Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst forth with joy! Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord! For the Lord is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and all the nations with truth. -- Psalm 96:11-13
Praise and rejoicing in the face of coming judgment? It seems odd. We usually think of judgment as going hand-in-hand with punishment. God's judgment, as it is frequently portrayed, is when we get what we deserve for all the bad things we have done, or said, or thought. By this thinking, even if we have done well in some areas, these are weighed against all our bad choices, in the scales of justice. Whichever way the scales tip determines whether we receive the ultimate reward or ultimate punishment.
This is one of those cases where it helps to remember that Jesus showed us what God was truly like. So, we ask ourselves: How did Jesus judge people?
Well, with those people who were considered sinners, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes, he taught of God's unfailing love and forgiveness. He told stories of God searching out the one lost sheep, to bring it back to the fold. And Jesus lived this out. He invited himself over to Zacchaeus' house, changing that man's life forever. And when he was challenged to judge the adulteress, he forgave her. He sat and ate with sinners and prostitutes, teaching them all about God's love in the process, I am sure.
The ones whom Jesus got the most angry with were the self-righteous religious leaders and those who worshiped money. With these, he tried everything he could think of to get them to see the error of their ways. He told them parables: of the servants in the field, of the prodigal son, of the rich man and Lazarus, etc. He came to their houses, too, teaching them all about God's generous love, I am sure. And he sometimes got angry. He compared them to empty tombs. He even got angry enough to turn over tables and admonish those who were dishonoring God.
Jesus did all these things for love. He showed no partiality. He wanted everyone to understand what God was truly like. Those who believed him, they were changed, for the better. And this is what God wants more than anything else: for those of us who have strayed to return to him. God wants us ALL to abide in him as he abides in us.
I have been reading "The Shack", by Wm. Paul Young. I just finished the chapter, "Here Comes Da Judge", which is why the passage above jumped out at me. In this chapter, Wisdom, personified as an Hispanic woman named Sophia, puts the main character, Mack, in The Judgment Seat. She does this because Mack wants to judge other people, even God -- like many of us do. She asks him to decide amongst his five children which two will go to heaven and which three will go to hell. Mack can't choose. He loves all his children, even though some of them have tried his patience more than others; he understands them. Wisdom insists. He refuses. He can't do it. Wisdom says that he has no other choice. Then Mack begs Wisdom to take him instead, to send him to hell, if all of his children can go to heaven. This reminds everyone, Wisdom, and the reader, of Jesus.
THAT is the love God has for us. Only we are all God's children. God knows each and every one of us to our core, and he shows no partiality. He will continue to seek out all of his children, inviting us to share in his glorious love, to the end of days.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all you have done, for me, and for the world. And thank you for putting this story in my lap. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, it has been a wonderful story to read. Love always, Pam