We have said that Trinity tide is all about spiritual growth, fertility, and progress. In this season we are called into a state of sanctification and redemption that ensures our safe and eventual passing through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal. (Collect) And one of the chiefest obstacles that encumbers our mystical journey is judgment, or judging. Jesus tells us this morning, Judge not and ye shall not be judged (St. Luke vi. 37). God is the Judge, as our Psalmist reminds us, and God’s Judgment is offered to believers as a severe mercy which makes them into vessels of His desire for all men’s salvation. Once we begin to measure ourselves by God’s Judgment, we begin to feel that the sufferings of this present time, the fruits of God’s severe mercy, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. (Romans viii. 18)
Yet if you are a healthy Christian, one who tries to live by the principles of Holy Scripture, you might be on the edge of your seat fortified with a series of Buts! But, you are thinking, we are living in a society that is not interested one whit in God’s judgment or God’s will for human life. But, you protest, would it be too much to ask for a bit of God’s judgment and even wrath to pierce and singe a few of our neighbors, smarting and startling them into some recognition of His Almighty desire and power? After all, this very nation that we inhabit is calling “good” “evil” and “evil” “good”, and to make matters worse, it is teaching this to our children. God’s judgment and will don’t seem to figure even remotely into the way people are thinking and acting. It seems as if people are getting away with murder and more! And, of course, you are right about all of this. An honest assessment of our present situation would have to conclude that the Western world seems bent on the eradication of any sense of God’s judgment for wrongdoing. Judge not, you ask? How can we hope to do this, if we are bidden as Christians ‘to abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good? (Rom. xii. 9)
And if these are your protestations, your preacher is here to tell you that you are not entirely wrong, though also not entirely right. Our Saviour never asks us to forsake or ignore God’s judgment of human life. He tells us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father in Heaven is perfect. (St. Matthew v. 48) He nowhere tells us that we should not judge between the principles of good and evil, right and wrong, or vice and virtue. This we must do if we hope to be saved. And there will be a Judgment for every man. But in order to best surrender to and live under the ruling and guiding light of God’s judgment then, He insists that we had better stop judging others now.
No doubt you have heard that old adage love the sinner and hate the sin. Well this is our Saviour’s teaching, who knows [only too well] what is in [the heart] of man (St. John ii. 25), and the disastrous consequences that result when we confuse the two. John Calvin tell us, difficult or not, if we don’t distinguish between the two, we might very well be weaving our own ruination. Calvin observes that all men [tend] to flatter themselves, and every man passes a severe censure [or judgment] on others. There is hardly any person that is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people’s faults. (Harm. of Gospels, xvi.) Men do this habitually, without any thought of dividing and separating the sin from the sinner.
Yet this separating out of the sinner from his sin is precisely what Christ intends for us to do, if we will be counted very members incorporate in His Mystical Body. Why? Because He has done this very thing in relation to us. Prior to this morning’s Gospel reading, St. Luke tells us that Jesus had been teaching His disciples the Beatitudes. He concludes with a warning, telling them that if they do not need the mercy, love, and forgiveness that He brings to the world from the Father, they should not expect to be saved. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you…For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same…But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (St. Luke vi. 27-36)
Rather than rendering evil for evil, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, Jesus reminds His disciples that they need the mercy of God which will overcome all of their sins. And knowing full well that His own friends will soon become His enemies in His darkest hour, He impresses upon them the forgiveness that they do not yet understand but will receive when He rises from the dead. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans v. 10) As the Apostles and disciples came to experience, a sinner today might become a saint tomorrow through the mercy of God’s forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans iii. 23-26) God has judged that we can be made right with Him through His forgiveness of sins made flesh, in the crucifixion of His Son. So our Heavenly Father’s mercy is so great that His justice has decreed that His Son should die unjustly, that we might be made right with God.
Is there injustice in the world? Absolutely. But where is it found most profoundly? In the unjust death of the Holy One of God who suffered at the hands of man’s injustice. Sin is always an act of injustice, being, as it is, an unjust act of man against man, who nevertheless expects justice to be mercy from an all forgiving God. We don’t tend to want either God or other men to be unmerciful, unkind, and unforgiving to us. And yet how quick we are to judge, condemn, and criticize others. How swift we are to say I cannot forgive that man his trespass against me. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.
Today Jesus reminds us that if we judge and do not forgive, we shall be judged and not forgiven. God is perfectly fair. We shall be rewarded with the exact quality and quantity of justice that we have meted out to others. And so the way in which we begin to subdue and conquer this vice in ourselves is with a more determined and diligent effort to receive the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ our Lord. What we need to search out and find is not the mote that is in [our] brother’s eye, but the beam that is in [our] own eye. (St. Luke vi. 41) We do tend to be adept at discovering other people’s particular sins mostly because we have had such long acquaintance with and practice of them in our own lives. The sins of others that most distract, dismay, and disconcert us are outward and visible signs of our own inward and spiritual rot. So we must spend much time with a spiritual introspection of our own vices, sins, and failures. Having identified them, we must confess them. Then we must embrace the forgiveness of sins, Jesus Christ, in our hearts and souls. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 St. John i. 9)
But in closing, we must remember this. The forgiveness of sins is not merited, earned, or deserved by us. It is the free gift of God’s justice which longs and desires always to heal us, make us better, transform and transfigure our lives. God’s justice is one with His righteousness, and His righteousness is His forgiveness, mercy, compassion, pity, and love for us. God’s judgment is nothing other than His merciful desire to sanctify and save us when we receive His forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ our Lord. What this means is that God’s wants to judge us in the end as those who have received and shared the wholly undeserved mercy of Jesus, who is our forgiveness of sins. That forgiveness of sins should be the first principle of our relation to all other men. For the forgiveness of sins is the foundation of a life where love conquers hate, liberality and generosity of spirit vanquish narcissism and selfishness, and kindness subdues intolerance and ill will. The forgiveness of sins is the cornerstone of a new world where hope looms on the horizon for humanity because man has faith in the love of God. If and when it wholly moves and defines the heart’s affection, the forgiveness of sins moves out into the world and helps others on the road of salvation. God’s desire to forgive, heal, redeem, and save us emerges from our hearts that all others might be swept up in the same Divine passion. Then we might have opportunity to be approached by a former enemy who says to us, Friend, I have a beam that I cannot remove from my eye. And we shall say, Friend, I myself was once oppressed by the very same beam. But let me help you to remove it with that Forgiveness and Love that is still healing me. Amen.