My friend Brad asked for an essay? I can count on one finger of one hand the number of times that has happened . . .
There was a group discussion today, and it was one of those rambling types. One thing kinda leads into another, and pretty soon you are all over the map. I love discussions like that! It would be difficult to summarize the give and take fairly, and who wants to be accused of saying that someone "said something", or to be found implying a view in them which just ain't so? Thus, we will leapfrog right over the drifty wandering aspects of the talk and cut right to the chase. . . sort of.
Hot air balloons were designed to ascend, and race cars were built to accelerate. Though we were built to sprint; often we trudge. There is something disturbing I think in watching a balloon scuff the ground, and drift sideways with the wind. It is supposed to rise, and ride the currents aloft, not bounce and bump along; dragging the load. There is a disconcerting sense of "waste" in me when I see a car designed for 200 plus m.p.h., stumbling along at barely a tenth of that. Likewise, with us.
When we watch a world class sprinter pull a hamstring or turn an ankle, the wobbly limping, and the hobbling along is heartbreaking to observe. There is so much more he "could have done" if-only, and if-only. The if-onlies of our lives act as an "explanation" of why we were dragging and bumping along, of why we were stuck in first gear and could not locate the gas pedal.
As an example of this kind of thing, I didn't much care for the movie "Forrest Gump" plot-wise. But, a scene in it has been on serial playback in my brainstem for years. The Gumpster is walking along in some braces for his legs which he has worn since childhood. Some thugs are about to assault him, and his girl shouts, "Run Forrest, Run!".
He begins predictably enough, by gimping along a bit quicker than usual; and then he begins to speed up. The best part of the entire movie is that he soon (literally!) runs right out of his braces! He begins picking 'em up, and putting them down at a surprising (even to him!) pace, and simply outdistances the bad eggs. And in my mind we have here a great picture of judgement.
Back in the discussion, we were talking circularly about the topic (judgement I mean), and our basic human default setting in regard to being judged. In brief, although we are forgiven, it remains quite clear that there is a judgement ahead of us. How to reconcile the two?
If you are not Christian, most of what I am about to say might well sound like so much baloney, so bear with me. I shall attempt to decode the talk back into human-speak as we go along, okay?
Believers are all the time talking about "holding in tension" two (seemingly) contradictory ideas. Thematically, this pops up pretty frequently. You might hear a key word in this context; which is "balance". I won't wear you out with a laundry list of all the "balances" we ought (morally?) maintain, but a few of these might include Gods' sovereign control of all which comes to pass, compared to human responsibility to do the right thing. That is, since all which comes to pass includes the topic "things I do", how can He hold me responsible for wrong-doing if it was not decreed in the first place that I would do right? Or, how about the continued role of law, versus the free mercy of gospel? If keeping the moral law does not "go away", then I deserve wrath for my lousy attitude and worse execution of the true and good. So, how can God violate His own standards to grant welcome to an admitted traitor and failure? The biggie among the balancing acts is of course faith versus works. If we are freely justified by belief, then to what purpose is the doing of good deeds? How are we to reconcile what appears to be two trains going opposite directions?
Christian discussions often orbit somewhere right about here, and believers just cannot seem to get enough of this stuff. And in this plumbers' opinion, what we are discussing is an uneasy truce, a kind of shifty sense within our own hearts and minds. We love talking about these (and others too!) because it might be the closest we can get to verbalizing the unease in us concerning coming judgement.
Now, nobody likes a wise guy, and know-it-alls usually end up reciting their "expertise" mainly to themselves. So, I would prefer to not go there today, thank you very much just the same. Simply said, I don't really know what the best attitude and answers here are. But, we can gather some things out of the wreckage at least.
The sad feel in us of watching limping sprinters, the pathos of finding the bird with a broken wing, that impulse we have to shout to the balloonist; "Turn On The Burner!", this (in a sense) "is us".
We know to some extent at least that we are "capable of so much more" than we ordinarily produce. This uneasy tension within us, of looking forward to the day when all secrets are made public, and all motives are plain to see, and every word spoken is now in print, is not exactly a heart-warming source of encouragement . . . to say the very least!
If you are at all like me, the standard of judgement is pure truth, and absolutely right. And since that is the case, Then "if I am saved" is a far more accurate statement than "since I have been saved". What judgement (as a topic) generates in me is a queasy avoidance response, never, ever is it the motive to turn on the burner, to accelerate beyond the tachometers' red line!
All that blather and nonsense about us using only ten percent of our brain power, plus all of that "sky is the limit" type of talk is just more evidence against me. It is but the more complete filling out of the list of things I failed at. Do we really require more of that?
So, getting back to the Gumpster for a moment, by what type of word, through which set of truths do we ever find the gas pedal?
The usual ploy is to simply drop the Judge and wax eloquent about the Father. The brainwave here is to really stress that the compassion (for failures like me) of His, the repetition of His forgiveness assertions, and maximization of the "relationship" angle, somehow cancels the Judge. So, the drift develops as "being careful to not be negative". Basically, just ignore all the grisly guck we bear about in us, how's that for a strategy?
Well, that is probably unfair, but my objection is not so much, the orthodoxy of such an approach in this C.P.E., as it is to note our failure (just here!) that the balloon is still dragging, and even worse than before the "fix"! That is, if our goal was to "unleash", if the aim was to "free-up" the saints for zealous and fiercely glad service, how come we are unable to admit that the cure is worse than the disease?
With this type of compassion-only drive, the silk has now collapsed to the ground, and the car has completely stalled. Putting our beloved sprinter on the disabled list and rolling him around in a wheelchair is not "progress". And this in my book, (in a sense) is "who we are".
For years, I thought of this material as a discourse on hats. I say "hats", because to American ears, "crowns" sounds so very undemocratic. I thought this way:
"Paul the Apostle, what a champion, what a lion-heart for the faith, eh? Gosh, you gotta love that "get 'er done!" ethos, and who doesn't admire the fearless completion of the course? Me, not so much. So, in the resurrection, this Paul guy has this whopper-doodle, hat-zilla thing going on. Picture a seventeen layer wedding cake, with ornaments, and jewels, and Christmas lights festooning it. Add in buzzers, klaxons and live-streamed video flat screens! What a hat! Custom metal-flake paint job, with lots of chrome! The thing is eighteen feet tall, and he is walking around the streets of the new Jerusalem with this eye-popper on his noggin, like nobody's business; for all to see! Me? I've got this dumb beanie, with maybe a plastic propeller lazily swinging around every so often?".
So, my "hat theology" was to the effect, that; "Yes. we are both saved, and yes we are both present with the Lamb in His glory, but there is saints, and then there is SAINTS! The hat idea was that the glory of actually doing what he was told rather than merely agreeing with it, (like some we could name) shows up! God takes notice. Hat theology was judgement as viewed by "Yours truly".
Now, although I have never before admitted to anyone what I just now told you, this rewards concept, this big-payday theory was in the back of my mind for at least a couple of decades. And however comical and bizarre it sounds, I (still) think I was basically on the right page. True, it needed editing, and true it was gruesome even by my standards, but the beauty of Gospel, is that judgement is past-tense for those "in" Christ Jesus!
The flooring of the pedal, the after-burner of the jet, the soaring of the hawk, and the supremely glad sprint of the bride into her Lovers' arms, this is the flavor of reality baby! And what's real is that He ain't backing down on having paid the bride-price!
One great comment in todays' discussion was that we were built for good works, not for "perfect" works.
When a little kid does her first drawing of her daddy with crayon, we ain't expecting a masterpiece over here. But Mom proudly displays the art work on the fridge anyhow. When Mrs. Corey, teaching first grade; put her hand on top of mine to "help form a big A" with this king sized pencil, it was my handwriting which was praised! When a dad trots behind his son as the kid wobbles down the road learning the bicycle, it is the kid who rode "all by himself!". This is the aroma of life, the perfume of sanity, and The Father Almighty is "merely" an infinitely better Dad than any other. Judgement isn't about binding, it is about loosing!
The unease within us, that foot scraping and dodgey eyes drill, that too has been judged, and our Captain does not expect someone who has been comatose for thirty years to start doing handsprings. A flutter of the eyes, a weak hand squeeze says: "He's alive!". And for today, that is good enough! It is okay to be uneasy, it is fine to be afraid, you have never before been on this rocket-bike. But sho-nuf, you are now, and look; "He is riding all by himself"!
Judgement is the new beginning, it is creation breaking out all over again, and we have been judged as His wildly beloved kiddos. The busting out of the starting blocks, the stomping on the gas pedal, the light springing up into the air to inaugerate flight, it is all past-tense from where we now stand!
Sure, we are blockheads, sure we are dreadfully slow on the uptake. So what? Progress is progress, growth is growth, and life is the gift given . . . to "the ages of the ages".
You are safe now! Your Papa Almighty today defends your life, and He (The Dreaded One!) exacts drastic retribution on those unfairly killing you. It is a new loyalty we see, a fidelity to the death, and beyond. Far, far beyond!
And the fruit of this? I have ceased to care about my dumb beanie. I will wear it gladly. You see? He made it Himself, just for me!
Swiftly we sprint into the arms of Him loving us with an Almighty love. We are no longer running away, and we "do it all by ourselves"! That's judgement for ya.
And hey Brad, thanks for asking!