“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.”
Romans 2:1 NLT
How often in our lives have we called out to God, asking Him to do something about the wicked? We think, if only God would destroy these totalitarian rulers in places like China, Russia or Iran. Or closer to home, what about that drug dealer, who causes so much misery? We cry out to God, that He would help the Police catch the burglar who beat up an old lady gratuitously while robbing her home. The Bible too contains cries and pleas to God about the wicked. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 104:35a, “Let all sinners vanish from the face of the earth; let the wicked disappear forever…”. And Psalm 139:19, “O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers!”
But there’s a problem. Paul wrote a few words in Romans 3:23 that go like this, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. So if everyone is wicked anyway, why should God restrict His judgement and punishment for those people over there but not the ones over here? If the pass mark for an exam is 50%, and one person achieves 49% while another only gets 20%, there is no difference with the outcome – both people have failed the exam. As others have said, God has no favourites and the ground at the foot of the Cross is level ground. What is there about human beings, that faults, sins, and problems can all be seen in other people but we can’t see them in ourselves? Why should we pilgrims try and take the moral high ground when we are also under God’s judgement.
Jesus taught about judging others in His Sermon on the Mount. We read His words in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged”. Paul also pointed out to his Roman friends that Christians are particularly at fault, because they know the difference between right and wrong. An unbeliever can have the, albeit weak, excuse that they didn’t know God and His requirements. But not a Christian.
However, knowing what we should do, and doing it are two different things. I was reminded the other day about a personal lapse. A friend was severely afflicted with the cold virus and I showed him little sympathy. A week later I was displaying the same symptoms and feeling quite sorry for myself. I didn’t get much sympathy either, but my wife reminded me of my attitude the week before. Perhaps, judging my friend’s response to his cold ended up with me being judged with the same criteria I used. Hmmm…
We pilgrims need to take into account seriously what Jesus said. Judging mankind is God’s prerogative, not ours. The Apostle James echoed Jesus’ words, as we read in James 2:12-13, “So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you”. Instead of judging others, we must show them mercy. In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter wrote, “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News?” Our mercy must displace any feelings of judgement we might hold. It’s a counter-cultural response. When the world shouts judgement, we shout mercy. When the world condemns, we see a person who has lost their way. When the world lashes out, we embrace and show the love of God. When the world rejects the unlovely, we accept and invite them to join us on our journey to Eternal Life. We have the Good News that far surpasses all the Bad News the world can produce.
Dear Father God. What can we say but “thank You”. Your love prevails. Please help us to win others for You, so that they too will escape the verdict that leads to an eternal death. In Jesus’ name. Amen.