Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Wondrous Judgment (1 Cor. 3:11-15)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, English Standard Version).

The wondrous world of Jesus

Jesus Christ is the truth who sets us free to love and leads us into fullness of life. Each of the five significant terms in this summary of the Gospel deserves comment.

Jesus Christ: he is significant because he is both fully God and fully human. He is the full self-revelation of God to us. At the same time, he is the one truly human being. As both, he is the fulfillment of God’s covenant with us: “I will be your God and you will be my people. 

Jesus Christ is the truth: the full, objective, revelation of God’s word and will to us.

Jesus sets us free to love: (1) to glorify Abba, (2) to nurture and protect other human beings without exception, (3) to care for all creation, and (4) to become whole persons.

Jesus leads us into fullness of life: When we hear the truth, participate in the freedom, and express the love of Christ, we enhance the vitality of our neighbors, creation, and ourselves. 

When we witness to the truth, freedom, love, and vitality that are ours—and everyone’s—in Christ, we participate in the wondrous world of the Kingdom of Heaven right here on Earth. The Kingdom of Heaven, then, is not simply or even primarily a place to which we might aspire to go once we die. It is a world in which Jesus invites us to participate with him even now.

The dreary world of the false Olympian gods

But we need not, and never always, regard the word of Jesus as good news. We need not, and never always, remain loyal primarily to Jesus as the source, center, and goal of our lives. We can and do turn to false gods for that. These include Jupiter, god of politics; Mars, god of war; Vulcan, god of technology; Venus, goddess of sex; Pluto, god of money; and Bacchus, god of consumption.

While Jesus is the truth, these gods steadily feed us lies through today’s mass media—which we might rightly call the Olympian media and even the Anti-bible. Pluto, for example, tells us that money is the true measure of a person’s value in God’s eyes. To Pluto and to us when we follow him, the rich are important and virtuous while the poor are evil and invisible.

Perhaps the biggest lie the gods and their media feed us: the meaning of life lies not in freedom but (following the three temptations of Jesus) in happiness, power, and earned righteousness. 

When we human beings define ourselves in these terms, we cannot commit ourselves to loving others in the same self-giving way Jesus does. Caring for their well-being would conflict with the self-centered meaning of our lives.

This indifference toward others leads easily through neglect and violence to despair, destruction, and death—theirs certainly but sometimes unintentionally ours as well. 

When we serve the false gods of Olympus, we create circumstances that embody, not the wondrous world of the Kingdom of Heaven, but the dull, dreary, deadly world of the Domination of Darkness. 

Wondrous judgment

In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Paul tells us about the wondrous judgment of Jesus to which we may all look forward. How so? We wrongly understand judgment to mean condemnation. Jesus is not waiting patiently for us to die so that he can hurt us. 

The Judgment is the opportunity Jesus will take with each of us to evaluate our life in terms of his truth, freedom, love, and vitality. How much did they shape our body, mind, and spirit? How well did we share these miraculous gifts with others? How much did we give expression to them in our way of living?

At death each one of us gets to pass through the judgment of Christ’s fiery love. Everything radiant about us will survive and be a part of us and our lives in the age to come. Everything dreary about us will be lost and left in our past. The only way one may end up in Hell is if, despite all Christ’s sparkling efforts on one’s behalf, one so identifies with the Domination of Boredom that nothing of Christ’s truth, freedom, love, and vitality remains in one to survive the judgment of his fiery love. 

One last aspect of this judgment: We emerge from it with all our witness to Christ’s truth, freedom, love, and vitality intact. We are radiant now to the degree we share these with others, but in the new age this radiance will be visible to us and everyone else. We will all shine then, some perhaps as brightly as a 100-watt bulb, some as dimly as a 2-watt nightlight, but all of us in a way all will know. 

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