Thursday, April 5, 2012

God is Judge


I am to my final attribute – it’s hard to believe. This has been an incredible journey of discovering God’s attributes, experience Him in a new way. This season of my life has been about His asking me to have a deeper trust and contentment with Him. It has not been easy, but as I learn to put my expectation in Him, in His attributes, I am satisfied. He really is enough. On Saturday, he said to me: “Just as your trust cannot be conditional to an understanding, so, too, your faith cannot be conditional to my ‘performance.’” 

My trust in Him is based on Him, who He said He is, who He has shown Himself to be. Period. It’s been a fun study for the last few months, and I invite you to read the old posts if you’ve not read attribute #1 - #10 (click the tag “attributes of God” for quick reading). 

The final attribute from Acts from 17:22-31 comes from verse31: “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” 

#10: God is our Judge

I’ve put off writing this post because this attribute is not only intimidating, but it’s not very positive, either. Who wants to read about God judging the world—even if I do believe it? 

But as I asked God what do  You want me to write, I felt like He laid something much more important on my heart: God is Judge, and as such, it’s not my job, my responsibility, or my right to judge others. I have felt for a long time that Christians are more critical of others (Christians and non-Christians alike) than non-Christians are of anyone. 

My feelings were confirmed while reading a blog post about the judgment homosexuals face by Christians (or other religious groups). Several points that this writer makes are worth repeating:
“The greatest spiritual leaders in history have all preached love for others as the basis for all happiness, and never did they accompany such mandates with a list of unlovable actions or deeds. They never said, love everybody except for the gays. Love everybody except for the homeless. Love everybody except for the drug users. Love everybody except for the gang members, or those covered in ink, or the spouse abusers. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody with the exception of the “trailer trash,” those living in poverty, or the illegal immigrants. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody except for our ex-lovers, our lovers’ ex lovers, or our ex-lovers’ lovers. The mandate was pretty damn clear, wasn’t it?
Love others. Period.”
“I know there are many here who believe that living a homosexual life is a sin.
Okay.
But, what does that have to do with love?
I repeat… what does that have to do with love?
 Come on. Don’t we understand? Don’t we get it? To put our arm around someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a different lifestyle, someone who is not what we think they should be… doing that has nothing to do with enabling them or accepting what they do as okay by us. It has nothing to do with encouraging them in their practice of what you or I might feel or believe is wrong vs right.”
He concedes that he's not a Christian, and he ends the blog with this sort of “love others and you'll love yourself” thing, and of course, that’s not where I would take it. But here’s what I would say. He is absolutely right on two accounts: as Christians, we are commanded to love others, period; and two, we are commanded not to judge anyone. 

I’m not sure where we put that “load” upon ourselves, but it should be freeing to know that we don’t have to carry it. It was freeing for me, anyway. It released me from worry about how God would deal with Person A who does x, y, or z – whether we’re talking about homosexuality or clubbing, prostitution or tattoos. I mean, God couldn’t possibly save person A who does x, y, or z, right? How did we, as the Church, get to labeling sins and categorizing them among a hierarchy of deeds? Well, those are “lifestyle” sin, some might argue. Yes, and so is my daily my struggle not to fear man. Is my fear of man more than fear of God any less problematic? Absolutely not. And yet, no one (at least that I know of) is questioning my salvation. 

Jantzen Louder preached a few weeks ago, and at one point in his message, he made the comment that everyone should have at least one friend who is not a Christian. He didn’t mean a passing knowledge of a person who’s not a Christian, but a relationship with a non-Christian. I’m sure this was shocking for some, but for me, it was encouraging to finally hear someone say it from the pulpit. 

However, if you would have asked me 8 years ago if I knew a single non-Christian, my answer would have been “no.” In high school, all my friends were Christians. And in college, I fell into the same group. And that’s why I thank God that I met Jane* my senior year at ASU. Jane and I worked together, and after a week of working together, I knew she was a lesbian, and she knew I was a Christian. At that time, I had no idea how to handle knowing and working with a lesbian (gasp, I know). But God told me this: I love her as much as I love you or anyone else. And I said okay, then I love her, too. After working together for a month, we had this conversation:
Jane: “You know I’m gay, right?”
Me: “Yes, I gathered.”
Jane: “So, now you’ll tell me how wrong it is, right? It’s a sin? And I’m going to hell?”
Me: “No, I don’t think I’m anyone to decide who gets to go to heaven and who has to go to hell.”
Jane: Pausing for a moment, clearly confused. “Well, I know what all the Bible says about homosexuality. I’ve read the verses, not just the Old Testament, but in Romans 1, too.”
Me: “Then, I don’t guess there’s anything you’d need to know.”
Jane: “So… okay then.”
Me: “Okay then.”
Jane and I went on to be friends, and we still keep in touch from time to time. And today, I have lots of people in my life who hold different beliefs than I do. And for some of them, they’re not just people I know in passing; they’re people I love and respect deeply. And, more importantly, I'm not friends with them to save them, convince them, or change them. If you think being friends with non-Christians is about having "projects," you've missed the point. And if you think it's your job to defend or sell Christianity, you've missed the point, again.

I know that I can’t, for one second, pretend that I have all the answers about sin, anyway. My response to Jane is as true today as it was 8 years ago: “I don’t think I’m anyone to decide who gets to go to heaven and who has to go to hell.” 

Here’s the truth: anyone with any understanding how wretched we are in our sin, anyone with an understanding of how amazing His grace is—in short, anyone who “gets” the depravity from which we were saved—should know this: Who am I to judge?  

“A new commandment I give you to, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”












*Jane was not her real name.
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