Do you remember the feeling of breaking something—or doing something wrong—and the anxiety of waiting for your parents to get home? There was a time in my life as a teenager where in quick succession I left the freezer door open all night, put kerosene in our gasoline-powered lawn mower, and (somehow accidentally) turned on an aquarium heater in an empty aquarium, thus shattering all the glass. That was a lot of days of waiting—with more than a hint of panic—for Mom and Dad to come home so I could receive my judgment.
Too many times I’ve ran across a train of thought in Christian circles that shares much of this anxiety with death and the return of Jesus. I’ve been warned many times to watch what I say and do because, “You’ll have to give an account to Jesus one day.” There is a fear of “judgment day” because I will have to stand up in front of Jesus and all of creation and tell them all of my dirty secrets and then cross my fingers and see what happens.
Now let’s be honest. There are some verses that—plucked out from their various locations in Scripture—would lend people to this kind of fear.
- “Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12).
- “God...will judge the secret thoughts of all” (Romans 2:16).
- "The Lord...will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
And I don’t want to lie to you: judgment will come. Christ will return and put the world to rights. If justice is to come, that means that injustice, sin, and the causes (cause-ers) of pain will have to go.
But for those who are in Christ this judgment is not a thing we need to be afraid of. We wait for it with hopeful expectation because—in Christ—we know the verdict. 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (the second reading of the first week of Advent) makes this abundantly clear. Check out the bolded text:
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are waiting for the “revealing” of our Lord, the “day of the Lord.” Is this something to be afraid of? By no means! Because of God’s grace:
- we have been enriched
- we have been strengthened
- we don’t lack any spiritual gift
- we will be strengthened to the end
- we will be blameless
Notice that this is all God’s doing. God is the one who makes us blameless through Christ. God is the one who strengthens us. God is the one who is faithful (even when we are not! 2 Timothy 2:13).
So whenever we run across “judgment” language in the Bible, be sure to place it within the understanding that God has already declared us righteous (Romans 3:24); has already declared you free of condemnation (Romans 8:1). This Advent is a season of hopeful expectation, not only of the wonder of the Incarnation, but also of Jesus’ return, when He comes again and declares us righteous, a faithful servant, heirs of His Kingdom.
This Advent season, may we treat others in the same way that Christ treats us, recognizing that through God’s love there is no more room for condemnation or rejection, but rather open-armed forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love.