Archive for the 'Images of God' Category

I Can Only Imagine

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Images of God: Judge

Today’s scripture: Psalm 7:7-11 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me in this passage? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts on this passage (Jeff Miner):

Today’s scripture invites us to picture a vast group of people assembling, as God sits down on a high throne to judge. Many of us find this image of God — God as judge — unnerving. We know the evil we’ve done, and would rather not think about our moment of reckoning.

When I was a kid, one evening after dark our family decided to visit our neighbors, the Turners. They were elderly and delighted in my two sisters and me. So when Mom and Dad announced we were going to the Turners for a visit, we could hardly wait! As we left the front door of our house, Mel and I began to run ahead, with our little sister struggling to keep up. Mom called out, “Wait for Laurie!” But we just couldn’t stand to wait for her.

We ran ahead anyway. Through the darkness, Laurie tried to keep up. As she approached the Turner’s front porch, her little legs were going so fast, she tripped, and hit her forehead right on the corner of their concrete porch. She screamed bloody murder. Mel and I stood there in dread, knowing that once Laurie was taken care of, we would face our moment of judgment. We felt so ashamed.

Yet in retrospect, I can see how important moments like that were to my growth and development. In the indignation of my parents, I saw how deeply they cared about the values of love and sacrifice. And in that fiery moment of judgment, a little bit more of the selfish part of me burned away, making room for more love to grow. Because of those moments of judgment, I became a better person. And through it all, Mom and Dad still loved me — beyond words. They just wanted me to become better, and to stop hurting others.

So it is with God, our Judge. Notice verse 11. My translation (NRSV) says, “God is a righteous judge. . . who has indignation every day.” If God looked down at what is happening in Darfur and was not indignant, what would that say about God? If God looked down at me hurting my sister because of my selfishness, but God didn’t feel deeply upset, what would that say about how much God did or didn’t love my sister and me? A God who loves much is, necessarily, a God who feels indignation.

But God’s indignation is purposeful. The purpose is described in verse 9, “Let the evil of the wicked come to an end.” God’s purpose for judging me is to help me move beyond evil and become a better person.

I like the way Brian McLaren envisions God’s judgment in his book, The Story We Find Ourselves In. There, he tells of a new Christian who is sick and near death; she’s beginning to contemplate what it will be like to be in God’s presence. A friend of hers says that part of the wonder of being in God’s presence is that we will be judged. She is startled. Who looks forward to being judged? This is her friends reply:

“At first, it sounds terrible. But follow me. You’ll be in God’s presence, and. . . you. . . will be re-membered and re-collected, reunited and reconstituted, in God. . . . You will see who you truly have been and have become. Every moment of your life will have been weighed and tested, and all that was false or partial or dishonest or wrong will have been identified, and all that was generous and joyful and honest and true will have been identified. . . . There is no sugarcoating, no watering down, no denial. No pretending that our misdeeds didn’t happen. They’re faced and known by God for all they were. But what if all the guilt and regret and shame of that judgment are absorbed into God’s pain, the pain Jesus made visible on the cross, so God forgives us, so none of our wrongs count for anything anymore. . . . So when you leave this life, and you meet God, up ahead, up in the future, the little sliver of who you are in that moment meets the you from all the past moments, and the full you that is reconstituted there in God is fully and completely judged, and all the wrong has been named and judged, forgiven and forgotten, and there you are: full and substantial and free and pure and complete. Can you imagine that?” Pp. 153-154.

This is the journey we’re on. It is a journey of judgment. We are in the process of being refined, so we can grow and develop.

Thought for the day: Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing before God’s great throne. In that Awesome Presence, acknowledge some great shame from your past. As you re-live the pain of that memory, picture that deed and all its shame being burned up in God’s holy presence, so that you are now free of it forever. And now, where that shame once took root in your soul, there is room for goodness to grow. Thank God, for judgment!

Today, let’s join together in prayer for: Jennifer Barnes mother, who has had a stroke. Doctors don’t yet know if she will recover. Also remember Jennifer’s partner, Andrea Platt, and her father and siblings. Jennifer is a member of Jesus MCC and is vice moderator of our Board of Directors.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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