The Collect for today asks the Lord to “grant that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by Your governance that Your Church may joyfully serve You in all godly quietness.” What does this prayer have to do with not judging and not condemning, not mentioning splinters and beams?
Some in the Church are given to judge, especially those with vocations that call for judging. For example, the sheep judge her shepherd when it comes to preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. You keep me honest by reminding me what I am to be about as the shepherd of the Good Shepherd’s flock in Momence. Preach Christ. Don’t preach politics. Don’t preach self-righteousness. Don’t preach virtues and values. Preach Christ.
Yet there comes a time when preaching Christ means I have to say some very unpopular things. I am called to preach the Gospel. Understood in a wide sense that means I also preach God’s judgment upon the world. Outside of Jesus Christ, you stand condemned. It is not my condemnation. It is not my judgment. This is the Word of the Lord. I am the messenger.
The message Christ has for you today is that unless you are given to judge someone, and by judging here Jesus means to judge whether or not someone is spared hell for all eternity or condemned to hell for all eternity, zip your lips. The psalmist writes in Psalm nine: You have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment. “You” there is not you. It is not me. It is the Lord Almighty. Only He sits on that throne and judges. His judgment is righteous because He alone is righteous.
The Church of God, elect and glorious, is given to be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. This doesn’t mean that anything goes. The Church who cannot condemn is a Church who cannot bless. The condemnation we speak is what Scripture speaks, not our own opinion. Believe it or not, when it comes time for Christ’s Church to speak condemnation against something in Holy Scripture, that is being merciful. How would you like it if, when you were a child, your parents never spoke a word of condemnation to you about eating rat poison? You probably never have said, “Oh, if only my parents would have been less judgmental and let me eat D-Con that one time.” Mom and Dad had mercy on you. They spared your life by speaking a word of judgment. It was their place to do so. That’s what the Collect means when we pray the Church “may be so peaceably ordered by Your governance”.
We hear another example of peaceable orderedness in today’s Old Testament reading. Joseph cares for his reunited family because he is given to do so. As second in command only behind Pharaoh, Joseph makes sure his brothers, who did evil to him, are provided for. He says, God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. God meant it for good because Joseph keeps the promises of God alive and well. There will be a Savior.
Joseph is a type of Christ in this instance because, like Jesus, Joseph is given the duty to care for his family, even when they don’t know what they are doing. He could have wiped them from the face of the earth for what they did to him. Joseph instead sees the big picture. He uses his authority to provide for them. He considers the beam in his own eye before nagging about the specks in his family’s eyes.
Consider the beam in your eye, too. Consider how you daily speak words of condemnation and judgment not only to your neighbor, but also to God. God could very well leave you to your own devices. That’s a merciful thing to do when you refuse to acknowledge, let alone receive, the gifts God gives you both in tangible things as well as in spiritual things.
The beam is removed from your eye in order that you are able to see Jesus Christ laying on two beams of wood in order to make perfect payment for your sin. Do not fear, for Jesus is Lord. He comes not in the place of God, but as God in flesh, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive. You are one of many. He provides forgiveness and life for you. Even as you groan inwardly as [you] wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of [your body], this eager anticipation is a sure and certain hope in Jesus Christ. It is your reality. It is the Father’s mercy on you, for you are judged worthy of eternal life because of Jesus Christ. Jesus is condemned and you are not guilty. You are reckoned righteousness for Christ’s sake. That is mercy in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
Now there is joy in quiet serving. God, in His merciful, giving way, gives you many callings in life where you get to serve your neighbor. You get to show mercy as mercy is shown to you. You get to give in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. This is not a burden, but a joy. It is a joy because the Lord, Who pleads for you endlessly, first endured this burden for you in all joy. That is mercy, and this mercy is yours in Jesus Christ.