INI + AMEN.
Be good. Behave. Don’t mess up, but if you do, make up for it. God will reward you for it, bless you for it. Eternal life awaits those sorts of people: the good, the behaved, those whose virtues outperform, outweigh their vices.
To the world, that’s the Christian faith. Us, too! We think this way. It’s ingrained in us. It’s ingrained in everyone. God saves good people, the put-together, those who do their best and God will, of course, do the rest, the small part that’s left to be done.
Oh, sure, we’d say that Jesus saves sinners, but those who’ve made a mess of their life? Those who’ve fallen off the wagon, again. Those in the ditch? Those who aren’t put together? People with sins that they just can’t kick. People with hypocrisy. What about those sorts of people?
Repeat after me: “I’m forgiven.” “I forgive you.” That’s what it’s all about. That’s Jesus. Jesus FOR YOU and other sinners. That’s Christianity. Repeat it again: “I’m forgiven.” “I forgive you.”
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS BEING FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING.
((I. That’s what Jesus is really all about.))
BEING FORGIVEN—That’s Jesus. He’s the Mercy of the Father. Jesus is how we know that “the Father is merciful.” “Merciful” isn’t just something that gods are. It’s not a box we think up, and god fits into it. No, that the Father is merciful is seen in the sending of His Son, the giving up of His Son unto death, even death on the cross. Jesus dead and raised up, in real time and in a real place, shows that He is the Father’s mercy living, dying, living again. The Father’s now “your Father,” too! You receive His Mercy, His Jesus Mercy, in Holy Baptism—when you were made a child of the heavenly Father.
That mercy is the “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” His forgiveness is yours. That’s true mercy. Not just dying-for-your-sins mercy or rising-for-your-forgiveness mercy. But “I baptize you” mercy. “I absolve you” mercy. “My body and blood for you” mercy. It’s exactly for those who’ve messed up again, who’ve sinned again, who’ve got nothing left. All of the varied and wonderful mercy of Jesus abounds for you. Because of that you can say, “I’m forgiven.” Say it with me: “I’m forgiven.” Cross Won and Gift delivered. That’s BEING FORGIVEN.
((II. That’s what this text really all about.))
That’s all fine and good, until we get to a text like today’s. Our flesh runs with our Gospel text, but for all the wrong reasons.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
This text isn’t an excuse for “gotcha” moments. As if we can say, “Well, I know my faults so I can now point out other people’s faults. I know I’ve got my sins, but Jesus says I can judge their sins because I know my own.” Yeah, not so much…
Repeat after me: “I forgive you.” Say it again, “I forgive you.” One more time: “I forgive you.”
That’s the CHRISTIAN LIFE. We so often hold on to other people’s sins so we can stick them with their sin later. We hold the grudge over something so that we can clock them with it later. Never once thinking the person is blissfully ignorant—they’ve got a speck in their eye, after all. That’s usually me. Blissfully ignorant of a wrong I’ve done—didn’t mean to do it, wasn’t aware of it.
Besides all that, if someone else’s sins is the plank (the big problem) and yours is the speck (the little problem), that’s the wrong way round. Your own sins, my own sins, are always way bigger than my neighbor’s sins. To say different is to be the hypocrite Jesus talks about. Repent.
Jesus isn’t about taking the Law or someone else’s sins and using them as a weapon or club or a “gotcha.” Jesus is talking about forgiveness. Jesus hung on the beams of the cross to pay for all planks and specks. His forgiveness is removes your specks, my planks; your planks and your neighbor’s specks. Then we can see—no longer blind.
Having been forgiven of our many sins, we then know how best to forgive and love our neighbor no matter where we find ourselves. Are you a “father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker”? Are you a fellow church-member? A boss? A client? Doesn’t matter what you are! Then in all those places we forgive and are merciful. Unless you want to hang on to that that speck to strain it out, get your payback for it. Then of course, “With the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS BEING FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING. No matter where we find ourselves in our day to day lives, there’s going to be people who need Jesus’ forgiveness. They need His mercy. It’s not hard. They’ve only got specks. So, say it with me: “I forgive you.”
It’s not really your forgiveness anyway. Just passing along Jesus’ mercy, His forgiveness that He over abundantly showers upon you for your planks, my planks. Say it with me: “I’m forgiven.” That’s Jesus’ mercy. He’s the Mercy come down from the Father. Not just dying-for-your-sins mercy or rising-for-your-forgiveness mercy. But “I baptize you” mercy. “I absolve you” mercy. “My body and blood for you” mercy.
That mercy is the “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” For your neighbor’s specks, and super-abundantly for our planks. For sinners. For the downcast. For those in the ditch. FOR YOU. For all. Not just now but forever.
INI + AMEN.