This series is devoted to exploring the idea that God’s future judgment of the human race is a good thing for us as people. Today, I want to talk about what He’s looking for in the Judgment.
For that, we start with some of the ways in which Jesus and his followers described this future day of reckoning.
Jesus told the parable of the tenants, in which each one was given a certain amount of money to invest while their master was away. They were rewarded or punished based on what they did with what they were given. There’s also the parable about the Sheep and Goats, in which the nations are divided up based on how they treated the worst-offs of society and were surprised to learn that to serve or neglect that group was to serve or neglect Christ himself.
There’s Paul’s insistence that we all will pass through fire and our good works will remain while our evil deeds burn up. John the Revelator sees a day when even the sea gives up its dead so they all can stand before the great white throne of God.
All of this can sound incredibly frightful (and I haven’t touched on every New Testament reference), as being judged by our works means that none of us are going to live up to what God wanted from us. But in this post, I want to explore why the forthcoming Judgment should make us be happier, more joyful people, right this second.
We’re going to be judged by our works.
And the greatest work of all is love.
I’m amazed at how long it took me to see this. Loving God and other people are the first and second greatest commandments, Jesus told us. Even Paul told us that without love, it wouldn’t matter if you offered your body up as a martyr. God is going to judge you based on how well you loved Him and others. He is judging you based on your love.
Love, after all, is the great commandment, according to the Lord Himself. Here are the apostle Paul’s powerful words:
If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
You could have all the miraculous powers of God. You could possess the kind of faith that, if unleashed, would change the landscape of the world. You could give away everything you own to the poor and even be martyred for Jesus Christ–but without love, you haven’t gained a thing worth keeping.
The promise of the Judgment, then, is God’s way of reminding you just how important it is to your life that you become someone who loves others regardless of who they are; that you release the burden of resentment that you carry toward your enemies; that you are, generally speaking, just happy to be alive and that it shows in your daily interactions with your co-workers, family, friends, and strangers.
The people in this life who were the most loving and compassionate, who have somehow tapped into that deep reservoir of affection that is Jesus’ heart, are going to be delighted someday when they find that their love was what God was looking for the entire time.
And for those of us who aren’t quite there yet, the promise of the Judgment is good news for us, too! Our Father isn’t looking for us to be moral code-keepers. He’s not looking for us to sacrifice happiness in order to be the kind of person He wants us to be. He’s certainly not looking for people who only do good things for other people because they’re afraid of going to hell if they don’t.
Our Father is looking for people who love. He’s looking for people who understand that happiness is not a vice to be avoided but a virtue borne of a heart that loves God, neighbors, and enemies.
And He cares so much about this that He’s willing to judge us for it.