Fourth Sunday after Trinity 2010

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

In our Gospel reading for today, we hear one of the more famous of the insightful lessons provided by Christ Jesus. As is often the case with Biblical passages, it is as well recounted as it is misapplied. I am referring to the verse in which He warns us not to behold the mote in the eye of our brother, when we fail first to acknowledge the beam in our own. This passage has been passed down through the ages as a dire warning against imposing a judgment upon others. As we are told by God Himself, “Vengeance is mine.” Only God will separate the wheat from the chaff and toss the latter into Hell fire. Only God discerns sheep from goats at the fulfillment of time. When we presume to exercise such mighty power in our affairs with other men, whether in the utterance of castigating words, or in the quiet judgments that we carry within our hearts, we recommit the sin of our first father, Adam. We deign to discern good from evil, on our own terms, as if we are gods ourselves. This is the first sin, and it is at the very core of our very real, ongoing rebellion against God. Of course, we excuse ourselves all too often with the claim that “we hate the sin, but love the sinner.” But is that true? Do we really love the sinner, when he continues to ignore our pleas to seek help for his wrongful behavior, or when we hear every night that he is hitting his wife in the room next door, or when he defrauds us of our hard earned money? Apart from condemning his dreadful actions, do we not also wish that this beast of a man meet a fiery end worthy of his deeds? Forgiveness is hard enough; having love for a man who has no contrition for his sins, and does not desire to amend his life, is that much harder. Indeed, we should endeavor always to hate the sin and to love the sinner; but we should be careful also not to fall into the soft thinking that this is easy to do, or that, as good, noble, conscientious Christians, we do this all of the time. History suggests otherwise. After all, we routinely hear that a man may be known by his actions. This presupposes that the actions of a man flow naturally from who he is in the very core of his being. If this is true, then the sin and the sinner are not so easily separated. Many modern men try to overcome this very problem, by redefining actions, which once were castigated as sin, as no longer sinful. If an act of adultery, or sexual perversion, or even basic dishonesty is no longer sinful, then the man who commits this act is not judged as a sinner. Such modern men then no longer judge their peers, that is true; but they also no longer believe that there is any specific deed, for which God Himself then will be justified in exercising vengeance. They have wiped the slate clean on their own; and, in so doing, they have decided in their own wisdom that the God of Judgment is no longer needed. In their own way, such modern men then are as guilty of presuming to be gods themselves, as those among us who judge others.

Perhaps it is best if we view this verse instead in a positive light. Rather than focus on what we are not to do, let us focus on what Christ Jesus tells us to do. He tells us first to see the beam in our own eye. In other words, we are called to exercise real self introspection, to see that we are far from perfect ourselves, and proactively to remove whatever is in our own character that keeps us from discerning God’s will for our lives. If and when we so do, then we shall be in a position to know what to do with respect to the failings of others. This is not to say that we should fail to call a spade, a spade. Sin is sin; and we do ourselves, and our peers, no merit in pretending otherwise. Still, identifying sin is relatively easy to do; overcoming it is difficult – indeed, so difficult that Christ Jesus had to bear His cross on our behalf. It is enough for each and every one of us to clean out our own house, so that we are ready to receive the Master when He returns. In the process of our own housecleaning, we shall find that the Holy Ghost shines through our shutters that much more brilliantly, giving us the stewardship that we need for our own lives, but also the awareness of how best to help others still afflicted in their own sins.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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