BCP Trinity 4 Luke 6:36-42 - 13/7/03
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.
Have you ever heard the expression, 'What goes around comes around' ? Well, this is what Jesus is saying in today's reading.
I wonder if Jesus' hearer's ever laughed out loud at him? I think that we often fail to grasp the humour of Jesus. He paints a picture of a blind man thinking that he knows best and leading another blind man into a ditch! He then refers to a man with a plank in his own eye offering to help someone to remove a speck from their eye!
John Wesley had little respect for a man because he considered him to be miserly and covetous. One day when this person contributed only a small gift to a worthy charity, Wesley openly criticized him.
After the incident, the man went to Wesley privately and told him he had been living on parsnips and water for several weeks. He explained that before his conversion, he had run up many bills. Now, by skimping on everything and buying nothing for himself he was paying off his creditors one by one. "Christ has made me an honest man," he said, "and so with all these debts to pay, I can give only a few offerings above my tithe. I must settle up with my worldly neighbours and show them what the grace of God can do in the heart of a man who was once dishonest." Wesley then apologised to the man and asked his forgiveness.
In Jesus' day students would learn from their teachers or rabis. Jesus warns his followers not to be like the students of the Pharisees who were critical and hostile. Instead they, and we, are to follow the way of our master who is generous, forgiving, and merciful.
We are to be forgiving because:
a) This usurps God's role. Sin is putting ourselves into the role of God. As we saw from Wesley's case, God is the only one who is competent to judge. He is patient in order to give people time to repent ( 2 Peter 3:9 ) but, one day will judge everyone Hebrews 9:27 man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.
b) We are to be forgiving because condemning others implies that we do not appreciate our own sin and the price that Jesus paid on the cross for our forgiveness. If we are honest we would like to believe that we have been chosen by God because we are better, cleverer or more attractive than other people. But the truth is that we are all sinners. We are cut off from God without Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has convicted us of our sin and given us new life. Once we have realised the undeserved favour that has led to our forgiveness this will free us to forgive others. That is why we pray 'forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us'. We are not bargaining with God saying, 'I'll forgive him his sins if you forgive me of mine'.
c) We are to be forgiving because Jesus commanded us to behave in this way and we should obey and imitate our master, just as the Pharisees' students copied them.
To judge can have different meanings. It can mean to evaluate, to decide, to distinguish between/prefer, as well as to condemn.
We live in a world where if someone takes a stand on an issue they are accused of being 'judgmental' or 'intolerant'. This has been seen recently by comments made by some journalists about the opposition within the church to the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. We must realise that Jesus' words do not mean that we are not to use the ability that God has given us to evaluate and make judgments, especially in matters of church discipline.
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul tells the Corinthian Christians to disassociate themselves from a brother who is engaged in sin 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
God is the supreme arbiter and has already made his judgment clear on these and other sins. Therefore, the church has to cooperate with God's word and make it clear that such conduct is incompatible with a declaration of faith. Faith and works should be inseparably linked. If someone professing to be a believer behaves immorally this brings dishonour to God and his people.
The goal of breaking fellowship with an immoral brother or sister is to lead them to repentance so they can be welcomed back into the family of faith. Condemning someone by calling into question that person's motives, actions, or personal convictions is vastly different from accepting God's verdict that certain actions are sins and that those who practice them must be ostracized. Condemnation often leads to alienation. Any judgment made about a fellow believer's sin should lead to restoration.
For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Jesus warned his followers that they will be judged in the same way that they judge others. The merciful will receive mercy, the unmerciful will receive no mercy.
A man called Bishop Potter was sailing to Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodation, he came up to the purser's desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship's safe. He explained that he wouldn't normally do this but he had been to his cabin and met the man who was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, 'It's all right, bishop, I'll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!'