Who do you
think you are?
Who do I think
We seem to swing
back and forth from a kind of crazed megalomania to dreadfully tormented low
self-esteem, unable to get it right. St. Paul wrote to the
Romans, “I bid every one among you not to think of
himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober
judgment.” Surely this sober judgment, which knows our own faults as well as
the gift of our Creator and the grace of our Saviour in us, is part of that
sound mind, that spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control which
God gives us.
But who do we
think we are? So often by our thoughts and words and deeds we proclaim and
we pretend that we are the one and only, the Lord God Almighty, the Judge
and ruler of all. For whenever we pronounce judgment, and what a helpful
way of putting it that is in the R.S.V., pronounce judgment, which
makes it clear that we are not talking about the suspension of critical
faculties, we are not talking about making no distinctions between good and
evil, truth and lies, love and hatred, right and wrong, it is about
pronouncing judgment, passing judgment…whenever we pronounce judgment, we
are pretending to be God.
You are not my
judge, Paul says to the Corinthians. Imagine him saying to them, I don’t
care what you think, especially of me, and it’s not hard to imagine Paul
saying that. Paul tells them and us that we are incompetent. That’s
right, you and I are incompetent judges. In
that brief Epistle reading he lists three reasons why we should not
pronounce judgment. 1. It is before the time. This is not the time to
pronounce judgment but to publish the good news. We must beware, and it is
a special danger in our day, of sounding judgmental, for our message to the
world is forgiveness and mercy not judgment and condemnation. In all the
moral confusions and decay of our age and society, the Christian message is
not finally one of judgment but of the saving and forgiving love of God in
Jesus Christ. Our Gospel is not of law but of grace. To drunks and
adulterers, to cheats and liars, to thieves and abusers, to blasphemers and
murderers, the Gospel is the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. This is
not the time for judgment and we are not the judges.
we are incompetent to judge anyone, even ourselves, because 2.
we do not know those things hidden in
darkness, we never have the full picture, nor 3. do
we know the purposes of the heart. Therefore do not pronounce judgment 1.
before the time, before the Lord comes, who
will bring to light the things 2. now hidden
in darkness and will disclose 3. the purposes
of the heart.
We are not the
judges, and we are not to pronounce judgment, for it is the Lord who judges,
it is the Lord who judges me and you. And this is part of the Gospel, for
Jesus Christ the Lord shall come again to judge all, the living and the
dead. On that day God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. For we
shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
the idea of the last judgment ought to full us with dread. It is and will be
a day or wrath and mourning, a day of impending doom. Our moral
bankruptcy, our debts and sins will lie open on that day of reckoning and
accounting. And to remember that God is our judge, our God who is a
consuming fire, is a fearful thing. We began our service remembering that
to him all hearts are wide open, all desires known, and from him no secrets
are hidden. We stand and shall stand naked before God. Our service begins
with that call to honesty…and this moves us to plead for mercy. It is the
Lord who judges me, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
living God. If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious
and sinner appear?
But this is
good news indeed, It is the Lord who judges me, for the one who will come
again to judge the living and the dead is he who out of love for us gave
himself on the cross for us that we might not be condemned but pardoned.
That Christ the Lord shall come again to judge is good news for those who
know him as their Saviour. And it is his acquittal which counts for ever.
It is the Lord who judges me and that is liberating and hopeful news, for he
is kinder and more forgiving than all of us put together. He loves us more
than we love ourselves.
condemn us, time and age and our past condemn us, our enemies condemn us,
and sometimes even our families and friends condemn us. Remember the woman
caught in adultery. There she was, naked, caught in the act, guilty, full
of shame, surrounded by accusing fingers on the outside, and full of what
torment and fear inside. They bring her, in
fact drag her, to Jesus the judge. They have made up their minds already,
they each have the stone in their hands, they have judged her already,
pronounced the sentence in their hearts, and they only look to him to
reinforce their self-righteous condemnation of this sinner. And what does
he do? He disarms the self-righteous. Let him who is without sin among
you be the first to throw a stone at her.
And then once they are all gone, she stands before him, Jesus Christ, the
only one without sin, the only one who could condemn her, the one and only
Judge of all and what does he say to her, what does he say to you and me,
but that saving and liberating word of forgiveness, Neither do I condemn
you; go and sin nor more.
Today, to you,
this is the message, drop your stones, drop it, drop it, do not pronounce
judgment but rather hear and share the good news that God did not send his
son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world. Jesus
himself testifies of his mission, God sent the son into the world, not to
condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. And
the only condemnation is then to refuse this offer of forgiveness, of
salvation and redemption.
Neither do I
condemn you, he spoke it and I believe it
and hope it. In the love of the Lord, in the love of the Lord Jesus both
received and shared we may have confidence in the day
of judgment. For we know and receive and live in that mercy which
triumphs over judgment. It is the Lord who
judges me, alleluia, come Lord Jesus!