Psalm of the Day: 79
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 58: 6-12
Epistle Lesson: Romans 8: 18-23
These words are loved by many because they think the words excuse their behavior no matter what they have done.    They love them because they think that all judging is wrong.    Years ago, while attending the University in Mankato, I made a statement in class and immediately another student accused me of “Making a value judgment.”    That was a popular thing to say in the 70s.    What is ironic is that the very accusation “That’s a value judgment” is a value judgment.    The student insisted that all judging is wrong.    But is that what Jesus means by these words?    This is the challenge we have as we consider the words of our Savior this morning.  As we take that challenge, Jesus is telling us to:
LOOK AT YOURSELF FIRST.
It is very hard to see something when as speck of dirt, or sawdust gets into our eye.   It takes a moment or two to let our eye clean out the speck so that we can see clearly again.   Sometimes, we have to wash out our eye with water.   So it seems silly that Jesus would speak of a beam or log in the eye, when no one would really be able to walk around with a log in the eye much less a speck.
 But Jesus here is speaking in terms of one’s sin.    Jesus says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ as long as you do not see the log in your own eye?”    Jesus wants to tell us that by nature, that is, according to our inherent sin-filled heart, that we are very adept at noticing the sins of others and offering all sorts of counseling and “sage” advice as if there were no sin in our own lives of which we need to repent.   Jesus identifies this as hypocrisy and as sinful judging and condemning.   He tells us, “Stop judging, and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.   Forgive and your will be forgiven.   Give and it will be given to you.”   In effect, Jesus tells us that we need to take a look at ourselves first.
What sins have lodged themselves and even taken up residence in our lives throughout the years?   Before we examine our hearts, let us hear the litany of sins condemned by God through the Apostle: “Sexual sin, impurity, unrestrained lust, worshiping of idols, witchcraft, hate, bickering, jealousy, anger, selfishness, quarreling, divisions, envy, drunkenness. (Galatians 5: 19-21).”      You see, we often think of “real sin” as the person who commits adultery or sells drugs to children or robs banks or commits murder.   Since we don’t involve ourselves in these sins, we have judged ourselves to be better or perhaps “less guilty.”   Yet, the litany of sins listed by St. Paul, include what we might call the “everyday common sins:” impurity, anger, selfishness, quarreling, bickering.”    And as we judge ourselves “less guilty” in turn we judge others as greater sinners.
Interestingly, Paul exposes the “real” sins as those that are hidden in the heart.   Listen again to his list: “Impurity, lust, worshiping of idols, hate, jealousy, selfishness, envy.”    These sins others cannot necessarily see with the naked eye.       Paul even says that, “Those who continue to do such things will have no share in the Kingdom of God.”     Impurity and lust can be hidden to others.   One can hide hatred behind a hypocritical niceness.      Jealousy and envy can even be masked behind one’s giving, if that giving is not a cheerful giving as St. Paul says.
Now, if the sins of which Paul speaks are the “real” sins, that must also mean that we are the real sinners for these sins have invaded and stained our lives.    So, before we self-righteously point our finger at others for their sins, God wants us to deal with the sins that come into the lives of others always in the context of our own sins.    Yes, we must judge the sin of others; we are commanded to do so.    But that judging must be put us against the backdrop of how our Savior has richly forgiven us.
Our sins against God make up not merely a log, but an entire forest of sin for it is you and I who have known the forgiveness of Jesus and yet still continue in our sin.    For this, we deserve to be removed from the Book of Life and “kicked out” of the Kingdom of God.   So, it is you and I who need to repent once again this day.   This is what Jesus means when He says, “Then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”      This has nothing to do with never making a judgment about others sin or about false doctrine.
 But our Savior does not want to “kick us out” of the Kingdom of God.    Rather, God tells us that He “would have all to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  Jesus has told us, “Whoever comes to me, I will never turn away.”    You see, in His divine love, God has judged us, not according to our lives of sin, but according to the perfect life of Jesus.      There your God made a “value judgment.”    He valued your life and soul and salvation more than His own Son.     With His holy life of perfect obedience to God and His horrible suffering on the cross, Jesus deemed Himself the “real sinner.”   Jesus gladly took the log and forest of our sin upon Himself, in His body, and paid for them with His eternal blood.   The verdict God now announces to “real sinners” like you and me is acquittal.       He reminds us of that verdict once again as He invites us to His Table.     Think about the judgment call as you come to the Table again this day: “My body, given for your forgiveness.   My blood shed for your forgiveness.”
Dear Christian, it is indeed necessary to look at ourselves first.   Otherwise, we will be judging others in a way that actually condemns us.   But I can guarantee you that when we to look at ourselves, we will often find only a heart filled with the “real sins” of which Paul speaks.    God now points us away from looking at ourselves to Jesus and His cross.     There on the cross Jesus has made the judgment and verdict that must stand in all eternity, “It is finished.”   Go in peace.   Amen