Why We Don’t Like God Being the Judge…

gavel

We like God being compassionate, gracious, loving, faithful and forgiving.  When we talk about God as judge, we don’t like it.  Why?

We like being our own judges.  I like to have moral authority over you.  When I catch you doing something I deem inappropriate it, I have a feeling of power in condemning you.  In power hungry American culture today, we delight in ascribing to others motives behind actions.  Then we re-enforce our moral superiority by condemning both actions and motives.

We dislike reality.  Our culture message is “live your own life as you wish.”  Technology invites us to believe we can bend reality.  I struggle with three realities that will not bend: My bathroom scales, my watch, and the state trooper’s radar gun.  When one of these realities confronts me, I want to argue (note: doesn’t work with troopers), I want to justify, I want to disbelieve.  Reality does not change just because I wish.

We refuse responsibility.  If I struggle with laziness, it’s easy to blame someone else for my lack of motivation.  If I gain weight, let me sue McDonalds for making food I decided to eat.  If my kids are out of control, let me blame their teachers and school administrators.  In Washington, DC, when was the last time you heard a politician say, “We’ve got a problem, we created it, so let’s fix it?”  It’s easier to blame the other party (sometimes people in your own party) that accept responsibility.

We resist instruction.  No serious person would propose a parent allow their small child to be self-directed.  A parent’s loving responsibility is to introduce their child to realities: hot stoves burn, cats do not like their tails to be tugged, texting and driving can kill you.  So why would we think a God of love would not want to instruct his children, as a judge instructs a defendant?

We can’t believe a God of love would judge.  What we really mean to say is “We can’t believe God would judge us.”  We all want God to judge evil doers.  We want God to judge terrorists.  We want to see brutal dictators condemned.  No one wants to live in a world where there is no standard of right and wrong.  We simply do not wish to believe our evil is that evil.

If the monotheistic religions are correct, God made this world and by extension, all of us.  Therefore, as creator, he has the right, the obligation to stay involved and judge this world.  God’s judgment preserves his created order.  Granted, God allows a level of chaos and randomness in this world.  This exists so humans can have free will.  But God holds people accountable for their decisions and choices.  He does this because it is his right.  He also does this because he is a god of love and has no wish for chaos to control his creation.

Once we accept God is judge, we face three choices.  First, we can deny he is judge and deny he will hold us accountable for our lives.  At death, we’ll find out if we were right.  Second, we can strive to be so good our failures will be wiped out.  Third, we can come before the judge and ask for mercy.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day, it was God’s great sign that his courtroom would be a place of grace – if you wanted it.

Whether I like or not, God will hold me accountable for my life.  But thanks be to God, he will also extend mercy and grace.

The Banker…

bank

In one small town lived an unusual banker.  He was known for taking a chance on people.  His bank didn’t run on committees or send decisions to Charlotte; he’d make a loan at the lunch counter of the drug store.  It didn’t matter if you needed $500 or $5,000, he’d listen, give advice, and more often than not, give you the loan.

One day, before the bank opened, two men were waiting outside.  The banker recognized them both.  He’d loaned Al $5,000 to buy some chicken feed; he’d loaned Joe $50,000 to start a restaurant.  Both men had furrowed brows; their heads down.

The banker greeted the men, unlocked the door of the bank, and invited them in.  Al said, “I need to speak to you, sir, in private if I can.”  The banker told Joe to wait a minute, invited Al into his office, and closed the door.

Al took a seat in front of the desk, looked at the floor, and started to speak: “I don’t know to tell you this, but you know that $5,000 I borrowed for chicken feed?  Well, I bought the feed, gave it to my chickens, but it must have poisoned, because I went out the next day and all 800 of my chickens were dead.  Nobody wants to buy dead poisoned chickens.  You know I was counting on those chickens to grow out.  I was going to sell them, and then pay you back.  But now, I’m busted.  I can’t pay.  I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

The banker looked at this defeated man, and said, “Al, it’s okay.  I’m going to forgive this loan.  You don’t have to pay me a dime.”

Al looked shocked.  “You can’t do that.  I’ll pay you back someday, I promise.”  Both Al and the banker knew that was a lie, but it made Al feel better to say it.

“Al,” said the banker, “don’t you worry about it.  Take this load off your shoulders.  Go home and start over.”

Al got up, choked up, and hugged the banker.  Al said, “I’ll never forget this.  Never.  Thank you.”

Al walked out of the office and the banker motioned for Joe to walk in.  He wore the troubled look Al had worn just a few minutes ago.

Joe took the same seat as Al, looked at the floor, and started to speak: “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you know that $50,000 I borrowed to start my restaurant?  Well last night I got careless with my stove and had a grease fire.  It’s my own fault; I was being stupid.  The whole building burned to the ground.  I lost my furnishings, my inventory, my building … everything.”

The banker said, “Well, now don’t worry.  Insurance will cover it.  You’ll rebuild.”

Joe dropped his head again.  “Well, I don’t know how to tell you this, but see a couple of months ago, things got tight and I let my insurance coverage lapse.  I don’t have any coverage.  I made a bad mistake and now, I’m busted.  I got no way to pay you.”

The banker got up from his chair and went around his desk.  He took a seat beside Joe and said, “Joe, letting your insurance lapse was a mistake.  Not paying attention to your stove was a mistake.  Here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to forgive your loan.  You don’t have to pay it back.  Instead, I’m going to be your partner.  We’ll go in business together and start over.  I think together we can build you a better business and a better life.”

Joe stammered, “You’d take a chance on me?  Even after I screwed up?”

The banker smiled and said, “That’s what I do; I invest in people so they can have a better life.”

Joe broke into tears.  Never in his dreams did he believe he would be given another chance.

After Joe left, the banker went back to his desk with a smile.  Another day of grace had begun.

************************

Jesus told several variations of this story.  The point was always the same, though we miss it.  The point is not the debt was forgiven.  The point is not the gratitude of the two debtors.  The point of the story is how rich the banker is, that he can forgive debt, no matter what size.

Jesus is so rich in grace and mercy, he forgives every sin.  You cannot overdraw his grace balance.

Before you invest your life, know who is the banker of your soul.

Who is God?

camping under the stars

A Cub Scout troop was sleeping out under the stars; at least, that’s what their Scoutmaster thought.  He was snoring away while the boys were telling stories, pondering life, and looking at the Milky Way.  One boy said, “What do you suppose God is really like?”

The boy whose dad ran a manufacturing plant said, “God is like a plant manager.  He goes around telling the angels what stars to make.  After they make one, he inspects it to make sure it’s quality, and then he ships it out so another crew of angels can install it in the sky.”

The boy whose dad was a policeman said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like a policeman looking for people who break his laws.  When they do, God catches them and makes them pay for what they’ve done.”

The boy whose dad was a lawyer said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like a judge.  The angels go out and catch everyone when they die.  Then God judges them based on what they did.  Then he sends them upstairs if they’re good or downstairs if they’re bad.”

The boy whose dad was rich said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like Santa Claus.  All you have to do is ask him for something and he brings it to you when he gets home from his trips.  And if you don’t get what you want, you hold your breath until you turn blue and then God will give you what you want.”

The boy whose dad left when he was born said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God makes you and then leaves you alone to figure everything out for yourself.”

The boy who was being raised by his grandfather said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is old and he has arthritis.  You have to be real quiet around him.  But you can get away with a lot of stuff because he doesn’t see too well, or hear too well either.”

The boy whose dad was an accountant said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God makes sure everything is in its place.  God doesn’t tolerate mistakes.  You’ll be okay with God as long as you stay within the lines.”

The boy whose dad was a solider said, “No that’s not who God is.  God fights the devil.  He and the angels are fighting the devil and the demons.  The angels fly around and shoot arrows of gold, while the demons catapult balls of fire back.”

One boy, who didn’t have a dad, stayed quiet.  The other boys prodded him: “Hey Billy!  Who do you think God is?”

A moment passed.  Then Billy spoke up and said, “God is my Father in heaven.”

In heaven, God sighed and cried at the same time.