Posted by: minnow | August 21, 2011

Judgment Seat

I was once again recently confronted by one of the mantras of evangelical Christianity–the end is coming and we will be judged.  After a quick query on judgment and forgiveness, I landed on Matthew 7:1-2 and the question came to me–what if it really means what it says?  Verses 1 and 2 read: “Do not judge or you will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Ta-dum!  Sounds pretty simple.  That is, if we can really and truly walk through our lives looking at the other without preconceived attitudes as to how they do and do not measure up to us.  And, if we can really and truly figure out how to let go of the offenses we have suffered rather than hold them against the offender.  And, if we can actually show grace toward others, and love without reason.  You know, the way God first loved us.  Maybe then the judgment we face at the end of our earthly lives will be full of grace and love without reason.  Maybe it will be laced with forgiveness.  And, maybe it will be void of preconceived perceptions as to our worth.

On the other hand, if we make getting to God an obstacle course, full of hoops to jump through and not-so-secret passwords we have to know, say, and mean in our hearts before they count, then that might be the course we will have to run.  The laws we expect others to live by before we trust them on the podium, or in the prayer room, or on the worship team, or beside us in the believer’s pew may end up being, if Matthew 7:1-2 really means what it says, the laws we face come Judgment.

I do not know about you but that thought scares the hell right out of me.  I know that sounds flippant, especially if you are one of the people who think in order to believe God is just He actually must. send some people. to a place of everlasting torture. because justice can only be served by torturing those people forever. for a sin they committed during the limited. time of their life span.  But, this post is not about hell, per se.

I do actually think if Matthew 7:1-2 is to be taken literally, hell is best taken off the table.  (Please do not read that statement as my actual reason for not accepting the traditional hell doctrine, because its unpleasantness has nothing to do with not being able to find it in scripture which is the actual reason I do not embrace it).  But honestly, I am more concerned about the nature of judgment–the impact my attitudes, words, and actions have on the people around me in the here and now as well as, selfishly, the repercussions those judgments might have for me.

If we are honest with ourselves we must admit we make judgments everyday–That is safe.  This is too expensive.  These colors look good together.  Those do not. That milk is spoiled.–The Bible calls this kind of judgment discernment and actually encourages its readers to have and use it.  So, if some types of judgment (AKA discernment) are considered desirable from a Biblical point of view which kinds are not?  The Matthew passage focuses on our judgment of other people.   I would even go so far as to say it is not focused on judging other people’s behavior so much as their worth.

We need to be wise about who we follow and the behaviors we embrace, tolerate, avoid, and even disallow.  Wisdom in those areas is discernment.  Yet, even as we understand certain behaviors to be dangerous, damaging, or undesirable we must be careful to avoid thinking of people in the same way we think of behavior.

While discussing my ideas for this post with a friend he challenged me by setting up the following hypothetical scenario:  You are in a service.  The pastor just started the sermon and a person enters who appearing to be drunk begins to cause a scene–loud talking, cat calls to the front, stumbling down the aisle.  My friend believed the person should be removed from the service by the ushers.  When I asked why and if that would be the most loving response.  He answered that the others in the service needed to be “protected” and had a right to hear the pastor’s message.  And, he added, removing the drunk was not unloving.  I would agree, especially if the person was not just thrown out of the building but actually offered some kind of assistance.

Yet, I argued with my friend, removing the person from the service treats him like a behavior more than a person because our concern and response would be less about him and more about ourselves–our rights and our comfort levels.  I believe loving the person would have included inviting him to sit with us, offering to get him a cup of coffee or something to eat, and addressing the issues gnawing in his head which caused him to stumble through our doors to begin with.  I believe our ministering to that individual’s need would have demonstrated the Biblical principle of loving one another with much greater poignancy than  any sermon points a pastor might have had in that moment.  And in fact, in Mark 2 when four men lowered a paraplegic through the roof disrupting Jesus from preaching the word, Jesus modeled just such love by forgiving the man’s sins and healing his body.

Perhaps our drunk would have continued to be disruptive.  And, the service would have been dismissed without a happy ending or the neatly tied package we find in Mark 2.  Certainly the others in the service would have had lots to chew over.  And maybe, once our drunk had sobered up he would have remembered not being thrown out and what it felt like to be loved instead of judged.

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