Five Thoughts on Grace — #3, Condemnation?
(Matthew 7.2; Matthew 11.24; Matthew 27.19; Romans 2.5;
1 Corinthians 11.29; & Revelation 14.7)
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
Judgment is thought of as an
awful action to experience.
It usually is.
We are judged not good enough,
most of the time by judgers
who are themselves not good enough,
and so make sure everyone else
shares their experience
of being less than the norm.
This judgment usually ends in condemnation.
But is this kind of judgment
how God judges?
Is God a petty tyrant, with the mood swings of
a Type I Bipolar,
the scary voices of a Schizophrenic,
who insanely condemns and tortures
any who do not execute, precisely,
rules this divinely powerful being
allows certain, chosen, followers to establish?
Nah! That would be crazy, I mean, wouldn’t it?
But that is just the way it seems to work—
a posited merciful God
who judges with condemnation,
holding all creation accountable
for what it was created to be,
having invented a fiery hell
for that very occasion.
I am choosing to believe and follow
the God Jesus embodied and modeled
who saw the goodness of creation,
who is defined by love and grace,
and for whom forgiveness is a
higher value than condemnation!
Before I get started, it might be time for a caveat. I want to do this because there may be a few that are beginning to feel uncomfortable with what I am saying in this series on Grace. I am not denying God, I am affirming the ultimate goodness of God. Next week I will continue with the question of theodicy that asks how evil could exist if God is good. I just want to say that in this post, I am denying God’s condemnation, and if you feel more comfortable knowing you have judgement and condemnation to look forward to, rather than Grace and love, I just don’t know what to tell you.
So I ask, Arwk, where’s grace when you need it? And I answer, always surrounding us. Always holding us. Always protecting us. Those doors of forgiveness God has opened for us, through Jesus, so we can enter the Kingdom? They will never be closed to us, ever! I am betting my eternity on it. Here’s why.
GRACE!!! Is the preacher still harping on Grace? You betcha! In the end it is all I have to talk about–Grace.
I believe that the main message of the Gospel is the abundance of Grace, it is certainly not condemnation. This business of the atonement which became one of the central Christian doctrines, is not so much based upon anything Jesus said or did, but upon those who wrote about him after he had been murdered. Remember, these writers were Jews who were weened on Atonement theology and spirituality. It had been key to their way of life ever since their escape from Egypt.
Atonement was a Leviticus thing. Atonement was pure spiritual economics, and the cost of doing the business of church in a time when grace might have been abundant, but was understood as available through the blood of some innocent animal that was smeared on the altar. Economics: you play, you pay; be bad and the blood makes you good with God again. The selling and buying of animals, big and small, was also the means of food and income for the priests, so the idea of Atonement was very important for the priestly economy.
It is almost as if the writers of the Gospels and Paul as well, were too entrenched in their Jewish upbringing to actually believe what Jesus told them about Grace. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, and whomever else, just never really got Jesus’ point about forgiveness and the absolute, unconditional love of God. Jesus died, and when they wrote about it, they told it their way, and it was not necessarily how Jesus had taught them. I think it is sad that we have to work so hard to find the clues to what Jesus actually taught. They are there, but we have to work really hard for them.
But God is not crazy, people are. God is not bloodthirsty, people are. God does not work on a ledger system of profit and loss. Humans do and they usually lose. What Jesus had to say was astounding, and counter to the religious economics of the time. WE CANNOT BUY OUR WAY OUT OF CONDEMNATION, BECAUSE GRACE SUPERSEDES THE ECONOMICS OF ATONEMENT, AND THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION—FORGIVENESS IS ALL WE HAVE! That claim is what got Jesus killed, not the need for atonement through the shedding of his blood! The atonement story is an overlay on Jesus’ story of forgiveness. It is an glossing of the story Jesus told of God’s unconditional love. I believe that when Jesus died his followers figured that there had to be a reason for it or his life and death was wasted. They then built the Doctrine of Atonement on top of the fact that he was murdered out of the fear that if he were right, the Law and its holiness codes would be dead. The idea that if the blanket forgiveness God offered was true, the structure of religious power would shift for all time.
Now, don’t kid yourself, there is judgment, but it is not a judgment that ends in condemnation, it is a judgment that ends in blessing. If we were judged blessed at Creation, then with the cycle of Jesus; Crucifixion/Resurrection/Ascension, we are now judged re-created and re-blessed, both retroactively, presently, and eternally–judged Saved/Atoned, if you will.
The idea of condemnation and a hell to go with it is just bunk! It is a lie passed down, generation to generation, created out of misunderstanding and fear. I’ll end where I began. Where’s grace when you need it? Always surrounding us. Always holding us. Always protecting us. Those doors of forgiveness that God has opened for us, through Jesus, so we can enter the Kingdom? They will never be closed to us, ever! I am betting my eternity on it.