Written by Steven Liechty
"God calls to the heavens above and to the earth, in order to judge the people. Gather to me my faithful ones…for God alone is judge." - Psalm 50:4-6 (NRSV, adapted)
May I bring up a difficult matter . . . "judgment"?
Actually, this is not my idea. I blame it on today's Scripture, Psalm 50 -- and truth to tell, lots of other parts of the Bible as well.
In many places, and churches, today I hear people saying things like, "We don't believe in judgment." If "judgment" means putting people down, shaming people or standing over others as if we've got no stuff of our own, then by all means, no "judgment."
But I'm not sure that such excesses or self-righteousness are the sum total of this difficult matter.
Another thing I hear a lot these days is, "God is love." Often, this seems to go hand-in-hand with, "We don't do judgment." I agree that "God is love," but sometimes this seems one-sided. It stops short, short of challenging me to change my life. Jesus does that -- challenges me to change my life -- and I want my church to do that as well.
Indiscriminate, anything-goes "Luv" -- sloppy agape -- is too simple. God's love is a burning, refining fire. It is a love that loves me and you enough to expect something -- a great deal -- of us, and yes, to judge us when we fail.
In love God judges us when we fall short of our own inner values. God's forgiveness allows us to begin again. God challenges us to live changed lives -- lives that are stronger, kinder, bolder and more honest.
Judgment doesn't mean that we are yucky or awful or no good. It means that God loves us enough to expect something of us -- which sounds like good news to me.
I need your mercy. And I know that your mercy comes with an expectation -- that I be merciful. When I fail in this, your judgment is, well, righteous. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.