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The Judgement Seat

November 9, 2012

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, ‘As I live’, saith the Lord, ‘every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God‘. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” – Rom. 14:10-12

 

In many cities of Ancient Greece like Athens and Corinth, from Classical times and on throughout the Roman Imperial era, one of the fixtures of Grecian daily law was that of the judgment seat. Called the ‘bema‘ (Greek: βαίνω, meaning to”step [or move] forward”, or to “step [or move] up”), the judgment seat was merely a raised platform of stone reserved for orators addressing assemblies, lawyers disputing their cases, magisters judging those cases, and the champions of athletic competitions whom would step upon it to receive their rewards. But for most Christians, the term ‘Judgment Seat’ has come to represent the final judgment of Christ upon humanity in the last days. And yet, despite knowing this – and despite us knowing all those scriptures that urge us to do otherwise – we still find ourselves trying to sit in His seat and do His job for Him on occasions.

 

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matt. 7:1-2) Basically, in plain language, this well-known yet oft-ignored verse says this: don’t throw any stones, because what goes around comes around; be careful of the standard you hold others to, for you will then be held to that same standard yourself. Because at the end of the day, the truth is that we are all hypocrites: its just up to us to decide how much so. We all hold ourselves and others to varying degrees of standards that shift with the situation and circumstance – and if you claim otherwise, then you’re probably not being completely honest with yourself. We’ve all been guilty of judging another person – usually someone we don’t think much of to start with, or someone we tend to be harder on – and then making excuses for ourselves – or perhaps for someone we’re partial to, or easier on – for doing the very same things. What we might condemn in one person we find acceptable for another; then we come up with all sorts of faux justifications for our rationalizations. For those without salvation, particularly, this is unavoidable: because people by themselves will always be controlled by passion, bias, and prejudice for (or sometimes even against!) those we love. Let’s face it: humanity is the furthest thing from fair. What we need – what everyone needs – is the guiding power of the Holy Spirit, so that we all might have discernment and the ability to look upon others with Christ’s clear, fair, compassionate, and loving eyes.

 

“I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.” (John 5:30) The only One who has been rightfully appointed to sit in the Judgment Seat is Jesus Christ, who Himself even states that is the Father’s will that judges through Him. And His judgment – unlike our own – is right and true because it is just. Can we say the same? When our judgments are based upon opinions, prejudice, personal bias…or sometimes plain downright stubborn contrariness? There is a reason we are told not to judge: and that reason is that we are too limited – too lacking in wisdom, compassion, understanding, and justice…and we simply don’t have the qualifications for doing so. Even if you are the most sinless, most sainted human being alive, you still have no right – no authority – to render judgment upon another. That is Christ’s job, and His alone.

 

“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Rom. 13:14) Because we should be more concerned with the souls of those people we might look judgmentally upon, rather than our disapproval of their conduct. Our hard-heartedness and sense of moral superiority can drive people away from God: we can do irreparable damage with our condemnation. Now, let me pause to say that there is also a very distinct difference between discerning right from wrong…and casting judgment upon it. We can recognize a sinner without condemning them for being one. Or, if you prefer it this way: we can hate the sin but still love the sinner. The bottom line is that we are not here to play arbiters to the lost; we are meant to be their ministers, teachers, and guides. After all – if you are saved – then someone must have once ministered and guided you. Christ said unto the Jews intending to stone the prostitute, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” (John 8:7). There must be a remarkable number of sinless people in the world, then, since the stones I’ve seen cast in my lifetime – having thrown many myself – could build the Great Wall of China thrice over.

 

“For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” (John 5:26-27) Again: Christ has the right of judgment because He is the Son. Obviously, none of us meet that particular requirement: which means none of us have the right to pass judgment on another. So, I ask that you consider this: when you come across that person whom you might scorn or condemn or judge, remember that at one time in your life, you too were scorned and condemned and judged. Remember that Christ Himself was scorned and condemned and judged…for you: and yet, He was innocent where we were always guilty; He was spotless where we – without His blood to cleanse us – were always stained. He was perfect where we were always flawed…and He was broken so that we could share in that perfection by His grace. Remember that He suffered these things so that we would never have to – so that, rather than fearing a Seat of Judgment, we might be able to anticipate a Seat of Mercy, as well: “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more,” (John 8:11). Let us show that mercy to each other – let us love as He loved, live as He lived, and see as His eyes saw; remembering also that one day, we will face the true Judgment Seat ourselves: accountable for our actions, and judged as we once judged. Be careful of the measuring stick you use for right and wrong, ’cause that same stick will be used at your trial. Mostly, though, remember this: on the Judgment Seat, there’s only room for One…and its not you or me.

 

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (II Cor. 5:10)

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