Joy and Judgment

Tell the Gospel - the whole Gospel.

The wrathful zeal of fire will consume the enemy,
who do not wish to believe that Christ came from God the Father.

  - Colum Cille, Altus Prosator, Irish, 6th century[1]

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all
other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

  - Luke 13.2, 3

The Good News of the Kingdom of God is that righteousness, peace, and joy from God can be ours, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is truly Good News!

But this Good News is only rightly understood against the bad news of the human condition.

The human condition, as is evident on every hand, has some serious problems, problems that don’t ever go away and seem to get worse with each new generation.

People have no real incentive to submit to God, and embrace His promises and will, as long as they can say to themselves, “I’m doing fine just as I am.”

Am I suggesting that we need to “judge” others? Doesn’t Jesus forbid that (cf. Matt. 7.1-5)? Or does Jesus rather qualify our judging others by insisting all judgments should be in line with the righteous judgment of God, rather than our self-righteousness (Jn. 7.24; cf. Deut. 16.18-20, Is. 11.1-4)?

Let’s face it, many – if not most – people today think they’re already living about as well as they can. Oh sure, they’d like a bit more of this or that, and a bit less of some other things. And they’re always hoping their circumstances will improve, and bring a little more constant happiness to their lives. They are discontented and always seeking something better, but only within the “under the sun” framework which defines their lives.

They’ve learned to be content with their discontent, and they aren’t easily impressed by offers of something better, especially if that something better is spiritual in orientation, and requires them to repent of some things with which they’ve become rather comfortable.

Which is why we cannot tell people the Good News of peace and joy without also warning them of the bad news of judgment to come.

These days it’s considered bad form to talk about judgment when we’re trying to win people to Christ. The first time I heard this I wrote it off as just the silly musing of someone who didn’t believe in hell. But the more I hear it, the more I realize that many, many church leaders are not just forgetting to mention the wrath to come, they’re deliberately omitting it from their repertoire of instruction.

But what makes the Good News so good is that it delivers us from the bad news, which is, well, really bad.

Jesus Himself said as much. Over and over.

The apostles warned about the coming judgment. The Church Fathers, and theologians and Church leaders from every era – like Colum – taught that men must repent or perish in eternal condemnation.

How did we come to be so much “wiser” than they?

Warning of judgment is just not the thing to do. And why? Well, because we’re told postmodern people don’t believe in all that stuff. They think it’s silly, and they think we’re silly when we act like, you know, we believe in such things.

And we wouldn’t want to look silly in front of sophisticated postmoderns now, would we? Of course not.

Perhaps we just haven’t figured out how to speak this Gospel truth in love?

So shall we just keep denying and omitting a central part of the Good News that Jesus preached, because we think we know better than the Lord how to lead people to saving grace?

That sounds rather presumptuous, doesn’t it?

The bad news of human sin, corruption, wickedness, and rebellion against God should lead us to weep for the world and the blinding power of sin.

But it should also embolden us to warn the world that God both judges now such behavior (Rom. 1.18-32) and will come in a final judgment of all wickedness, separating wicked people unto themselves and apart from Him forever.

Repentance will only make sense to people when we insist that God demands it, and rightly so.

For Reflection
1. What’s the Good News that you might share with someone today?

2. Is it possible to share the bad news of judgment without judging someone? Explain.

Psalm 98.4-9 (Duke Street: Jesus Shall Reign)
Raise to the Lord your loudest voice!
Break forth and sing! Rejoice! Rejoice!
Praise, praise to You, our God and King,
with all our hearts and strength we bring!

Now let the whole creation ‘round
burst into song with joyous sound!
Jesus will come to judge the earth;
let all proclaim His matchless worth!

But Lord, we don’t know how to tell someone to repent, or even why they should! Help our unbelief, O Lord!

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T. M. Moore
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Carey, p. 48.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore