Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Judgment of God II – Justice and Mercy

In my entry yesterday on this subject, I considered the denial Mankind embraces about the issue. Not surprising; if there’s anything more intimidating than Death itself, it has to be the notion that there is something even more Absolute, unavoidable, and dire.

The excuses are myriad on why people believe they won’t or shouldn’t be judged, but in simple fact, it’s going to happen, so the questions we ought to be asking, are what is likely to happen, and what should someone do to ensure the best results? This is complicated not only by the critical question of making sure you have the right God in front of you when you worship, but also of being true in spirit before God. That is, while it’s completely natural to want to avoid Damnation and Eternal Torment, it’s not going to help you if that’s your case before God. I suspect one thing which scares the non-religious, is that while the Bible shows all sorts of people entering Heaven, at that particular point none of them looks like the average guy, which sounds like very bad news for the so-very-many of us who are average – on a good day.

Before going further, I think I should emphasize that I am speaking my own mind here. No divine dictation here, no private revelations, just a guy trying to sort out in print how the Great Court will settle these affairs. And with no lawyers either, though there will be an Advocate for some. I realize that to some of my audience, this all seems silly, and the atheists who grace my site with a visit are doubtless wondering just a big a fool I am going to be about this. As a Christian, my answer to them is, by your understanding, a very great one. The wisdom of God is foolishness to Man, though I won’t claim I have all that much of the Lord’s wisdom with me here. I am seeking it, which means that those who reject God will find me unreasonable.

Of course, to some degree that’s intentional on my part. To be “reasonable” as men use the word, is to accept Human rules and conditions, a thing plainly less than the level of God’s standards. The Holy is a thing well beyond our comprehension, and so a thing which must plainly be adored or abhorred. Yet that same Holiness is what makes a truly just judgment possible. It’s not enough that God has total power and knowledge, it is His Holiness which gives us reason to believe He will be just, and which indeed creates and nurtures the hope of mercy.

To understand the situation effectively, we also need to remove false impressions created by our human perspective. Many humans, for example, contend that hell is an unreasonable proposition, that it cannot be just to punish humans eternally and without limits, for limited sins in both effect and duration. The problem with such a statement is the inherent hubris. As an example, I used to drink, and on a couple occasions I was not sure if I was in sober condition to drive, so I didn’t drive. The thing is, I had a friend I used to go out with, and he didn’t think the same way, and one night he got himself pulled over and written up for DUI. I was able to help him keep his job and make bail, but it was still both a bad time of his life, and a lesson he learned. Now, some would say there was no sin here, especially for me – hadn’t I made sure I didn’t drive drunk? The thing is, because I didn’t want to look weak, I never told my buddy about the times I wasn’t sure about my condition, and if I had told him, maybe he could have managed to avoid that problem himself. Even so, some might say, no harm no foul, right? The trouble there is, that I don’t know of anyone who drives drunk in order to hurt anyone; the injury happens because they drive drunk, and it’s just chance that my friend didn’t hurt anyone by driving inebriated. So, what if he had had an accident while driving drunk, and killed someone? Would that still be a sin of “limited” effect and duration, the ending of someone’s life? And so, even though he did not have an accident, my friend’s actions, on the moral level, are the same as if he did. And for my part, my decision not to discuss my own experience prevented my friend from considering his own condition, so I bear my own responsibility in the same context. We are all of us guilty of the same thing, separated only by degrees of environment, so we are all of us guilty of the same sin as a moral offense against God, permanent and total in its duration and effect. Or, if you prefer, consider a bit of gossip you might tell. Have you considered that the words carry on and expand, until invariably some version of them reaches a person who would be damaged by them? Perhaps damaged to such degree, that a life decision may be made by the effect of a careless rumor? When the total truth is known, we shall all be appalled to realize that we are all of us guilty of sin to some degree, but that degree is not, however phrased, sufficiently minor as to claim that we did no permanent harm. We did, and must come to terms with that grim fact.

The next element, is the matter of our plea. In human courts, a person is either expected to prove his innocence, is held to be neither innocent or guilty until the court decides, or is considered innocent until proven to be guilty. In each of these cases, however, the court bears responsibility for producing the facts, to make the guilt or innocence of the accused plain. Not so in God’s Court, where His Omniscience means He already knows our condition. The sole reason for the hearing then, is to record our response. Some cynics have claimed that the Christian faith is false, because it would allow the worst of murderers to enter Heaven by simply saying the right words, while condemning the best of saints to hell if they fail to utter the right sayings. This is not correct, but shows again the assumption that human conditions would prevail. If it happens that a person speaks of faith but his heart is dead, he is still in his sin, and will fool no one when he stands before God. The difference is between ’Attrition’, where one fears the penalty but is not sorry, and Contrition’, where one is truly penitent of his sins and wrongs. The need for this repentance is critical for each of us. We stand in the gravest of peril.

Enter the Lord. Part of the problem Humanity has with God, is that we see things through the filter of what we want and understand. We are just able to understand that we have done wrong, many times and in many ways, and that we cannot correct what has been done; it is beyond us. We fear discovery and consequence, and yet that is a good thing. It is good, because only when someone loves what is right and good, can one fear the consequence of sin and evil. The devil and his angels fear their punishment, but not their sin, and that is everything in this matter. It is exactly what Jesus meant when He said that every sin would be forgiven, save blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The reason for that is plain – the Holy Spirit is an agent of God, the Person of the Trinity who reaches out to us no matter what our condition, so that while we cannot stand the presence of God in even the slightest of our sins, God is able to reach us even in our worst day and conduct.

So, to the question of God’s judgment. Have you ever considered why God wants a judgment at all? I mean, there is some small merit in the argument that God is greater than any man, or all of us together, so that we cannot really affect Him at all. The thing there is, God is not acting in our universe for His own benefit but ours, and the judgment we receive is a blessing from Him, no matter what we choose to call it. Life shows us many times, that a truly great person is able to accept what many would call a curse, and turn it into a blessing. Others, sadly, take what many would call a great blessing, and hate it as a curse. The choice, as always, is made in the heart. The head does little more than come up with a description for what has already happened.

In my piece yesterday, I wrote that I only woke up this morning, because the Lord chose to give me another day of life. I did not earn it, He gave it to me freely. As a result, everything I do comes as a result of what God contributed, which is to say that even if I lived perfectly, everything I accomplished would rightfully belong to God, and be no more than my duty. Since I have failed to live perfectly, even in the one day, I have sinned against God and bear responsibility for that sin, all on my own. Justice then, on the Absolute scale, is very frightening indeed, especially acknowledging the times when I deliberately chose to sin, acting in hatred, lust, or greed.

That brings in Mercy, which ultimately is the stronger component of God’s Judgment. That Mercy does not equate to “free pass”, or say, at all, that God will condone or excuse evil. The devil and his angels are to be thrown into the everlasting torment of the lake of fire, after all, and the same of anyone who chooses to join them. The measure of Mercy from God, then, is the choice to accept Holiness.

I intend to write more of Holiness, and the reason Christ is the way, in my next installment.

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