It is with a heavy heart that I greet you all today. The whole world has heard France cry out, “Paris est Charlie” (Paris is Charlie) after the wholesale slaughter of innocent journalists of Charlie Hebdo (French for Weekly Charlie), a weekly magazine featuring cartoons, reports, and jokes. The newspaper has attracted worldwide attention, whose depiction of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, have been cited as the reason for this heinous attack. Our profound condolences are with the families and friends of the bereaved, and the nation of France. Although respect for others is a common denominator in human relations, nothing justifies the wholesale slaughter of innocent people.
This senseless attack has galvanized the French people, abhorrent and at the same time defiant, to say nothing of fear. The Bible says that “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John 16:2). This is what makes this kinds of acts so resolute because the perpetrators believe they are dispensers of God’s judgment. So, let’s talk about this important topic of judgment today.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (Wiki Commons)
The word judgment, in the Bible, is principally used in the context of redemption, not wrath and punishment, as many presume. The word judgment in Hebrew has a different meaning in English. Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whosoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world (redemption). He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:47-48 RSV, emphasis added). This tells us of a judgment which is redemptive (now/today), and the judgment at the “last day” (future). Continuing with Jesus’ discourse on the topic, He goes on to say, “For I did not speak on My own (about judgment/redemption), but the Father who sent Me to say all that I have spoken. I know that His commands leads to eternal life. So whatever I say (about judgment/redemption) is just what the Father has told me to say.” (V.49-50, emphasis added). Jesus said, “I judge no one,” and eventually gave His own life as our Savior. Judgment is essentially about eternal life God offers humanity, and is brought to reality in the choices (responsibility) we make in life in the Spirit. In other words, we become our own judge through our decisions and actions – whether for good or evil!
The Bible makes an emphatic statement, while asking a pertinent question about judgment, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy (God). But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jam.4:12, emphasis added). God is well and able to carry out judgment (punishment) as He sees fit. But for now, His judgment is about man’s redemption, not punishment. When James says, “Who are you to judge,” it applies to each and everyone of us, no matter which side the hammer of justice falls. What then is God’s redemptive work today? If we can see the picture of the final judgment, it will give us a clue what His redemptive work is today, because how we live our lives has everything to do with it. I will present two scenarios about judgment that’s now (redemption), and the final judgment to come when all humanity will appear before God to give account.
Jesus’ view of judgment at the last day ties man back to the purpose of judgment and redemption now. God does not leave us ignorant of the future judgment by which humans will be judged. In other words, they are connected. It means you are I have no excuse. The final judgment picture is going on now in the present redemptive focus, it goes like this, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did it for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For when I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, and the righteous to eternal life” (Matt.25:31-46). There’s absolutely no ambiguity about the final judgment and its connection to our present reality today.
How is it that Jesus becomes the reality we see in every person we meet? Because God’s redemptive work in humanity is to owe no one anything but the “debt of Love” (Rom.13:8). Jesus’ life in the Gospels is about God’s Love for humanity. This is the divine motivation of life as God intended from the beginning when He made man in His image of Love (Gen1:26-27). Every human is made in the Love-image of the Creator, and every person is made to be a beneficiary of God’s Love. Just as we are made in his Love- image, we are to be dispensers of His Love. (Gen1:26-27; Rom.8:29; John 1:1-3) It is for the very reason that we are redeemed that we are being judged now and will in the final judgment in the future. Redemption today is about our future judgment. Peter said, “For it is time for judgment (right living/redemption) to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Pet.4:7, ESV, emphasis added). Life’s outcome will be according to how we take responsibility for our actions. Make no mistake, we are being judged now as we take responsibility for our lives in the choices we make.
“Love of God, Love of Neighbor” (Latin) Stained Glass (Wiki Commons)
So the word judgment in its redemptive focus is more accurately rendered as ‘discernment.’ It is about decision-making. It is about how we choose to live life now in relation to the message of the Gospel. The story of the Good Samaritan depicted in the stained glass picture above comes to mind. (Luk.10:25-37) It seems the passing foible of humans today to pass judgment upon others. It is not our purpose in life to be judgmental of others, for there is only one Judge of all mankind – Jesus. (John 5:22) Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.” (Matt.7:1, 3) Yes, we are to apply judgment personally upon ourselves and see where we lack as it concerns living responsibly in our relationship with God and our fellowman. Paul can’t be more clear when he said, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to Love one another” (Rom.13:8). Even when we see a wrong being perpetrated, this principle still applies – we are to correct the person in Love, not in judgment, knowing fully that we too need forgiveness daily. (Gal.5:26-6:1-2; Matt.6:12)
When we see wrongs perpetrated, it is not our role to become judge, jury, and executioner, but to remember the words of Jesus, “Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luk.6: 27-28). Now, Jesus puts an interesting twist to what He’s saying, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. Love your enemies” (V.32-33). Jesus wants His followers to stand out and above the ordinary and commonplace, and be a light for Him in a dark world. If we seek revenge, then where is the light, we are no better than they who live in darkness. Jesus said, “By this will everyone know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Love is a powerful force – not love according to our human narrative, but the divine Love which God made man to be its container, and dispenser through His Spirit. God is in the business of saving people not condemning them – at least not for now. Jesus said, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17).
Recall, that when Jesus was taken to be crucified, His followers wanted to save and avenge Him. One of the disciples drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the cohorts. Jesus said to His followers, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Then Jesus says something in His defense, which many often forget, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus doesn’t need us to defend Him, rather the opposite is true – we need His defense. Angels continue to be at the disposal of believers to help them carry out the will of God on earth. If Jesus could bring Himself to utter this prayer, His prayer would have been answered. But His prayer has always been, “Not My will, but Yours, Father, be done.” Then, He gave reason why He will not pray that prayer, “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matt. 26:52-54). Yes, He was ready to do the Father’s will to die on the cross as Savior for humanity’s sin. That’s God’s judgment, His redemptive act for mankind, His Love in action for all to see. Love… is more powerful than the sword. But if we choose to live by the sword, then we will perish by the sword.
But if it should become necessary to correct a situation, God says this, “Do not take revenge. It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Yes, the Lord is well capable of looking after His own affairs. The last thing He wants is to give up our lives which He would like to use to glorify Him. The Psalmist said, “There is no mention of You in death; In the grave who will give You thanks?” Only the living can show others His praise.
Here is the good news about judgment as it concerns God’s people. For those who receive Jesus as Savior, judgment in terms of punishment has been annulled and cancelled forever. It is now essentially about the reward the Father has prepared for His children. Listen, what the Lord will say at the final judgment, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness.” (Matt.25:21, NASB; also, Rev.22:12-13) But to the one who will continue to live in rebellion, and refuse to receive God’s redemption through His Son, judgment will be about God’s wrath, “You wicked, lazy servant…throw that worthless servant outside into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (V.26, 30) Peter said, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet.3:9). So, judgment is all about living responsibly practicing the Love of God in our relationship with God and others in the redemptive focus of God’s Loving work in man. (Mark 12:30-31)
For, it will be by God’s Love that we find commonality in our humanity, where such heinous acts as we have seen in Paris, has no defense or place in civilization.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write to me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you in this Christmas season of the birth of Jesus the Messiah. May the Spirit enliven you and make all things concerning you possible in Triune Living as a Bula man-river.*
Kiang, (Your Servant in Christ)
* The “Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. To read the many facets of life of the Bula man-river, go to my website www.bulamanriver.com where you can order a copy of my Book.
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise