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God’s Word for You

Luke 6:37-38 Forgive

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, January 25, 2018

Consider the Beam in Your Own Eye
(Matthew 7:1-5)

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Jesus isn’t saying anything about any nation’s legal system. He’s talking about what you, the Christian, are doing. The plural “you” in both the command “Do not judge” and the passive assurance, “you will not be judged,” refer to the large crowd of Jesus’ disciples who were listening to him (Luke 6:17). A nation’s court has the right to judge criminals. But individuals should not judge, whether they are ordinary citizens or the leaders of a country. This means several things for us (and perhaps more):

1, Citizens do not carry out justice apart from the system their government has established. Actions of vigilantes and other sinners including lynchings, private murders, shunning, racism, etc., are violations of the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother,” which includes obedience to your government.

2, Citizens of one nation do not carry out renegade justice in another nation (assassination, interfering with governments or elections, etc.).

3, We must not slander one another, either in public or in private, whether we are in a position of authority or great popularity, or whether we are in the most humble of circumstances. This would violate the Eighth Commandment, “Do not give false testimony.”

4, Once our legal system has pronounced judgment, we should not openly object or question the judgment or undermine the authority of the legal system (this does not rule out private questions asked with respect). If reform is called for, it must be done through the proper channels.

5, We must not judge one another privately. There are two reasons for this. The first is that we are subject to the Eighth Commandment, against bearing false testimony. The second is that such judgment may close the door to the gospel and true repentance. And this must be our Christian goal whenever possible.

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. In fact, the measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.”

This verse always makes me remember Ruth going back to her mother-in-law with six measures of barley after she and Boaz finally figured out that they would like to get married. Before she left, Boaz had Ruth hold out her shawl, and then he filled it with six measures of barley—probably all she could carry (Ruth 3:15). God’s promise to us is that he wants to be generous with us, the kind of generosity that talks about “a good measure pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” And because he wants to be generous with us, he wants us to be generous with each other. Why? Partly because we are often the means through which he is generous.

Jesus is talking about both physical and spiritual generosity. Give your friendship, your love, your patience, your good humor, and your forgiveness just as readily as you lend sugar, a hammer, a snow blower, or a ride home from the hospital.

Martin Luther brought this verse up as he explained the Fifth Petition, “Forgive us our trespasses,” in his Large Catechism: “Just as we daily sin much against God, and yet he forgives everything through grace, so we, too, must [always] forgive our neighbor who does us injury, violence, and wrong, shows malice toward us, etc. If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you; but if you forgive, you have this consolation and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven, not on account of your forgiving—for God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because he has so promised, as the Gospel teaches—but in order that he may set this up for our confirmation and assurance for a sign alongside of the promise which accords with this prayer, ‘Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’”

So forgive, and know that you are forgiven. God’s forgiveness stretches out beyond all horizons, beyond all our hopes, beyond all necessity or calculation—and that is how he wants us to forgive as well.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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