Ever wonder how words lose their meaning? I have. I think of how society redefines things to suit their current thinking. But this isn’t a new phenomenon at all. We, humans, do this all the time. In fact, a famous president of the United States defended himself from serious charges by reminding his questioners “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
The same challenge exists today with the word “judgement.” There was a time when having “good judgement” was a very important part of having good character. But nowadays the word “judgement” or “judge” carries with it all kinds of negative notions about “privilege” and “prejudice” and “unfairness.” And to be sure, the misuse of judgement makes those charges easy. But what happens in this modern context when we hear that we will all appear before the “judgement seat of Christ?” I can imagine some “righteous indignation” from many today accusing Jesus of unfairness and “Don’t judge me!”
Part of the problem is the inattentive misuse of words like “judge” or “judgement” and part of the problem is a very common dislike among us for being confronted with our immaturity. Mix that together and you’ve got a recipe for social disaster. So, it’s time to pull up our “big boy” pants and time to actually face the true meaning of this word so that we don’t find ourselves without a “right answer” before the awesome judgement seat of Christ.
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 5:10-15
BRETHREN, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to be proud of us, so that you may be able to answer those who pride themselves on a man’s position and not on his heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
St. Paul tells us that we “must” all appear before the judgement seat of Christ and that should explain to his parish there in Corinth why he does what he does and acts the way he acts. You see, he’s had to use some pretty hard language for this parish and he wants them to understand what motivates him. It isn’t anger and insult. It’s love; love for them and love for God.
And that is what motivates God in His actions toward us! In fact, that’s what “judgement” means in the scriptures – active, undiluted, unwavering, unchangeable, unavoidable, love. Take this seriously and this is a terrifying truth.
Terrifying? Yes, terrifying. Because, if God loves me that way forever, my ability to embrace that love and enter into that love and then be transformed by that love (because that’s what true love always does – it transforms) is in direct proportion to my ability to return that love for God. And, if I refuse or neglect this love, this very love from God will be torment because I have not allowed His love to prepare me for this “awesome” reality. This is precisely why the Orthodox Church teaches me to say “Lord have mercy” so much; not out of fear of God’s anger or His wrath. God at His most wrathful is kinder than all men at their most kind! No, this fear flows from the growing awareness as I grow closer to God that He literally means no harm. But He will also not stop being Himself to accommodate my self-centeredness. Being confronted with that kind of Light and Fire will either purify those who truly love God or torment those who choose selfish narcissism. But the Fire is the same.
So, the whole of the Faith through the centuries is to shape me into a being that can stand in the bright light, the hot fire, of that never setting “sun” of love. All the disciplines, all the prayers, all the liturgies, all the “demands,” commands, exhortations, sermons, and actions, are all meant to re-orient me away from a small soul that will one day stand before the Person of Jesus Christ and have revealed to myself and the whole of creation the extent of my ability to hold His love! The Faith is about ever expanding my inner self to be a “fit habitation” for God. Realizing this transfigures your motivation for being a faithful Orthodox Christian. God, far from being your Enemy, loves you so much that not even troubles are wasted in inviting you to be made more able to love and to be loved.
The great hero of the Faith, St. Thaddeus, was a convert to Christ during the life of Christ. Tradition reveals this “Thaddeus” was a member of the 70 disciples and was from the area around Edessa. When Christ Ascended into heaven St. Thaddeus returned to Edessa and established the Church in the area by catechizing the locals and bringing them to Christ. One of the people St. Thaddeus led to Christ was King Abgar of Edessa. King Abgar was one of the earliest kings to become Christian and it is said that Abgar sent a letter to Jesus and Jesus dictated a letter in response promising Abgar that He would send one of His disciples to him to bring him the Good News. St. Thaddeus did just that but still ended his life as a martyr for Christ. Thaddeus’ life reflects a man who so submitted himself to Christ that coming into Christ’s Presence in eternity would only be a joyful and sweet reunion for Thaddeus.
Today, do you “fear” God? And, if you do, why? If you fear Him because you are “afraid” He is going to punish you or be angry with you, then you’ve fallen for the slander of the evil one about our God. But, if you learn to “fear” God because He is everlasting love and that love is going to be, one day, poured on you without measure, and eternally, and you see this now and cooperate with the Spirit to make you ready for this eternal torrent of love, then you’ll be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. The Apostle’s joyous feast is come with radiant splendour; let us keep it on this day with jubilation and gladness. For to them whoever honours him in sincere faith, it grants their sins’ forgiveness and true divine health; for he has great boldness as a divine initiate of Christ’s omnipotent grace.
God Bless you for your support