O death, where is thy sting?

In Jesus, I see people and even lots of created things desperately in need of judgment. But judgment is a naughty word today, often used to describe a person who has fun lambasting others. And it’s true that Jesus himself preached against human judgment. However, the word judgment as I understand Jesus’ meaning has a brighter and more loving tone. According to Jesus, God will judge justly all that has gone wrong (and continues to go wrong) and will set things aright. Thus, our world can be released into His capable hands. In fact, God’s kingdom is among us even now.

But what does this have to do with us Christians in the 21st century? It almost sounds like a done deal anyway, like it would happen with or without our part in it. Yet Jesus predicted a significant role for his followers to be his witnesses, his sent ones. So when we first feel drawn by Jesus’ mercy and then we understand all that is asked of us to follow his way of powerlessness on the cross, something subversive tends to happen. We are propelled out. Flung into the harvest, so to speak. Even though we are insulted or injured, even through crazy acts of violence like Jesus suffered. We continue to walk in no holds barred vulnerability, in defiance of oppressors who seem unstoppable, simply because “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Jesus taught his disciples to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness (which is translated justicia in Spanish) and we can intuitively see even today that God’s righteousness and justice are never far apart. They belong together, actively so. The kingdom of God invites us into peace, into reconciliation, into enemy-love, into rest, into dependence like little children, even foolishness, into union with God himself.

We can enter situations where a person of power seems in charge, quite eager to suppress dissent, and yet still proclaim God’s freedom (as God’s child) without shame. This is the Good News we tell without having to talk anyone’s ear off. We simply refuse to retaliate. We put away all bitterness, wrath, slander, anger, malice. We overcome evil with good. We embrace kindness, become tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave us (see Ephesians 4).

God’s judgments have the ridiculous effect of making former enemies into friends and disciples. He does this by weaving together the story of outsiders, nobodies, strangers and undocumented “illegals.” Jesus crossed the legal borders we had set up, became the ultimate innocent victim we wanted to “sacrifice,” and then forgave us. More than that, he increasingly demonstrated that his promises of an unburdened life in dependence and freedom were, in fact, real and something we can actually live now. It’s all that we do.

My family moved to Chapmantown several years ago. We wanted to freely share what we have with our friends, our neighbors, including those who live on the streets. So now we garden. We make meals. This summer we traveled. I even went surfing with my buddy. But we’ve also had our share of hurts. Friendships upended. Our possessions stolen. My body threatened with the shaft of a gun. This pattern of freedom and breakage is so much part of the Good News that our individual witness must include it. So with the Apostle Paul, I say: “beloved [sisters and brothers], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58)

To be continued…