Sunday, December 9, 2012

the four last things 2: judgement



May my words be in the name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

During Advent we are looking at the topic traditional to this season, the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, & hell. Last week we looked at death … which is, essentially, the gateway to the other three … this week it is the turn of judgement … the one which decides whether heaven or hell is our ultimate & eternal destination …
The topic has become particularly difficult for many Christians of late … we think of verses from the Bible telling us how much God loved the world … we're taught that God is love … & it is hard for us to reconcile the image of a Loving God with one that will judge us … judge us & perhaps condemn us … because let us be honest … none of us really has a problem with the idea that God will judge us and welcome us into paradise … on the other hands, we are deeply uncomfortable with the idea he might judge us and send us to Hell for all eternity … 

Perhaps it is a difficult subject for the modern world because we as a society have become so unused to the idea of openly judging the behaviour of another or having another judge ours … look at some of the 'mantra's' that have become popular in the modern age: live & let live; I'm OK, you’re OK; don't be so judgemental …

Maybe the problem is the times in which the doctrine of the Last Judgement was formed are so different from ours … earlier ages had no issues with swift judgements and severe punishments … think back to the days of the early Church and a society that had no problem with crucifying someone or throwing them to the lions in the arena … think of the list of punishments that were common in medieval times … branding, whipping, burning, amputation, blinding … and of course death …. and often for offences we would consider quite minor today … death for stealing something as small as a loaf of bread … death for expressing the wrong religious opinion … death for not being sufficiently humble before even a relatively minor nobleman … a world with such severe and often arbitrary punishments didn't take wonder at the idea of God dishing out eternal damnation for the sins one committed in this life … indeed, I'm sure it was a comfort to many of the lowly that those who made their life on this earth a living hell would be repaid with hell for all eternity in the next life for their cruelty in this!

But we live in different times … softer times compared to those days … we don't torture people … the death penalty is gone in most societies … we live in democracies, where in theory even the poorest person enjoys equal protection before the law … whose vote is as powerful as the wealthiest person in the land … who has the right to live as he pleases … we are autonomous … no one can tell us what to do … when we make a choice, we expect the world not only to accept it, but to approve …

And maybe that is the way for us, with our modern mindset, to understand Judgement … it is not God condemning us and punishing us … it is God respecting our choices … he gave us free will so that we might freely chose … and if we decide to make choices that reject him, then he will accept that choice … it is not what he wants … he created us to spend all eternity with him … and he sent his Son so that we might be saved from our sins … but if we deliberately decide to reject him, then he will respect our choice … he will not take away our free will …

When judgement day comes, it is not really God judging us … it is we judging ourselves … he gave us his Son to save us … he gave us Christ body on earth, his Church, to pass on all we need to know to lead our lives as we should … and he gave us free will so that we could decide to follow his Son and his teaching or not … and if we chose to reject all that then we have judged ourselves and decided our eternal fate … just as if we decide to throw ourselves daily on his mercy and faithfully decide to live as his children we also chose … God gave us free will so that we might freely chose eternal life … but he will not force us to accept it … but I pray that you, & all God's children will. Amen.

this Sunday's readings

2 comments:

  1. "And maybe that is the way for us, with our modern mindset, to understand Judgement … it is not God condemning us and punishing us … it is God respecting our choices …"

    Yes, absolutely! Thank you for that.

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  2. Thanks Father ... I think now is a good time to start reminding people that their choices have consequences!

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