Judge Not! What does this mean?
July 10, 2022 anno Domini
Concordia. You know the word. We have 7 Concordia Colleges and Universities in the Missouri Synod. Our two seminaries are called Concordia. The confessional writings that all pastors, teachers, and congregations agree to abide by is called – you guessed it Concordia.
But as Luther loved to say, “What does this mean?” Concordia means with one heart or agreement or harmony. Concordia means all that we believe, teach, and confess is in complete agreement with God’s Word.
We believe God’s Word in and of itself is Concordia. From Genesis to Revelation God’s Word is in complete agreement. One part of Scripture cannot contradict another part of Scripture. We take Scripture as a whole.
Taking a Bible verse and making it into a bumper sticker or a slogan can be dangerous. It might not convey the true meaning. Today’s text provides a few examples. Be merciful. Judge not, lest you be judged. We’ve made our own bumper sticker theology based on these verses, “Err on the side of grace.”
Bumper sticker theology is dangerous. We use it to excuse ourselves. These Words of Jesus are regularly thrown as hand grenades aimed at those who point out a sin – thrown in the hopes of disarming or destroying those who say, “That is wrong and this is right.”
Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Does that mean if you do not judge others God will not judge you? That’s a common interpretation. I can escape God’s judgement by not judging others. If I am nice to my neighbor God will be nice to me. Is that in concord with God’s Word? Does God say, “If you are good, I will be good to you?” No, He does not. God says, “Be perfect” and then declares, “No one is good. Not even one.”
Another possible interpretation of “judge not” is that this is about your neighbor. If you don’t want your neighbor judging you, don’t judge your neighbor. That is more in harmony with God’s Word. God says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But, once again, that isn’t quite the full harmonious song of Scripture. Does that mean you are never supposed to say to anyone – husband, wife, child, parent, pastor, or politician – you are wrong. That interpretation disagrees with Jesus who says, “You are supposed to remove the speck in your neighbor’s eye, after you have removed the log in your own.”
Harmony requires everyone to be in the same key. If you don’t know the key, you won’t be in harmony. The key to the proper understanding of this text is the same key to understanding all of scripture – Jesus. Scripture only harmonizes in Christ. There is Concordia only in Christ.
The key to hearing this text harmoniously is in the first verse, “Be merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.” How is God merciful to you? In Christ. God does not ignore your sin. He doesn’t excuse your sin. He calls your sin sin and tells you its pain and cost. Then He deals with your sin. He dies for your sin.
Judge not, and you will not be judged. Judge not apart from Christ. Don’t judge by your standard of behavior or by the cultural commandments. Judge by God’s Word and be prepared to die, following Christ. When you tell your daughter she shouldn’t go to communion because she is living with her boyfriend you might die to her. Why would you do that? Because Christ died for her sin. Her sin needs forgiveness and Christ was merciful enough to die for her sin. You want her to have Christ and so you’re willing to die as her father so Christ can be her brother.
Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Condemnation is common and easy and horrible. You see another person and you say, “He’s not worth it.” He’s beyond hope. To condemn is to say, “God damn you.” God did not give up on Israel. Christ did not give up on Peter. God considers every human worth Christ’s death. In addition to that in Christ all things are possible, even changing a person. He raised people from the dead. He called murdering Saul to be preaching Paul. He made an IRS agent Zacchaeus give back taxes. He considered you worth His birth, life, death, and resurrection and made you a sinner into a saint.
Forgive and you will be forgiven. Forgiveness is another word that means nothing apart from Christ. For some people forgiveness means having a permissive modern God who lets you do anything you want and still loves you at the end the day. Forgiveness is the taking away of sin and not giving sin back to the person and that requires death – death to your rights, death to payback. That is what Christ did for you. Christ has your sins. He’s not giving them back unless you want them. On the judgment day Christ will be your star witness before the Father. He will say, “This man has no sins. I have them. I paid for them.”
You catch your husband having an affair with his high school girlfriend over the internet. He says, “It’s not an affair. We’ve never even kissed. We just chat online.” B as in B. S as in S. You give to another woman anything that is owed to your wife alone and you are an adulterer. You give your eyes or reveal your heart to another – you’ve earned the scarlet letter – a capital A for adulterer. You confront your husband and thankfully he repents. You forgive him. You die to your right to bring that up again. You take his sin into your heart. You’ll never forget it, but you hold on to it. By the way that doesn’t mean your husband doesn’t face consequences. He needs to confess to his pastor. His phone is in your possession the moment he gets home. He cancels Facebook and gets off computer. If this affair happened at work, he needs to find another job. Repentance bears fruit. Repentance does all it can to make things right, to do what God requires.
When we treat these words of Jesus like bumper sticker theology we misuse them for our own comfort. We excuse our cowardice by saying, “be merciful” and when someone points out our sin we say, “judge not.” We forget that these words come from the mouth of Jesus. Mercy, judgment, and forgiveness involve death. God valued us more than Himself. If He would have ignored our sin that would not have been merciful, but cruel. God died for our sin. Jesus Christ holds all our sin to Himself and unless we want those sins back, He won’t give them up. Christ did not speak these words to make life easy. He spoke these words that we might die with Him, and live like Him, and bear His life to others.
All of this is unfair. Why should you have to suffer for someone else’s sins? Why should you experience sleepless nights gathering the courage to speak to your son? You know the answer to those questions. His name is Jesus. In Jesus God is not fair. He is gracious. He gives you more than is right. He gives a “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” You wouldn’t want Jesus as an employee at Wipplers Hardware Hank, because He would always give a good measure – every foot of rope would have an extra six inches, every pound of grass seed would get an extra scoop. You certainly would want him as a bartender – because every drink would be overflowing, every single would become a double, and he would use the top shelf whisky for the rail drinks.
That’s Jesus. That’s our God. He’s not in business. He isn’t a fan of convenience. He’s not about making a profit or cutting corners. You’re worth more than that. He’s not afraid to hurt you and make you angry with Him. He’s not even afraid to call you to die to yourself. He’s only afraid of one thing – losing you to your sin, to death, and the Devil. That’s why He’s merciful, why He died for you, why He’s holding your sins and won’t let them go. I pray you are in Concordia with Him. In the name of Jesus. Amen.