by Mark D. Roberts
Her adversaries have become rulers;
her enemies relax.
Certainly the LORD caused her grief because of her many wrong acts.
Her children have gone away,
captive before the enemy. (CEB)
Lamentations 1:5 [ Lamentations 1:1-22 ]
In yesterday’s reflection, I began to consider the implications claim in Lamentations 1:5: “Certainly the LORD caused [Judah’s] grief because of her many wrong acts.” I noted that Scripture teaches, in this verse and others, the unsettling truth that God does at times grieve us. But I strongly warned us not to start pronouncing judgment on others in light of this fact.
For one thing, we are on dangerous ground when we pronounce judgment on others as if we are free from guilt ourselves. If we read Jeremiah 1:5 out of context, it might sound as if the writer is standing back from the grief of Judah. Yet, the rest of the book makes it abundantly clear that the writer is sharing fully in the suffering of his people. He might just as well have written, “Certainly the LORD caused us grief because of our many wrong acts.”
This is part of what concerns me when Christian pundits purport to explain God’s judgment on others, while completely ignoring what God might be saying to them. Occasionally in Scripture God speaks through the prophets to judge the nations. But, in the vast majority of cases, the prophets pronounce judgment upon the people of which they are a part. They proclaim God’s judgment on us, not them.
These days, it’s easy to point pious fingers at the sins of others. Ironically, I do this most often when judging those who pronounce God’s judgment on others. Yet, I must ask myself how open I am to receiving God’s judgment on my sin and the sin of my people, the church. Am I willing to be admonished by God’s Word in Scripture? Am I open to the possibility that God is using painful things in my life to help me become more like him? More on this tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you think God judges his people today? If so, how does judgment come? What might help you to be attentive to God’s words of admonishment? How can we avoid self-righteousness as Christians?
PRAYER: Just and holy God, I admit that sometimes I like to build myself up by considering the sins of others. I suppose I’m even tempted to take solace in the thought that you are judging them and not me. Forgive me, Lord, for my self-righteousness. Forgive me for my lack of compassion. Forgive me for my hard-heartedness.
Give me ears, Lord, to hear what you would say to me. Give me eyes to see your work in my life. Give me a heart ready for repentance.
All praise be to you, O God, because you are making me more and more like you, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.