Judged More Strictly
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. – James 3:1
For the longest time I believed that if I became a teacher of the Word, then when I stood before God at the end of my life, I would be judged more strictly. I thought that if I sinned as a preacher, it would be worse in God’s eyes than if I was just a regular dude claiming to be a Christian. Though there may be an element of that to it, I now believe that the “judged more strictly” part comes not from God, but from other believers.
The worst things that I have endured spiritually since becoming a follower of Christ have come at the hands of other Christians. If you think about it, Jesus endured crucifixion at the hands of other people who claimed to know and follow God. Christ endured all kinds of crap for some really dumb reasons. Religious people jumped on His followers for not washing their hands (Matthew 15:2). I guess you can still get into trouble for that one . . . especially today. Jesus was trashed for healing on Saturday instead of one of the other six days of the week (Mark 3:1-6). There were just all these trivial traditions that the super religious expected everyone who claimed to know God to follow. If you didn’t follow these rules on top of the rules, then you were deemed unworthy of God’s acceptance. How idiotic is it to think that you or I would be allowed to make such calls? Since Jesus claimed He was God’s Son, He was judged very harshly. Interestingly enough, sinners thought He was a lifeline, while Pharisees thought He was a hindrance. Jesus claimed to be the ultimate teacher, which He was, and He was judged more strictly for it.
Someone told me once, “If I ever sin and really need someone to care and simply talk to, send me to a bar . . . not a church.” How condemning is this? We really are the only group of people that kill our wounded. If you’ve had an abortion, struggle with homosexuality, struggle with pornography, or struggle with a myriad of other what we would call “obvious” sins, then may you find grace and mercy at the foot of the cross because God knows it is rarely found amongst His followers. I see so many posts that imply that salvation is dependent on behavior. Many Christians claim that if you don’t stop this very moment and turn from all of your sins, then you are still lost in them. Does the person who has the guts to say this type of thing honestly struggle with nothing? Have they honestly stopped all sinning? Who reading this has not sinned since asking Christ into their lives? Who reading hasn’t sinned this week so far? Are we really better off asking Jesus to remember us when He comes into His kingdom, and then dying like the thief beside Him on the cross did? I don’t know about you, but there are sins that took decades for me to conquer. At the end of it all, I can honestly say that I didn’t even conquer them, Christ literally changed my heart and mind in His own time and made it so that I didn’t care about them anymore. Up until that point, all I could do was agree with Him that I was sinning, ask for His forgiveness over and over, and beg Him to help me stop. He gets all the praise, honor and glory! Thy will be done! I did nothing but place my trust in Him and His finished work on the cross. If you want a sin to condemn me for, I’ll be straight up and tell you one. I’m struggling with unforgiveness in my heart right now. I’m struggling with the only sin that Jesus Himself says, “If you don’t forgive them, then I won’t forgive you! (Matthew 6:15). Honestly, no matter how hard I try, how many times I say it, or how badly I want to not even think or care about it, I just can’t make the feelings go away. It is like a recurring weed in the flower bed of my heart. I pull it and think I got the root and all, but then it pops right back up. Therefore, I do the only thing I know to do. I say, “Jesus, help me to forgive.” When I finally do forgive and forget, and I eventually will, who will get the credit? You guessed it! Him, not me.
In Matthew 3:17 God speaks down from heaven these words about Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I’m well pleased?” Do you know what is so cool about this? Up until this point, Jesus hasn’t preached a sermon, He hasn’t done a miracle, and hasn’t even gone public in any kind of ministry. His Father being pleased with Him had absolutely nothing to do with His performance. He loved Him even before He did any type of ministering.
Doesn’t God love me the same? Is He not pleased with me right now regardless of whether or not I have performed well? I believe He is. I am incredibly aware that I get things wrong more than I get them right. I’m aware of just how unworthy I am to be called His. I am also incredibly aware that I love Him and need Him desperately to work in my heart, mind, and life if I am going to be used to make a difference in anyone’s life at all. I’m thankful that salvation is a free gift. Who would want to be a part of a religious system where the best performers could brag?
Surely not I.
Pray for me.
I need it.