Redeeming Holy Judgment
God will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice … for God is coming to judge the earth. God will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with God’s truth. – Psalm 96:10b-11a & 13 (NRSV)
You might recoil at the idea of “divine judgment.” I totally get that. Who wants, or needs, super-sized judgmentalism?
It was not long ago when AIDS was announced as God’s judgment on same-gender-loving men. Some said 9/11 was God’s judgment on the nation. Today, 44 percent of Americans believe the pandemic is God’s judgment.
Based on these and many other negative experiences, we may have conflated judgment with condemnation instead of a more appropriate and biblical conflation of judgment with justice.
In Hebrew, “justice” and “judgment” are the same word: mishpat. Whenever you see “judgment” in the Bible, you could legitimately substitute “justice.” In order for God to be a God of justice, God first has to judge what is just.There is no true justice without good judgment.
In the passage above, God’s judgment is anticipated and celebrated. Why? Because God is not judgy. God judges with equity, righteousness and truth. God looks out for the poor and dispossessed. Who wouldn’t celebrate that, especially those who have been historically marginalized and disadvantaged? A good judge is what every oppressed person wants, but almost never finds. A God who judges with good judgment, with justice, righteousness and truth is what our world needs now.
Good Judge, when you shine your light of just judgment on earth, may I remember it also shines on me.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.