Trinity 4 — Right Judgments

.Preached July 17, 2011

Romans 8:18–23
St. Luke 6:36–42

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

We are at the fourth Sunday of the Trinity season, continuing our discussion of the process of removing sin from our lives, the process of personal sanctification.  An important part of that process is learning to live rightly with our fellow man which is the primary topic of today’s discussion.

Our Gospel lesson for today is one of great difficulty for modern Christians. On the one hand, it says many things that are so blindingly obviously that they scarcely seem to require any comment at all. Who can take issue with such statements as 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful, or 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. These are obvious calls for righteous living and fair dealing with all men. No one can argue against the rightness of such commandments. That does not mean that we will always be ready and eager to follow them, but it is clear that they are the right way to live.

But then there are some other statements that give us more difficulty, such as 37  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: We all want to be forgiven, so that part is easy enough to understand, even though it may be difficult to put into practice. But does this really mean that we are to form no judgements in this life? For what were we given brains then? Why are we able to think if not to make judgements between what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong? It cannot be as simple as it appears on the surface of things. And it is not.

One of the favorite tools  the modern Marxists like to use against Christians today is to “make them live up to their own rules.” This is to say, to constantly hold Christians up as hypocrites who say one thing and yet do another. The verse just cited about not judging is a favorite example that they like to use. Any time a Christian expresses a Christian value judgement, however correct, they are quite likely to say, “Now, now, we must not judge! Who are we to judge those other people?” The proper answer to that is, “We are Christian people, applying Christian principles, and you are a blind guide.” Jesus himself gave us this answer in the next verse, when He said: 39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The Christian life is guided by the whole of Scripture, not by a single line.

In saying Judge not, and ye shall not be judged, Jesus is not speaking at all against the proper judgments of a court or of a Christian Church which are rendered with appropriate deliberation, based on the evidence, the facts, and the rules. What He is condemning is the hot–headed, intemperate judgment of one man about another as often occurs in the market place, if one thinks the other has shorted him, or tried to deceive him in commerce. In going on to say,  condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned, Jesus is saying that neither must presume to judge the eternal state of the other with curses such as “you will rot in hell.” These judgments are not ours to make, but belong instead to the Lord God.

In speaking of the blind guide, our Lord issues a warning that, if we listen to those who are blind, that is those who have not heard the Gospel message, we risk falling into the ditch with them. This is precisely what the Marxist is trying to induce us to do when he accuses us of not following the Gospel when we say that a particular act is wrong. We need to be aware of what is being done, and be prepared to head it off.

Jesus then makes another statement that may cause a bit of a twinge in those of us who fancy ourselves to be academics. He says, 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.  Now every academic starts off as a student of some other, already famous academic, and is initially known as a disciple of so-and-so. Those who are truly ambitious and persistent may aspire to eventually becoming even more renown than their own mentor, although all recognize that this will require years of effort. What Jesus says here is that this cannot be done, but then Jesus is saying that He is the Master, and the most we can hope for is to be like Him. When we understand the statement in this light, it is perfectly reasonable. We know that we will never be more perfect than Christ. We will never be as perfect as Christ. We can only try to become like Christ, to approach Him.

Finally we come to the famous verses on eye surgery: 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. The word that is translated as mote means a speck or a tiny splinter. The word translated as beam refers to the principal beam of a weaver’s frame, a very massive piece of wood. Thus these are clearly intended to represent extremes in loss of vision. We are to understand the loss of vision as meaning moral defect in each case. This relates back to the statement about the blind guide. The one who is blind himself cannot presume to guide others. If it is within his capability to remove his own blindness, by removing the beam, then he must most certainly do that before he makes any offer to help his brother with the much smaller moral defect.

This has many implications in the present time. The notorious sinner cannot presume to be the one to lead other people. Thus a leader who lies, who is an adulterer, who is a tax delinquent, who sells his office, etc. is in no position to assume authority to lead and should resign immediately. There was a time when this was well understood and was acted upon. Today, we seem to have become so blinded to sin that we are quite willing to overlook these obvious character flaws, and follow these morally flawed people willingly. Jesus has told them that they are unworthy, and he has told us that we will fall into the ditch with them if we follow them. Is that not clear enough for us?

We tend to think that because a legislator is “effective,” meaning that he brings home lots of benefits for his district, then his flagrant moral failings ought to be overlooked. We are reminded that we are not to judge. We think that because a candidate says one thing while campaigning and when elected does exactly the opposite, the very thing for which he has criticized his opponent, well that just politics; who are we to judge?

Righteousness and effectiveness should not be mutually exclusive, but we know as Christian people which of the two is of greater value to our God. We should entrust the leadership of our country to righteous men, hoping that they will be effective, but most of all praying that they will lead our country righteously. The effective leader, whom we know to be effective because he lives outside the law of God, is not someone we can trust because his manner of life tells us that. Often times, it is that very manner of life that gives him the reputation of being effective, but that simply means that he is crooked and willing to sell his office.

The elected leader who has clearly lied to us has demonstrated without a doubt his untrustworthiness. We should be prepared to take whatever action is possible to get him out of office as soon as possible before more damage is done. Trust is a key element in all of government, and when an elected leader is a blatant liar, there can be no trust. As Christian people, we are called upon to evaluate actions everyday as to whether they are right or wrong, whether they glorify God or not. We should support those actions and persons whose acts are pleasing to God, and we should voice our disapproval for those who do not.

One of the key things that we need to remember in all of this is a phrase from the Collect for the Day, …that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we loose not the things eternal. We are so often tempted to evaluate everything in terms of what is “practical” or what will work to our temporal advantage, losing sight altogether of the fact that the temporal is just that: temporary. Our focus really needs to be on the things that are eternal. This is one of the hardest things for us as Christian people still in the world. We are in the world, we see the world every day, we are sorely tempted to forget about eternity and to focus on the here and now. With this focus, we cease to act as Christian people and simple become people of the world, no different from anyone else.

Therefore, let us seek to live righteously, to resist blind guides, and to recognize those who are unfit to lead, correct, or teach because of what they are. This Christian life is not easy in the sense that it does require constant awareness and thought; it cannot be truly lived blindly. Christ does not lay great burdens upon us, but He does require that we use the minds He has given to us at creation, rather than to simply blunder through life without thinking. We must listen to what He says, how He says it in the context of the entire Holy Scripture and live our lives accordingly.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

About Father D

I am a priest of the Continuing Anglican Church, the continuation of orthodox Anglicanism into the present 21st century. My theology is definitely that of a Reformed Catholic point of view, neither Roman nor Calvinist.
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