|Blake -- God Judges Adam|
- Exodus 14:19-31 and Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 •
- Genesis 50:15-21 and Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 •
- Romans 14:1-12 •
- Matthew 18:21-35
Conservative Christians sometimes condemn this as a willingness to abandon a Gospel that preaches sin and salvation, in the interests of appeasing the secular world. Yet, the passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans that serves as this week's epistle, does provide biblical support for non-judgmentalism. The disagreement Paul writes about – whether or not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols -- is not one that concerns us today. But the advice he bases upon it has much wider application. Though we ought to be firm in our own convictions, we ought not to pass judgment on, still less despise, those who disagree with us. The Gospel passage puts the same thought in the wider context of those who harm us. Forgiveness is ‘seventy times seven’ more important than retribution, however natural the desire for this may be. Here we have a truth that everyone has reason to welcome, if we are not to fall into the rank hypocrisy of the indebted slave.
To this extent then, biblical teaching coincides with contemporary liberal opinion. At the same time, the wholesale rejection of ‘judgmentalism’ conflicts with a key element in these readings -- that human beings are indeed under judgment, both for what they believe and for what they do.
|Old Slave -- Anatol Petrytsky|
The Gospel story of the hypocritical slave, let it be noted, ends with his being “tortured” as an act of justice. In the past Christians have been very ready to usurp God’s justice and do the torturing themselves. Nowadays, perhaps, they are more likely to make the opposite mistake -- presuming upon God’s mercy. The difficult thing is both to witness to the solemn truth that “each of us will be accountable to God”, and to do so in a spirit of love rather than loathing.