Judgment and Reconciliation

At our weekly Moltmann reading group we’ve been having a lot of discussions about judgment- specifically, what does God’s judgment look like and what is it for? This is an understandable talking point for those who are reading “A Theology of Hope” for the first time, because Moltmann’s view of judgment is quite different than what has become standard for many evangelical Christians. Without getting into all the details (too early on a Monday morning), it can be quite simply summarized in this one question: do you believe God’s goal is judgment or reconciliation? Or, even more broadly stated, is the God revealed to us through Abraham and Sarah, through the law and the prophets, through the crucified and resurrected Jesus a God of judgment or a God of reconciliation?

As you consider that question, it may be helpful to remember that reconciliation does not eliminate judgment. (We tend to keep going over that point, because many take these two to be either-or propositions.) Reconciliation by its definition requires honesty in judging whether one’s actions and intentions are right, good, just, pure, loving, gracious. Reconciliation requires us to confront those people who have done us harm. But the GOAL of that kind of judgment is not the punishment itself but the reconciliation of a relationship that has gone astray.

Last night at Journey we had a wonderful conversation on Matthew 5:21-26. These are the verses in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about our command to be the kind of people who do not resort to violence, who do not spew our own anger onto others, who do not insult others and call them fools. Our command is not to be judging people but reconciling people. If you have something against another, Jesus says, don’t think you can come to the altar and offer a sacrifice and get off the hook just because you made nice with God. Go seek out the person, confront them, work it out as best you can. If you are to be my people, then you’re going to have to do the hard work of being a reconciling people.

We tend instead to be conflict-avoidant people, passive-aggressive people, forget-it-and-move-on-but-still-harbor-resentment people. Sometimes, we decide to be shove-it-in-their-face-until-they-weep people. Jesus tells us we won’t get out of that prison of anger until we’ve paid the last penny. And it’s going to be a costly kind of life choice.

To he God’s people, the way I understand it, is to be people who work always toward reconciliation. It may not happen overnight, we may not have control over the actions of others, it may not work out like an episode of Growing Pains. But we follow the God who, as 2 Corinthians 5:18 says, has reconciled us to Godself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That’s our job description in the world, or at least a big part of it- we are to be the reconciling people.

1 Comment

  1. Lindsay AdamsAugust 10, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Good topic last night………I thought a lot about this afterwards and still today…….I definitely don’t want to be that little old person in a nursing home yelling at the t.v. because I am not reconciled about something….scary thought.

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