Vol. 10 — No. 20 May 18, 1969
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 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. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in they brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye. 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.
Beloved in the Christ who is trying to give you Himself:
Few things are so hard to do in this world as to give people something which they really need. They are very ready to take something that appeals to their immediate wants and desires and appetites. These they will even buy at great expense to themselves, pledging and mortgaging every last bit of property that they own, enslaving themselves to their creditors for life. But offer them the basic values that are lasting, that can be had without price or cost of any kind, and they are likely to give you an odd look and think you very queer and square indeed.
Yet the solution is not to give up the attempt and abandon them to their fate—not yet, although also that time must and will eventually come. A teacher may some times feel like sending the class home, locking the door, sending in his resignation, and seeking his fortune elsewhere—a thing, by the way, which not a few have done, for the stupendous mass of ignorance does at times seem unsolvable. Parents may at times be tempted to abandon their tasks, but neither is that a solution. There is always hope that some day, some way, perhaps by a miracle things will go better. And they usually do. And this is true despite what someone wrote the other day: “We are all fighting a losing battle.” He who hasn’t observed these things has surely been asleep.
Although God had to destroy both Israel and Jerusalem because they wouldn’t have what God would give them, it stands true that “salvation is of the Jews.” Jesus Himself said it. John 4:22. Their rebellion nailed Christ to the Cross, yet in that Cross centers our salvation.
So what follows from all this? This follows: that the Christ and His Cross must continue to be testified and witnessed to all nations. We who believe must say with His chief Apostle: “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake.” I Cor. 11:22f.
In today’s Gospel we see Christ instructing His disciples in the manner in which they are to manifest Him to the world after He will have departed from them. For then they must take over the work; they must work to communicate to their fellow-men the person of Christ.
The disciples have seen the Christ of God in all His compassion upon publicans and sinners; the disciples must present that same Christ to a world of sinners. They can best present Him in the measure that they have themselves caught His Spirit, in the measure that they are like Him—in the measure that they themselves are kind. Therefore we will speak today about
The word communicate means to share with someone else something that you yourself have and enjoy. The basic passage employing this word is that famous one from Galatians, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” Gal. 6:6, together with many other passages that imply sharing good things. “Ye are a chosen generation…that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I Pet. 2:9.
As Jesus revealed God and His way with fallen sinners to the people of His time, so He asked His disciples to take over the testimony, and communicate God in Christ to the sinners of their time and of all tine. So if you wonder what you are to do as a Christian (and Christians often wonder, even ask, what they can do as Christians), the answer is simple: BE A CHRIST TO YOUR NEIGHBOR.
This does not mean that you and I must first be a saint in the sense of gaining sinless perfection before we can communicate our Christ to sinners around us. It simply means that you be what you are: a rescued and redeemed sinner yourself who knows what it means to be a sinner and who knows what it means to have a Savior.
But, you say, Jesus does use the word perfect. Yes, He does. And it is interesting to look into that word, perfect, and see what it means. It means one that is completed, finished; as one translator puts it, fully trained; or, as another, repaired.
We have here the picture of a broken sinner who has come under the condemnation or the judgment of God, whose original righteousness in the image of God has been cracked, broken, shattered, rejected, and consigned to ever lasting separation from God, thrown on the junk pile, consigned to outer darkness where there is nothing but darkness and death. But that cracked and broken sinner has been picked up by God and redeemed in Christ, sanctified by His Spirit. He has been removed from Paradise lost to Paradise regained. People have taken tables and chairs that have been cracked and broken and scarred and splintered and have repaired them, made them “good as new”, restored them to a thing of beauty, and put them back into service—and often done it so well that their friends don’t know the difference between them and a new article. Listen to St. Paul’s list of broken sinners, the broken furniture of God’s creation: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind (homosexuals, sodomists, perverts), thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners (I Cor. 6:9f); and he adds some more in Galatians 6;— “publicans and sinners” St. Luke called them, yet those who “drew near unto him…to hear him.” Luke 15:1. “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous,” said Jesus, “but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31f. Jesus was in the repair business; and he is telling his disciples and us in this Scripture today that that is also our work.
But you do not repair broken furniture by taking the axe of the Law and smashing it still further! “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
You and I do not judge and condemn, because we are ourselves under the judgment of God. Why should any pot call the kettle black? We have been judged as black pots and kettles by the holy law of God—which God has nevertheless picked up out of the discard pile of condemned sinners and redeemed and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. One who has himself been through the smelter of God’s refining wrath against sin does not enjoy pushing other people into the furnace! He wants to save them from the same condemnation and therefore he wants to share with them the same forgiveness that has himself received. He wants them to find the same Christ and the same salvation that he has himself enjoyed.
He who has been saved ought to be full of THE KINDNESS THAT COMMMUNICATES CHRIST to others who need the same salvation. How in heaven’s name can it be otherwise? “Give,” says Jesus, “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.”
Forgiveness is the one commodity of which, the more you give to others the more they will give back to you! Christ and His salvation is the only thing that you can share with others and still be sure that when you have shared it you will yourself have more than when you started. I didn’t say this. Jesus did! The same measuring cup that you and I use in generous forgiveness to others is the same container that God will use in pouring out His forgiveness and blessings to you. Use a skimpy little tin cup, and look sour when you forgive fellow sinners, and you will suffer the same pittance in return.—This is Gospel encouragement to share with all our salvation in Christ. There simply are not adequate words for it.
But you have to see it. You have to see it from experience. It isn’t enough to have it in our doctrine, in our liturgy, preserved (sometimes we wonder if it isn’t embalmed) in the institutions of Christendom (the visible churches and their organizations). “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch (the unfenced pits in Israel where stone had been dug out to form wells for water or to get materials for building paths and roads)? Yes, indeed, this message from Jesus is for those who have themselves experienced His love and salvation.
Listen to the proof of this from our blessed Savior’s lips: “He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner (you know what kind), when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” The Pharisee objected. But Jesus answered and said: “Simon, I have somwhat to say unto thee…There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much (as you can see by how much love she shows): but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Luke 7:36ff.
Indeed, you have to see it, and see it from your own experience. One malefactor on the cross railed on Christ, complaining that this was entirely unfair, this that he should suffer for his life of evil doing. The converted thief corrected him: “Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds.” Luke 23:40.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (You see a little fleck in the other person’s eye, but you don’t see the log that is in your own.)” We tend not to see the size of sin in our own lives, for that would downgrade us; but we tend to magnify the sin in others, for that makes us look better by comparison.
But get that log out of your own eye, our Savior tells us; then you will see well enough to point out the fleck of dust in the other person’s eye. But you have to learn to see! If we can’t see the blackness and greatness of our own sins, we are blind—and “can the blind lead the blind?” No! They will both hit the ditch.
He that hath seen the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance is the one to point out the goodness of that God to others. He that has found a good physician is anxious that his ailing friends shall find the same help. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45.
In our Old Testament scripture selection this morning we heard of God’s blessings upon Israel when Israel accepted the goodness of salvation: “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Is. 58:12. In the Epistle, from Romans, we learned that the whole creation is waiting for deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Surely, then, we will add our kindness to help communicate to sinners the forgiveness and salvation that is found in the Christ. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.