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Judgement…

“Humanity is destined to die once and after that face Judgement”.

Our opinion of judgement often depends on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

For the millions of persecuted and exploited peoples across the world, those who have suffered genocide because of their tribe or ethnic group, they are crying out for justice.

Crying to the God of justice, to avenge the wickedness that has occurred in his world to his people.

We know that at the heart of God’s character is that he is just in all is ways.

We know that God loves all he has made, and each individual is precious to him, and God has an opinion on what happens in his world, God is not neutral on issues of injustice, torture, cruelty, brutality, sin and suffering.

God’s judgement is good news for those who suffer, that justice will be fulfilled.

It is good news that at the heart of the universe there is a just and fair God who loves his creation.

Many of us, have had to gruelling event of asking a dad for his daughters hand in marriage; I remember my friend Gary telling a perspective suitor of his daughter “hurt her and I’ll bury you in the back garden!”  I think this image helps us understand something of God’s heart, entrusting us with something dearly loved and precious, his world and his people, with the same heart as a loving Father gives his blessing to his daughters wedding.

We often talk about God loving us, but we sometimes skirt over that God also loves our enemies too, with the same furious unrelenting love that he lavishes on us.

When we are a victim we want God to be a God of justice that calls people to account and punishes them…Yet when we are the perpetrator, we want God to be loving and merciful, and forgiving…

But  God is the same God, whose character is justice, but also mercy, love and compassion, and at the same time righteous and Holy.

It needs the cross to make sense of God’s character: how he can deal with sin? How can he taking it seriously and dealing with it as it deserves? As he must maintaining his integrity and staying true to his Holy and righteous character, yet also we must acknowledge God’s motivating force of love, of desire for relationship, of compassion, and deep desire to rescue as this love is a love that is sacrificial and costly, as it is the love from which other loves point towards.

It is at the cross where (as the hymn says) “Wrath and mercy  meet and a guilty world is touched by loves embrace” judgement and compassion  kiss, where righteousness and forgiveness shake hands, and love covers a multitude of  sins.

God himself reconciled his Holiness and righteousness with his great love by taking on our humanity and dying in our place, the God of justice carried our sins upon his back, ‘he who knew no sin, became sin, so we might have the righteousness of God’.

You see, we need both sides of God’s character, both justice and love, and any theology which majors on one to the exclusion of the other is heresy as it is misrepresenting God.

God will judge, God must judge, but God has also made a way out of his awesome love for us, for people to rescued, redeemed, delivered and saved. “This is love, not that we love God, but that God first loved us and gave his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have ever lasting life”.

We will all meet the Lord face to face. The question is actually whether we meet Jesus as our Saviour or our judge? Will we be greeted with the words “well done good and faithful servant” or “get away from me, I never knew you”…

People sometimes get funny about the idea of people facing judgement and going to hell, as it is an uncomfortable doctrine, but I believe that this is actually not the right way to look at it, instead I believe God loves us so much that he gives us every opportunity to accept him, but his awesome love for us will ultimately allow us the free-will to reject him, and a God who loves us, will, with a heavy heart respect our choice for life without him.

A word that  sadly seems to be slipping out of vogue in some Christian circles is ‘repentance’, turning your back on your old way of life, leaving your past behind, ‘getting a life’ all capture something of this gist of this great word…

I believe people need to repent, as I believe freedom comes rather than trying to justify our behaviour as squeeze ourselves out of situations, we come before God, and say “I was wrong, I am sorry, forgive me -I want to live a new life and not carry on living my old ways before. I believe in repentance comes freedom and liberation.

We know the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we sin and fall short, but yet we have a God who longs to restore us… I love the Anglican prayer of absolution…

“Almighty God who forgives all who truly repent, have mercy upon us, pardon and deliver us from all our sins, confirm and strengthen us in all goodness and keep us in life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

The idea of “truly repent”  is a good one, Bonhoeffer talks about the dangers of ‘pseudo repentance’ (I’m sorry but not really!) bringing to birth cheap grace; the Archbishop Michael Ramsey admitted praying “I want to be holy” only to then admit “I want to, want to be Holy” then admitting that he “wants to, want to, want to be Holy”… The truth is we need to come before God ‘warts and all’ because we are probably worse sinners than we think, but praise God we are loved too more than we can comprehend.

God loves us, but is not apathetic about our sin.

As we think of judgement, it is worth pondering the words of Philip Yancey who said: “God loves us as we are, but loves us too much to let us stay that way”.

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