Who is your judge?
I mean in the ultimate sense who do you look to as the judge of the true worth of your actions and your worth as a person? Some of us turn to our parents and judge our actions and our lives on their approval alone. Some of us look to peers – it is peer group judgment that is the ultimate criterion that determines our actions in life. Still others look to no one but themselves to judge the relative goodness, or lack thereof, in their choices and deeds.
One of the distinguishing marks of a Christian is the fact that he or she looks forward to the judgment of God. The Christian is aware of the constant in-breaking of God into his or her life. A true Christian sees this not as a threat or in negative terms but rather sees it as a summons, a calling, or as an invitation from God for us to grow.
To believe in and assert that Christ will come again is to believe in and assert that we are in the process of becoming, in the process of growing and maturing, and that heaven can begin here on earth. It is a tremendously hopeful vision. It gives us goals. It gives us something to work for. It gives us the power to overcome despair, hopelessness, and the inertia present when we hear ourselves saying, “What’s the use?”.
Life isn’t meant to be lived in the feverish pursuit of the approval of others. Life begins that way but heaven help us if it ends that way. On the day I die I won’t care very much at all any more about what others may think of me. What will matter very much is whether or not I have lived in what is right, what is true, what is just, what is beautiful, and what is noble. All of the times I prayed and lived “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” will be there with me.
You and I can work with inner peace. In spite of the most frantic activity and noise we can work secure in God’s judgment, with the peace that comes from knowing we are, in God’s eyes, doing what we must, and doing what is right. Furthermore, we can work with receptive minds, minds that are quiet and able to listen to and perceive what is real in all that we are doing. All of that does not depend on what other people think of me. All of that depends on asking the question “Why did God create me and give me life?”
When I was a child it was important that I receive the smiling approval of my mother and my father. When they frowned I was afraid and insecure. But back then I was weak and dependent, and so I constantly looked for approval and affection in order to validate my self- worth.
As I grew older I needed that same sort of thing from my friends and acquaintances. Without that, without being considered a nice guy, productive, alert, intelligent, and all of those things, I was miserable. Then one day I discovered that I was in bondage, that I was enslaved by the crowd. I didn’t have the strength to say and do what was right and ought to be done. God was not my judge.
As I grew older, while I had not read Malachi (3:19-20), I eventually came to feel the impact of his words:
Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.
The Second Coming of Christ, the Last Days, the Day of Judgment, is always upon us. Today is a day of judgment for all of us in all that we do or say. It really isn’t very threatening; it’s more of an invitation. And when we pray to God “Thy Kingdom come,” it too can be seen as an invitation, a seeking of that order of reality that is divine. Isn’t that the best way to always judge things, to judge my actions, my motivations, my loves, my relationships with others?
We ought to avoid the escapism of constantly dreaming about the future. Day-dreaming about the world to come, or the person I fancy I am going to be, is out of touch with the reality that is the world as it is here and now. It is also out of touch with the judgment of God that is upon us here and now. There comes a point when we have to get off of the merry-go-round and look at where we are in relation to the past that has brought us to this point and look to the future that calls us to act the way we do today.
I am what I am based on the many, many decisions that I made in my past. I also am what I am based on my vision of the future, based on what my life will say to God when I am called upon to give it over to Him. He gave me life. The question I must answer is “What did I do with it?”
Your life here is very real. You cannot say to yourself: “Well, I’ll really begin to live when I retire.” If you think that way then you’re deluding yourself… you are trying to escape the judgment that must be placed on what you choose to do in the here and now, on the life you are living in whatever occupation you now find yourself.
What others think is of some value, of course. It always is. And God can be judging you through, with, and in them. But the ultimate reality is that you must be a self-actuating, mature, and independent person who has met the challenge of becoming a true son or daughter of God… the way Jesus did. Like our great heroes and heroines of the past, we have to have the courage and strength to stand alone and be judged by God alone.
What we consider today is the First Commandment: “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” It is God who ought to be the ultimate judge of our worth and our deeds, not others, and not just ourselves.
And so you and I, especially in these times, are called to give witness, to give testimony in our world, in our times, that God (Luke 21:5-19) is the judge of all things.
When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end. “Then he said to them,” Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”