Judgement is one of those terms that instantly creates largely diverse connotations. Even in myself, I vacillate between desperately wishing for it and frantically doing all I can to hide from it. I tend to see the world as very black and white. At a young age, I struggled to understand why people broke the rules or, stranger yet, couldn’t even agree on them! I saw right and wrong and couldn’t comprehend anything other version than what I was taught.
My overwhelming sense of justice made it difficult for me to lie and even more problematic for me to hide what I deemed my more serious wrongdoings from my parents or other authority figures. My “big transgressions” would eat away at me until I could think of nothing else and would confess them to the powers that be in hopes of receiving a penance to assuage the guilt I felt. I understood that misbehaving had a penalty and came to view penalty as the necessary vehicle that brought my justification.
That thought pattern bled into my view of Christianity and of God. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). That I grasped. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Seemed fair to my simplistic world view. But after this, my theology started to fall apart. “… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). I had (and still have) a hard time understanding the gift part.
I desperately want to believe that Jesus took my place and paid the ultimate price for my sins when he died on the cross after a sinless life. It’s breathtakingly and painfully poignant. The hues of redemption bleed deeper than I can even begin to discern. But then I get to thinking that it must be too good to be true.
The trouble with human reasoning is that it is limited by our humanity. It’s as if we are trying to paint a three dimensional picture when we live in a two dimensional world and know nothing but bedtime stories of anything else. So, while I believe the Gospel truth that Christ died for me and his blood pays the penalty for my sins, my flawed circular reasoning whispers that I need to add something, too. I need to pay a part of the price to show my acceptance of it. Wrong.
And how much more then, do I extrapolate this misguided sense of ultimate justice on to everyone else? Even though I don’t want to pay the price, I think I deserve it. How much more strongly do I want those who have wronged me and feel no remorse to pay for their actions!
Because of the exaggerated cause and effect, transactionary paradigm I held, I struggled to look at the final judgement of Christ with anything other than doom and dread. Surely, that’s when my portion of the bill would come due. But the whole of scripture never once alludes to a responsibility of payment for those who are in Christ. If I don’t understand this judgement, I don’t understand the cross. If there was no penalty for sin or alternately, if I still owe some unpaid portion of my own – then the cross was for nothing and all is lost.
But God, in his richness of mercy, accepts the blood of the perfect Son’s sacrifice as the atonement for my sins. Nothing else in all of the history of the universe compares in beauty and profundity.
A grasping of the true picture of Christ’s judgement causes me long for and eagerly await that day when I can finally stand with empty hands, my strivings like dust in the wind, and rest utterly and wholly on the work of Him whose love is so perfect and complete that it made a way to cover my sins – not in part, but in full. The final settling of scores for eternity satisfies my innate desire for justice.
This understanding also shifts the lenses through which I see the world. If God forgives my all because of Christ, how can I not forgive the little done to me? How can I stingily hoard that which wasn’t ever mine? Because of Christ, I will stand before his judgement seat and he will only see what he has covered over and I shall finally delight in my created purpose – to hear him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” As C.S. Lewis eloquently puts it, “And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please.” (The Weight of Glory) So, come, Lord Jesus. Come again to judge the living and the dead that I may be found in you.0