Sunday, October 2, 2016

Notes on the Judgment of Jesus

When Jesus returns, he will meet with each one of you Christians personally. He will stand before you and you will gaze at him in amazement, for he will look like an oppressed person you know.
Jesus will be the Muslim woman, Jesus will be the homeless man, Jesus will be the drug addict, Jesus will be the black felon, Jesus will be the gay man, Jesus will be the Native American whom you met drunk, Jesus will be the mother on welfare, Jesus will be the Syrian refugee.
And at that moment, Jesus will give back to you what you gave to the oppressed person. If you gave that person hope and help, so will Jesus give to you. If you gave that person hatred and judgment, then that is what you will receive.
Following Jesus is loving those in need, whether you think they deserve it or not.

-"Judge not lest you be judged; the measure that you measure so you will be measured"
-"Forgive and you will be forgiven, condemn and you will be condemned, give and it shall be given to you"

On the surface, these principles of Jesus sounds like tit for tat, a karmic principle.  However, Jesus is actually giving someone the opportunity to step out of karma, just as Buddhism and Hinduism attempt to do.  Rather than giving according to what someone deserves, Jesus is presenting two forms of judgment and giving the listener the option to be judged one manner or another.

Jesus is spelling out two different kinds of moralities and measures—one of karma, and one of grace.
Grace is the act of forgiveness, the act of charitable giving.  You give but receive nothing back (a sense of well-being, perhaps, a hit of seratonin, but no outward benefit). 

Karma is the act of giving only what is due; of judging when a person deserves to be judged.  This is the principle of eye-for-eye, what you give is what you get.   Forgiveness is not karma because to forgive is to wipe away a debt, while karma is to pay it back.  

Jesus is saying that a person will choose which system they will be judged by: karma or grace.   His statement about judgment is best understood to say, "The manner in which you judge is the manner in which you will be judged."

The next question is what kind of action determines if we have chosen a judgment of grace or of karma?  Jesus’ method of determining our choices is how we approach the poor and oppressed.  We have no automatic responsibility for the poor or oppressed like we would our family or people who have done us benefit.  Those who, on a regular basis, show generosity to the poor or oppressed display their commitment to a lifestyle of grace. 

We see Jesus himself committed to helping the needy, and he commands us to do the same, in order to obtain a reward from God.  The judgment story of the Sheep and the Goats clearly teaches this, but there are hints throughout Jesus’ teaching, such as the reward for giving someone a cup of cold water.  Jesus also sent out the apostles to represent the poor—without bag, money or extra provisions—to test towns in order to see if they would be generous or not.

The other test to indicate if someone is committed to grace or karma is the sinner test.  Will the general approach to sinners be that of judgment or forgiveness.  Forgiveness is, in a sense, the clearest act of grace.  A person does you wrong and the karmic action is to judge or to condemn them, possibly to prosecute them.  Forgiveness is not deserved, and is in fact the very definition of not being deserved.  To give someone forgiveness is to offer grace.  To have a habit of forgiveness is to walk in a lifestyle of grace.

In the parable of the forgiven servant in Matthew 20, Jesus makes this clear that to forgive is to choose to be forgiven, rather than living according to one’s merits.  To forgive is natural part of a request to be forgiven.