God never speaks words of condemnation
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 ESVUK
There are many words of condemnation in the Bible. There is even a whole chapter in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 23) where Jesus has a right go at the Scribes and the Pharisees. But to those people that I expect to read this blog, I say this: God will never condemn you, Jesus will never condemn you.
God will never condemn you unless you are one of the leaders—a church leader, a church minister, a lecturer in theology or a politician (especially one in government). Then God may have words of condemnation for you, speaking truth to power is part of Gods mission. To those who I expect will be reading this though I can say with confidence: God does not condemn you, God will never condemn you.
Hit upwards, never downwards
Jesus loves. That is the message to people in authority. Jesus loves those you have authority over, if what you do harms them or even if what you do fails to help them then expect Jesus to be displeased. But Jesus loves you too, he offers forgiveness, he asks for repentance—a turning from what you used to do. In Matthew chapter 23 Jesus rightly condemned the Scribes and Pharisees for the way they made things difficult for the ordinary people. But Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was among the followers of Jesus and Acts 15:5 shows that there were Pharisees among the early Christians and the Apostle Paul mentioned that he was a Pharisee three times, including one at Acts 28:17, near the end of his life. It is possible for those who God condemns to come to God.
To the rest, those who are not leaders, God does not condemn you, Jesus does not condemn you. When a woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus the harsh words were not to the woman who had broken the law, but to those who were condemning her. The most important two laws, according to Jesus Christ, are to love. Love for God and love for other people, neighbours in the text, go hand in hand and cannot be separated.
If only those who call themselves by Christ’s name, Christians. Do not follow Christ’s example of not condemning. I have seen a church website when I was planning a holiday that defined itself on its attitude to homosexuality; it was second in the list of things that the church said they believed. Now I know that this is a contentious issue with Christians, some believe that being homosexual is sinful, others that although being homosexual is not sinful homosexual practice is sinful (that is the belief of the Church of England where homosexuals can be priests as long as they remain celibate) others that homosexual sex is OK within a committed relationship, the same as heterosexual sex is. Others sit on the fence.
Jesus’ position on this, taking the assumption that homosexuality is sinful, I believe would not be condemning of homosexual people. I also think that putting a statement condemning homosexuality in general and homosexuals specifically is, at best, flawed. Jesus is for everyone. The Bible does not say that anyone except homosexuals who believe in Jesus will have eternal life, it says anyone. Anyone. (John 3:16.) We should not be putting up barriers to people coming to Jesus, if what they were doing before they came is wrong then it is up to the Holy Spirit to convict them in her* good time. In any case, I do not believe that homosexuality nor homosexual practise are sinful**. Christianity is a wide church.
Read the condemnation in the Prophets, they punched up, condemning those in authority, condemning those who would not help those below or give equal rights to the native and the foreigner. They did not condemn but brought hope to the ordinary people.
Jesus was the same, hitting up and speaking truth to power, never hitting down. Instead, he taught that those who do not give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, welcome to the stranger, tend the sick or visit the imprisoned will not inherit God’s kingdom,
Christians, be like Jesus.
Jesus has freed us, but the biggest condemnation is not that of those above us. We condemn ourselves. Self-condemnation is a problem that keeps people from coming to Christ. Sometimes the self-condemnation comes from the condemnation of a politician or preacher who has told us we are of no worth, but I have already dealt with that above. What I have said above about those who condemn homosexuals is equally true of those who expect a certain standard of behaviour, who think that excluding someone because they have had a meltdown in public is OK because they didn’t know the person was autistic. It is not OK, it is still abuse.
But self-condemnation, self-loathing is a problem. It took me a long time to get to grip with the meaning of the phrase, ‘love your neighbour as yourself,’ because I translated it personally as ‘treat others as you would wish to be treated.’ I was wrong. I wanted people to be brutally honest with me, if I get things wrong I want to be told not only that I am mistaken but also why. There’s a whole world of learning in the ‘why.’
Can you see my problem? When I come across someone who prefers a gentle approach to be told they’ve made a mistake I can shock them, I come across to them as rude, brutal even. When they take the gentle approach with me it comes across as dishonest. We both need to learn that loving your neighbour as yourself means to treat them in the way they would like to be told, which could be different from how you like to be told. It means learning who they are, it means relationship.
Jesus loving us is about a relationship, our loving others is also about a relationship. It is all part of being like Jesus who tells us we are accepted, loved, special. The answer to self-condemnation is two small words, but God.
Self-condemnation is introspective, it says I am hopeless, I am not worth it: always I am. The answer is in the phrase but God. I think I am hopeless but God says I am wonderful. I think I am not worth it but God says I am worth it. Those two little words but God have great power. Power to see ourselves as God sees us, the power to see ourselves as we really are, wonderful people loved by God.
This is you, yes you, the person reading this now, you are a wonderful person loved by God. God will never condemn you, Jesus will never condemn you.
Because you’re worth it.
This blog is to be published on 11th September, 9/11, the anniversary of the hijacking of four jetliners in 2001 by terrorist organisation al-Qaeda and the crashing of three of those planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The horror of those attacks still haunts us. As do the later al-Qaeda attacks on the Madrid railway network in 2004 or London’s transport network in 2005 by terrorists from my own county of West Yorkshire. We are never far from terrorism these days.
How can we not condemn this? It is so horrific.
Of course, I do not commend these actions and we must be vigilant that thee things and worse do not occur. But vengeance is not the way, a vendetta is never the Christian way. The Gospel of Jesus is a story of love, not the wrath of God. God’s justice was shown in Jesus absorbing the suffering and hate of the world. Yes, God gets angry, but his actions are born out of love. We are commanded not just to love each other, but also our enemies, our enemies are those who do things against us.
I cannot see that knee jerk political decisions are the way forward. They are certainly not the way to a fairer peaceful world.
*Her because the Holy Spirit is personal, so I dislike using ‘it’. Also because the Hebrew word for Spirit is feminine.
**I believe our job is to look at scripture and struggle with it, let it speak into everyday lives. We will not always agree if we do this but being one despite disagreements is the secret of fellowship.