“Judge not, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37). That’s the way of the faith—the way of Christ.
But this is the way of the world right now: if you are a certain way, you’re not to judge but relearn. You’re not to condemn but praise. You’re not to forgive—because there’s nothing to forgive in the first place.
You are not to judge.
But if you do, and if your judgment runs afoul of the Do-Not-Judge mob, the judgment with which they judge you will be swift and terrible.
And of course, their judgment isn’t wrong, because Pharisees and hypocrites are never wrong.
I’m not describing just one side of things.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of hypocritical judgment.
We’ve all also ignored the beam in our eye for the speck in our brother’s.
Black, White, Young, Old, American, or not—that’s the way of the world.
Everyone judges everyone else.
Who hasn’t judged their neighbor for walking the wrong way down the aisle at the store? What was never a problem is now a problem, because the stores want to remain open. They can’t trust your judgment—so they have to tell you which direction to walk up the aisle.
And who hasn’t walked the wrong way down the aisle? No one’s in this aisle anyway, right? That’s only for when it’s crowded. They can’t tell me which way to walk.
Everyone judges everyone else, and so, all are judged.
But when Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37), He actually means, “Rely not on your own judgments, condemnations, forgiveness, and gifts.
Your judgments are uncertain. You lack objectivity.
Your condemnations are fluid. As much as we want things to stay the same, we don’t want them to be like they were. We’re cynical about how things are, and we’re naive about how things were.
This is the way of the world: what is popular is right, and what is right is popular.
For the world, it has to be that easy, or the sheep without the Shepherd wouldn’t know what to protest or who to give bravery awards to.
This is the way of the world: what has always been true, isn’t true anymore because we want to be liked and we want to be paid.
So Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37), so that we would lean not on our own understanding and judgment—but on the wisdom and judgment of God.
It sounds so obvious—trust the wisdom and judgment of God. But, oh my, how that breaks our hearts.
Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments. Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?
Do you hear and learn the Word of God gladly?
Or do you spurn the proclamation of God’s Word by retreating from any understanding of it that isn’t the size of a bumper sticker on a Ford Fiesta.
If you want to be able to make a good confession, you must study and learn good theology. Start by going to your pastor’s Bible study. He’s there to help you.
It’s optional for you to teach your children how to kick or throw a ball well, how to root for the home team, and how to bake chocolate chip cookies for your pastor—would that it were not so, but those things aren’t necessary. They’re optional.
But it’s not optional for you as a parent to teach your children about Christ. You can say that it’s someone else’s responsibility—pastor, Sunday school teacher, day school teacher, or the tv—but it’s your responsibility, Mom and Dad.
So it’s not optional for you to ignore the preached Word of God, to refuse to gather around Word and Sacrament with your congregation.
The Lord’s Supper is never virtual.
You may be able to pull up your preferred preacher online, but do you still dress for church, and sit and stand, and bow your heads, and sing with gusto?
Or do you change the channel until the voice speaking says the things that you want to hear?
À la carte Christianity is not Christianity.
You don’t get to pick and choose what you believe.
It’s not a buffet, and it’s not a swap meet.
It’s not a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel.
And that is the wisdom and judgment of God.
Your judgments are often myopic or simply wrong.
So, “Judge not, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37). Rely on the certain and final judgement of God.
Admittedly, at first, that sounds like a terrible idea.
Who hasn’t God broken apart, with breach upon breach? Whose face has not been red with weeping? Whose eyelids have not dipped into deep darkness?
If our adversary is the Almighty God, to rely on His certain and final judgment might seem to doom us all.
But that’s not who God is. That’s not what Jesus says.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37).
Rely on God’s judgment.
Or, as He also says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
All of these commands have a promise attached to them, and in the promises of God, we trust.
Your Father in heaven is merciful.
He judges you—not according to His wrath, that was poured out and extinguished on Christ who sat in the place of sinners and was crucified.
God judges you according to His mercy.
He condemns not those who trust in His mercy.
He forgives those who believe their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.
He gives to those who give to others what God first gave to them.
That means the mercy of God is greater than your sin. Greater than our adversary, the devil. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
So rely on the judgment of God that crucified the Lord of Glory, out of love, to save sinners, even Pharisees and hypocrites.
These promises of God are where we begin.
Your Father in heaven is merciful. Trust in His mercy.
You will not be judged. You will not be condemned. You will be forgiven. And it will be given unto you.
Because your Father in heaven is merciful, because you trust in His mercy, His judgment, His forgiveness, His gifts, and His condemnation and destruction of evil—“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
He promises, and with these promises in mind, we remove the log from our own eye: I am a poor, miserable sinner, but I flee for refuge to God’s infinite mercy. And your Father in heaven is merciful.
Remove the log and confess the mercy of God in Christ.
Then, you can see clearly to help your brother with the speck that’s in his own eye.
That is the way of the faithful—the way of Christ, who had no sins of His own that He must be forgiven, yet He humbled Himself, taking the form of your servant, being obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross, that you and all the world would be reconciled to God.
“The measure you use shall be measured back to you” (cf. Luke 6:38).
And our Father in Heaven is merciful.
Trust in His mercy. Trust in His judgment.
Lean not upon your own understanding, and rejoice that it’s God’s will and pleasure to destroy evil.
We see this plainly with Joseph, I think.
The brothers lie to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin because they did evil to you”’” (Genesis 50:16-17).
I say that’s a lie, because it’s not recorded that Israel commanded his sons to say to Joseph.
So they lie—right before they ask for forgiveness: “And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father” (Genesis 50:17).
But the brothers thought the son’s forgiveness was due only to the father’s presence—not so.
“Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear. Am I in the place of God? You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones’” (cf. Genesis 50:17-21).
Joseph takes no umbrage with either his father or his brothers. He’s content that God has used it all to save the many.
The Son loves His brothers not because of the Father’s command—but He himself loves them and provides for them and comforts them.
And—“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
Jesus Himself loves you, calls you friend, and lays down His life for you.
Black, White, young, old, American, or not—that’s the way of Christ.
The wisdom and judgment of God, in whom we trust.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 4 Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt