Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yom Kippur, or "Don't Judge Me, Man!"

No one likes being judged. "She's so judgmental," is probably one of the most condemning ways you could describe a person. And judgmental religious folk are the worst--don't they know the saying "Judge not, lest ye be judged?"

If we let judgmental people hijack our understanding of God as judge, we're the ones who end up losing out. The ancient Israelites had a different view of judgment--they longed for it. When they were oppressed by foreign nations, they cried out to God: "Rise up, judge of the earth, give the arrogant their deserts!" (Psalm 94:2)

"Give the arrogant their deserts." How many times have you wished for that to happen? How many times have you had something unfair happen to you, or to a friend, and wished that someone with authority to fix it would step in? How much do the injustices in the world make you wish for justice? If you can't relate, ask around; I guarantee you know someone who's been treated unfairly and can tell you about the very real feelings that come when you feel like you're being treated unjustly.

"God will judge." This is ultimately a message of hope, especially for the poor, for the defenseless, for those who have no one to defend them.

But before we're ready to wholeheartedly call for God's judgment, we have to ask ourselves some honest questions. Have I done wrong by my neighbor? Am I a loving person? Have I been a part of the solution, or a part of the problem? As the Psalmist wrote:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24
When we're honest with ourselves, I think almost everyone is conscious of ways in which we don't live up to what we know to be right. Fortunately, there is an even better message of hope than "God will judge"--and that is that "God loves mercy." Again, the Psalmist wrote:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17
This is the theme of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement--that the God who created the world, who loves justice and hates wickedness, also loves mercy. As one of Yeshua's talmidim wrote:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

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