Today's lectionary reading: Psalm 25:1-10; Daniel 9:15-25a; 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Passage selected for reflection: 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV)
2 Timothy 4:1-5
I’m giving you this commission in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearance and his kingdom. 2 Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 3 There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. 4 They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.
Honestly, scriptures about God’s judgment have never been my favorite. I don’t find them particularly encouraging or heartwarming. And so often we see them used to wound or accuse others, rather than as a tool to reflect on the ways we may have missed the mark.
But over the last several years, I’ve watched Christians all over the country defend racism and sexism, deny the truth about the pandemic, and ignore the very real pain of others out of a need to be right or to stay in power. Literally turning away from the truth and embracing myths because the truth isn’t what they want to hear. It has been exhausting and heartbreaking. And for many of us, I know it’s been hard not to just walk away from it all.
So that has got me thinking. When the time comes, how will God judge us? What is the measuring stick that will be used to judge the living and the dead? I believe that when the time comes, the ultimate measure of our faithfulness will be the fruit of our lives.
When I was younger, I used to worry about all the ways I didn’t quite fit in the church. Not republican enough, not extroverted enough, too feminist, too curious, too uncertain. But the more I study theology and the Bible, the more I realize how little we actually know. Because God is infinite and eternal; God is bigger than my capacity to understand and explain. And that’s a good thing. A god small enough to need me to explain and defend him, is not a God I want to put all my hope in.
I know that every day I am being judged by other people. I also know that one day I will be judged by the only one who matters. And when I stand before that judge – the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – I’m not worried about whether or not my understanding of baptism or the Eucharist or how to interpret a specific passage of scripture is the “right” one. I believe I will be judged by how hard I tried to love God and to love my neighbor. What will matter most will be the fruit of my life. Did my words and actions help cultivate love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Did I put others first? Did I seek wisdom and truth? Did I strive towards justice and healing?
Whenever my time comes, I don’t want to be remembered for being right most of the time or winning most of my arguments. I want to be remembered for being honest, kind, and generous; for loving God and others with my whole heart. That is our work. That is the duty of our ministry. May we strive to do it well.
Get a pen and paper and make a list of all the ways that others have made you feel judged or told you you’re not good enough. Now tear that list up and throw it out -- it’s garbage. Take a deep breath in and out and ask God to show you the ways that you can cultivate more good fruit in your life.
God, thank you that I am lovingly and wonderfully created in your image. Give me the wisdom and the strength to recognize your truth, even when it makes me uncomfortable. Give me the grace to let go of the unnecessary burden of the judgments of others. And grant me the patience to dedicate the rest of my days cultivating good fruit. Amen.
About the Author
Jessie Best Chambers lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. Originally from North
Carolina, she did her undergraduate work at Appalachian State University before
receiving a master’s degree in Theological Studies from North Park Theological
Seminary in Chicago. Jessie loves the outdoors, the Old Testament, and puns.