Hope In The Eschatological Judgment

Hope In The Eschatological Judgment February 12, 2023

Lawrence OP: Christ the Judge / flickr

We must care for each other. We can’t ignore those suffering from abuse, those facing injustice, if we love them. This is because we can’t stand on by seeing a loved-one suffer if there is something we can do about it. Even if we can’t, we will try to comfort them the best we can. Love is the key. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. If and when we ignore someone in need, we more than we show them how little we care for them, we also end up demeaning Jesus himself. This is because Jesus joined himself with all who suffer. He shares with them their suffering. He is in solidarity with them. When we look at those who suffer, we should see Jesus is there with them.  And, if we are careless, we can make their pain worse. We can make their suffering greater. Or, we can make someone else needlessly suffer, and in doing so, bring more suffering to Jesus, because he will then join himself with them. We need to be concerned about others, not only their wants and needs, but their feeling, because if we do something to offer them, we can cause them the pain and suffering we should not wish them to have. We should always take the feelings of others into consideration. This is why Paul, who promoted Christian freedom, said that we should consider the implications of our actions and even if, in some level, they can be said to be something permissible, we should not do them if our actions will cause some undue pain and sorrow to our neighbor:

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall (1 Cor. 8:8-13 RSV).

We should be charitable to and with each other, for when we are, we are also being charitable to Christ. Jesus is human, and in and through his assumption of human nature, he finds himself in solidarity with every one of us. He takes on our suffering so as to help shoulder the burden, indeed, to perhaps help take it away. The more we cause people pain, the more Jesus embraces it, and the more he is willing to suffer to help relieve the suffering of others. Thus, the more we  treat someone with contempt, the more we ignore their feelings, the more we do so not only to them, but to Jesus.

Therefore, if we want to say Jesus is Lord, we need to do more than say it, we must prove we mean it by acting on the implications of those words. We must seek to understand how Jesus is connected to each and every one of us, for that will help motivate us and encourage us to do what is right and just. And, how we treat others, either with compassion or with contempt, will be something which Jesus experiences with them, and that experience will be something Jesus remembers and use in the eschatological judgment to come. Both the good and the bad will come together and be used by him to help reveal to us and others who and what we are by what we have done. In the eschatological judgment, all that we have done to hide our true selves from ourselves will be cast aside, and we will truly come to know ourselves. We will find that the good and bad which we have done, even if we have tried to hide it from ourselves, will establish our eschatological character, the character which will then be judged by Christ. Such judgment, coming as it is from Jesus, that is, coming from the one who came into the world not to condemn it but save it, should be seen as a part of Jesus’s work to save us, not damn us. This why Jesus will discern all the good which we have done and use it to help save us:

Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’  And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. ( Matt. 25:34-40 RSV).

Similarly, if we not only acted with contempt towards others, but if hold onto it, and let such contempt become a major part of who we are, we risk losing everything, that is, we risk being sent away from his presence (cf. Matt. 25:41-46).

The last judgment is a revelatory act; and, as with all revelation, there is the potential for grace to come and perfect the person who receives it. While the last judgment can be said to be a dread tribunal because nothing will be hidden, all things we which we have tried to hide will become reveal, it can still be said to be a thing of hope. In it, Jesus will work with us and use whatever good which remains in us to be the place where grace can come in and perfect us. He will use that good to encourage us to be with him and follow hm into the kingdom of God. We don’t want the worst instincts we have to get in the way of receiving that grace, which is why we should embrace charity now, for the more we do, the more we embrace the love which God offers us, the more we will accept the grace connected with the last judgment, allowing the last judgment to transform us and turn us completely towards what is good and true. If, on the other hand, we constantly denigrate charity and justice, we risk forming a habit which will keep us from accepting that grace, and in this way, form a perpetual habit that will prevent us from receiving the glory God intended us to experience. Let us not let that happen. Let us embrace grace, and the way of love, before it is too late.

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N.B.:  While I read comments to moderate them, I rarely respond to them. If I don’t respond to your comment directly, don’t assume I am unthankful for it. I appreciate it. But I want readers to feel free to ask questions, and hopefully, dialogue with each other. I have shared what I wanted to say, though some responses will get a brief reply by me, or, if I find it interesting and something I can engage fully, as the foundation for another post. I have had many posts inspired or improved upon thanks to my readers.

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