Thursday, February 23, 2012

Judgement and consequences

Something caught my attention last night while watching Cold Case. In one of the flashbacks, a young teacher/would-be minister was counselling a club of teens. He told one girl, "God doesn't judge you." What? Where is this in the bible?

I understand, there are a lot of bad representations of Christianity out there. Not all of them are the fault of "the media". Sometimes we as Christians take what we hope and believe personally, and hold it out for the world to see as "what Christians believe", when said beliefs may have no real theological basis. In this story, the character turned out to be not the kind of person you'd want as either a teacher or a minister to begin with.

My name means "God is my judge". What kind of universe would we live in if He didn't? Many "atheists" and anti-Christians accuse God of being unjust, unfair, cruel, and heartless. But, if God is not just, then where did we humans get this idea of justice to begin with? It's certainly not a scientific idea, you can't empirically or experimentally arrive at justice. But we are convinced that it is a real idea.

The gospel message is not that God doesn't judge us. The Good News is this: Even having judged us, He loves us so much that He has taken the punishment that we rightly deserve (and can't bear) onto His own self. That is what our hope of salvation means. The judgement is not gone, it is not "waived". It is paid on our behalf, and that is the gift for which we should be thankful.

I can hear what you're thinking. "If God is so just, why do innocent people suffer? If God is merciful, why is there a Hell?" Those are important questions. Please remember, there is a difference between judgement and consequences. Judgement is what we are due for the consequences of our own choices. We suffer many consequences for things we did not choose. That's a necessary condition for free will.

Let's take an example. One man murders another. Both men have families. The judgement is that the murderer goes to jail, perhaps even gets the death penalty. Two families are broken as a consequence. The children in both families suffer, both the murder's family and the victims. But does the guilt of the suffering belong to the judge handing down the sentence? No, it belongs to the man who did the murder. Even if the murderer repents and reforms in prison, the deed is done, and though the families may heal in time, the consequence remains.

But what if God could erase consequences? Then we would never learn. We would never grow. "Free will" would mean nothing. One of my favorite sayings, from the wall of a local diner: Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.