Luke 6:36-42; John 8:1-11
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.” So what exactly does that mean? Unlike what the world thinks, Jesus does not mean that we should be OK with false teaching or ungodly living and never speak against such things. After all, He also teaches us to beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15), which means we have to judge what they say and avoid listening to them. And He likewise tells us not to be ashamed of confessing His Word “in this adulterous and sinful generation” (Luke 12:8; Mark 8:38). Speaking the truth of God’s Word sometimes requires saying that what is contrary to it is wrong and false. Christians should never give in to the ridiculous notion that no matter what our family or friends do or believe, we should “support” them. We should still love them and bear with them. But we uphold and support God’s living words above all. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, “Love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth.” So “Judge not” never means ignoring or minimizing what is good and right and true.
No, what Jesus means is this: there are two ways of dealing with others–in a way that finds fault, or in a way that explains everything in the kindest way. Especially with those whom we are closest to–spouses and children, co-workers and relatives and friends–it can be easy to fall into a pattern of judging and fault-finding. For since we’re close to these people, we know them very well. We see their weaknesses and failings. And over time, those things can become bothersome and annoying. Then we get this narrative running in our head that they’re uncaring or lazy or frigid or greedy or impatient or selfish. And then we start looking for things which prove our point and fit that narrative. And before long that’s all we can see about the other person. We view everything through that judgmental lens. We look for reasons to condemn them and prove we’re right and justify our withholding of mercy. All of this breeds resentment which kills relationships.
But Jesus here calls us to turn from those old, fallen ways and to follow His higher ways. Not only does He want you to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In this Gospel He’s taking it a step further, “do unto others as you would have your heavenly Father do unto you.” Do you want God not to judge and condemn you? Then don’t be judging and condemning others. Do you want God to forgive your sins and give you richly all things to enjoy? Then let go of your grudges, and stop being stingy. That’s the gist of Jesus’ words.
Our old Adam rages against those words and resists them. He thinks that if you don’t look out for yourself, who will? He doesn’t trust that vengeance belongs to the Lord or that what others mean for evil God can work for good. The old Adam thinks it’s foolish to believe the Lord’s words that it is better to give than to receive.
However, you have been claimed by Another, haven’t you? You have been marked with the sign of the cross, and you now belong to the New Adam, to the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. You’ve been baptized into Him. You now get to share in His life and live it.
This life of Jesus which you’ve been given to live is not one of judgment and condemnation. For Jesus came to rescue you from the judgment of death which you deserved. It is written in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Think about that! Through your baptismal faith in Jesus, there’s nothing left to condemn in you. Not a single thing. Jesus didn’t come to pay you back for your countless rebellions. He came to pay the price for them, bearing them Himself under His Father’s judgment as He hung on the tree. “Father, forgive them” is the cry of His life. All who take refuge under His cross are just that: forgiven. Jesus came not to take from you but to give to you–rich measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over–pouring into your laps abundant mercy and acceptance.
And I think a perfect example of our Lord’s mercy is the account of how He dealt with the adulterous woman. Do you remember that account? “The scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned to death. What do you say?’ . . . But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” Isn’t that wonderful? Even though this woman did indeed deserve death for her sin, to return to the dust that Jesus stooped down to write in, yet Jesus does not listen to the accusation of the Law against this woman. For He is the fulfillment of the Law. He silences the Law’s accusation against you. He is deaf to its judgment for the sake of His own mercy. “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.” Jesus’ words brought these men to see that in their eagerness to condemn this woman, they were also condemning themselves. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. The older ones especially knew that they were not without sin, that they, too, needed God’s mercy.
So it’s clear that Jesus is not saying that we should accept sin or condone it as being OK. Remember that this same Jesus is also the one who flipped the tables of the greedy moneychangers and cleansed the temple with a whip. He’s the same one who called the prideful scribes and Pharisees whitewashed tombs. No, what Jesus is doing is teaching us to look at all of life from the perspective of how we stand before God, lest in taking the speck out of our brother or sister’s eye, we fail to recognize the plank in our own. Once we’ve dealt with our own issues, then we’re better prepared to help our neighbor in a way that truly flows from love.
Back to the end of the story of the woman caught in adultery: “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” This woman was forgiven, released and freed from her sinful way of life. For Jesus Himself would stand condemned for her. He would be lowered to the dust of death, for her sin and the sins of the whole world. He would lie dead on the cold stone of His tomb. Just as Jesus here raised Himself up from the dust, so also He raised up this woman to a new life. He gave her His own life.
And that’s the same life He has given also to you in your Baptism. As Jesus defended and delivered the adulterous woman, so also He speaks up on your behalf and delivers you from the death you deserve for your sins. Jesus is your Advocate with the Father, who protects and defends you and saves you. The devil and even your own conscience may accuse you. But Jesus Himself is the atoning sacrifice for your sins. Jesus says to you, “Where are your accusers? The devil’s head has been crushed. Your sins have all been answered for. There are no stones left to throw. You are free. Be at peace.”
The Christian life, then, is this pattern of drowning your old Adam with all his desires, confessing that you have a plank in your eye, and then receiving absolution from Jesus who took and carried away that plank when He bore the wooden beam of the cross up to Golgotha. When you see yourself rightly as one who has been rescued like that, who has been given an undeserved pardon and reprieve, then you are someone who is ready to be of some use to your neighbor! You get to carry the good news of that free pardon to others, telling them of what the death of Christ has won for them. And instead of finding fault, you get to find ways to cover up one another’s faults. For it is written, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
The love of Christ has covered the multitude of your sins forever. That love is given to you here and now in the holy supper. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over is put into your bosom in the grain which is Christ’s body and in the cup that runs over with His mercy, His holy blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. Such is the generosity of our God. It’s beyond measure. It’s always spilling over, so that you may be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠