they judge us for being unchristian.
There is so much confusion about judging. Two things to blame for the confusing is the culture on the one hand, and Christians’ biblical illiteracy on the other. The culture is a teacher, it has its own catechism, and it teaches every member of society, not only in regards to judging, but with every subject. For the culture is not some unbiased, impartial identity, but as it is ruled by the prince of the air, the devil, it adopts the antichristian worldview, and postures itself as a teacher, even teaching us Christians what we ought to believe as Christians. In media, social media, public schools, peers, our workplaces, and so on, the culture lectures and teaches and catechizes and we hear it daily.
Do not judge, it says. Period. The culture holds that you cannot judge a person’s lifestyle, choices, beliefs and so on. You cannot call any one out for their sins. And I’ve come across many people professing to be Christians who echo this teaching of the culture. On one end of the spectrum, some would refuse to say that anything is a sin, and one could not be a Christian with such a view. They reject God and His Word, denying both the law, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. But on the other end of the spectrum some misled Christians have the dangerous thinking, though not faith destroying, that sin is sin, but we are not to judge anyone, but only show them love as Christ loved us. They’re creating a false dichotomy. Judge or love. You can have judging, or you can have love, but you can’t have both.
But this is a misunderstanding of love. Judging and love, or judging and mercy can go hand in hand. If judging is to be done among us, it must be done in mercy.
This whole section of text is about mercy, being merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. Certainly there will come a time when God’s mercy will come to an end for those who would refuse His merciful gift of salvation, and they in judgment will receive the due consequences for their unbelief and sin.
But now remains the time of God’s mercy. This is the mercy that God has for the world in sending His own Son. For Jesus says as it is recorded in John, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn 3:17).
Christ did not come to condemn the world, but yet during His earthly ministry, He judged. He judged in mercy. He judged the beliefs of many of the people, especially of the scribes and Pharisees. Their doctrine was wrong. The thought they were righteous by their own works. But such false belief meant that they did not have saving faith. They remained in their sins and unbelief, and alienated from God. And so Jesus preached against their false belief to save them from the doctrine of demons, and that they may know the true doctrine of God that saves. But also that they may be saved eternally, Jesus mercifully judged them sinners, that they may know that they cannot be saved by their own works, but that they must turn from their sins and believe the gospel that salvation is a gift of grace from God, won by the One whom God had promised to come, the Messiah. Jesus’ words recorded by Mark summarized all of His preaching, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus’ preaching of repentance is the preaching of the law. The law judges. The law declares right and wrong. It declares what is good and holy and what is sin. It declares us guilty sinners, so that we look to God for His mercy to save us.
Notice that Jesus’ purposes in judging was merciful. It was for the purpose that His hearers may have the true saving doctrine, and that they may repent of their sins and be prepared for hearing the saving gospel of forgiveness and righteousness that are found in Christ alone.
Christ gives His Church on earth such authority to judge. He teaches us to judge false doctrine. Jesus said, “Beware of false teachers.” St. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said, “Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them” (Rom 16:17). Most of the epistles were written to correct dangerous false doctrine, and to teach the true saving doctrine of God.
And Christ gives His Church authority to judge people. Jesus preached repentance. The Church is ordered to also preach repentance, for Jesus said before He ascended to heaven, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Lk 24:47). Whenever I preach the Law to you, I am judging you. I am calling out your sinful behaviors, lifestyles, and choices, for the purpose that you would repent and seek God’s forgiveness in Christ. We are also to judge others, not with our own judgment, mind you, but God’s judgment, for it is His law, out of mercy for the eternal wellbeing of the souls of others. It is unloving, and disobedience to God for approving of sins.
But is what I am saying contrary to Jesus’ words, “Do not judge”? Do the passages of Scripture I quoted earlier that gives the church authority to judge contrary to Jesus’ words, “Do not judge.” We know Scripture cannot contradict itself. We better understand what Jesus means by those words by looking at what He says later in our gospel reading. Jesus says, “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.” We ought to judge, pointing out the speck in our brother’s eye, only once we remove the plank in our own eye recognizing our own sins and God’s merciful forgiveness that He offers us.
It is unmerciful judging that Christ preaches against here. And we are guilty of it. You are guilty of unmerciful judging whenever you refuse to forgive someone, whenever you hold the sins of others against them. You are guilty of unmerciful judging whenever you to treat others unkindly on account of their sins, or when you speak poorly about them to others. You are guilty of it when you judge others, not in mercy desiring their repentance, but because you are self-righteous, wishing to show that you are more righteous than they, that you have become by your own ability some sort of holy judge.
The root of this sin is when you do not recognize your own sinfulness, and do not fully believe the mercy that God shows to you in sending His Son to suffer and die that your mountain of sins may be forgiven.
Yet, you remain in this, God’s time of mercy. Repent, you guilty, see the plank that is in your own eye, and know that God is so merciful to you, and He removes that plank by His mercy. He forgives you all your unmerciful judging and all your self-righteousness for the sake of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent to suffer and die for the blotting out of all your transgressions.
God alone is righteous and holy. He is our Creator, and we have rebelled against Him. He is our rightful Judge. And we could be in deep trouble because of our sinfulness. But does not treat us as we deserve. He does not cast us poor miserable sinners away. He does not delight in the death of the wicked, but He desires our salvation, that we be His own people, and dwell with Him forever! This is His mercy!
He has claimed you as His own in baptism. He gives you His word and the ministry of His Word to forgive you your sins, and preserve you in true faith and in life in His kingdom. What treasures we have because of His mercy!
What a joy it is to know His mercy, and may we know it well!
And may the Holy Spirit such knowledge of His mercy, and lead us to be merciful to others. The culture commands us not to judge, but it is hypocritical in it’s command. For the world, when it doesn’t judge, doesn’t because of selfishness. For it want’s to play in the playground of sin without the guilt of the law. But often the world judges and becomes resentful and hateful.
May the Lord keep us from hypocrisy. Rather, may He give us courage to confess the true saving doctrine, and confess, not our own law, but God’s law and judge mercifully, key word, mercifully! May our hearts towards others always be love and mercy, the same love and mercy that our Lord has toward all people, that He has towards each one of you and me, the mercy through which He has saved us sinners. For we all come from Adam. We all are, by nature, fallen sinners. We all need God’s salvation! We, by God’s mercy, have come to know it, and are saved. May others, through the merciful life and speech of the Church, bring others to know God’s mercy in Christ, as well. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.