Trinity IV Sunday

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Trinity IV
Luke 6: 36-42

In order to complete last week’s lesson on humility, the Lord is giving us today an important warning which starts with a commandment: “be merciful as your Father is merciful.”

When our Lord Jesus Christ tells us not to judge, He is explaining the so-called “Golden Rule” proclaimed earlier in Luke chapter six. Jesus tells His disciples just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. Our fallen human nature wants to be unmerciful to our neighbor, especially when someone shows his shortcomings. When a mistake happens, we are usually the first to say, “I didn’t do it.” It’s much easier to find fault than to be merciful.

It’s easy to find wrong in everyone else but much harder to find wrong in ourselves.

What if God were just like you? What if God judged you the same way you judge others? What if God exposed every deep thought about your neighbor? What if God found a way to broadcast all the gossip you can’t wait to tell about someone? What if God was merciful to everyone except you, leaving you to receive the consequences of all shortcomings?
Now, how is God merciful? There are many examples in the Bible that reveal God as a merciful Father.

He showed mercy to Adam and Eve in the Garden by promising them a Savior after condemning their sin and cursing them. He showed mercy to Noah and his family when he placed them into the ark and delivered them from the worldwide flood. In mercy he delivered the children of Israel from Egypt. He destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea and brought the Israelites safely to dry land. In mercy he did not destroy them in the wilderness even when they disobeyed his Word.

God is merciful because over and over again he demonstrates his mercy and loving-kindness to his people, not dealing with them as their sins deserve, but forgiving them. God does not delight in punishing his children, but saving them. Just as you, parents, do not delight in punishing your children for their misbehavior, so also our heavenly Father prefers to show mercy.

In mercy, Jesus fed the multitudes with bread in the wilderness. He raised Lazarus and others from the dead. He healed all kinds of infirmity, and in one final and great act of mercy, he offered up his life on behalf of sinners.
That’s what mercy does. It forgives, it does not stand in judgment or condemn. It covers over the sins of others. Christ came for this very reason, “not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.”

You are to treat your neighbors exactly as your heavenly Father has treated you in his Son. Rather than telling everyone that you are right in everything that you do, you should seek reconciliation. Rather than stand in God’s place as judge, you should forgive as God has forgiven you. For that is the way of the Father. That is the way of the Son. That is the way of a baptized child of God.

You may wrongfully judge within your heart, even before you tell the other person. Anytime you see your brother in Christ sin and in your heart you condemn him as a bad person, then you are being judgmental not gentle. Many people treat their fellow Christians that way. They put them in the prison of their heart for one thing or another.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that Christian holiness consists in avoiding sinful habits and behaviors. To them, the so-called “Good Christian” is the one who never drinks, never smokes, and never tells a lie.  And yet, these same so-called “Good Christians” do not have a heart that forgives others. They are quick to condemn those who fail to demonstrate any personal merit.

The true mark of the Christian, according to the Gospel today, is not personal holiness, but mercy. Let me put it this way: what defines God’s character and that of a believing Christian more than their lack of sin is their merciful attitude toward sinners. That is why Jesus does not say, “Be holy, as your Father is holy,” or “Be generous, as your Father is generous.” Rather, he says: ”Be merciful.”

Believers who are in the habit of condemning and finding fault in others show that they do not truly know this God of mercy and hence do not believe. They also show that they have not truly examined themselves, as Christ says: “Why do you see the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but do not see the beam that is in your own eye.”

As you look around you in this place, you might notice that you are not the only one here.  Listen to what God is saying about these people around you.  These people, also, are His sons and daughters.  They are His beloved, as you are, too.  As they kneel to receive His Son’s Body and Blood, He is declaring them to be holy saints, part of the same body of which you are a member.  These people, also, have received the same mercy that you have received, and the same approval that comes through the Blood of Christ.

Therefore, forget every judgment except the judgment of God.  Forget your own righteousness.  Remember only the righteousness of Christ.