THE JUDGEMENT DAY

When we read Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats it disturbs us. It seems to deny that salvation is a gift of God, a result of sheer grace, undetermined by any merit of our own. It seems to make surviving God's judgement dependent on whether or not we have been actively compassionate to people in need.

Why does Jesus say these things?

Because true knowledge of God is never a stand alone mental or verbal affirmation, but involves of necessity a practical acknowledgment of God that translates into life and action. True knowledge of the true God believes:

  • that God has created every human being in his image and, for that reason alone, everyone is special and not to be despised;
  • that God loves all people so much that he sent his Son to bear the death penalty for their sins, and that this also identifies them as special;
  • that 'he who made me in the womb also (made) them',
  • that God affirmed the dignity and importance of human life by himself taking on human life; by becoming one of us, and standing in our place, he outlaws everything that treats human life with contempt, and
  • that he who lavished his love upon us in Christ commands us to pass that love on.

Simply put, the person who knows God by knowing Christ cannot walk by on the other side ... God's love constrains him to be actively loving, actively compassionate.

There is an inescapable practical connection here: that if a person does not practice compassion, he does not know God's love. If he does not know God's love, he does not know God. If he does not know God, he is not saved, because to know God is to know salvation. To thus know God is to have eternal life, and to have passed beyond the reach of God's judgement.

There is another foundational connection here that we must not overlook: that rejection of God, refusal to acknowledge the one true God, ultimately results in a reduction in positive social action and an increase in social injustice. This is evident in both biblical and secular history: where God is rejected the sanctity of human life is eroded. Human life becomes cheap, abuse of humans increases, human suffering increases. And the judgement of God becomes inevitable. 

In this chapter in Matthew three of Jesus' parables are recorded:

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins, in which the cutting line is found in verse 12: 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you'. Here we are urgently reminded that there is such a thing as superficial, and therefore invalid, knowledge of God, that does not translate into appropriate action. 

The parable of the talents, in which we are assessed by how we value and handle the knowledge of God given to us.

And this parable of the sheep and goats, in which the practical expression of our knowledge of God validates or invalidates the integrity of our claim to know him.

Each of these parables confronts us with the judgement day. Each results in a separation, a judgement. In each that judgement, that separation, is intimately connected with knowing and acknowledging God and being known and acknowledged by him.

Scriptures: Matthew 25:31-46; Genesis 9:6; Matthew 5:21-22; John 3:16; Romans 14:15; John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Job 31:14; Matthew 5:43-48; 1 John 4:7-12; Luke 10:25:37; John 17:3; 3:18; 5:24; Micah 6:8; John 2:22-23; Matthew 7:21-23.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2004, 2010.