What We Deserve

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The news is never good. As we come closer to Christmas it seems that we’re even more divided and torn than ever before. But that’s not really true. It just feels true because we’re living through it. We’re having to explain words like “chokehold” and “grand jury” and “waterboarding” to our kids or grandchildren. You see, ever since Eden the news hasn’t been good. We’ve been hurting each other in a million of the same old ways since sin entered our world. Murder and slander, hatefulness and division: these are the passwords of our hearts. The history of humanity has in some ways been the history of how we mistreat one another. There is a wound deep within us that makes it easier to harm than to heal.

It starts in our hearts and minds and then spills out in our words, until finally, we act. They say that pride is the first among the sins. Surely it was pride in Lucifer’s heart that led him to reject God. It was pride seething in Cain’s heart that led him to kill his brother, Abel. It’s the “gateway drug’ to a sinful life. “Pride is the beginning of sin” (Sirach 10:13). One of the first hallmarks of pride is judgement. Whenever you feel like judging someone, you can rest assured that the sin of pride is at work in you somehow.

Now we’ve all heard that Scripture (i.e. God) teaches us not to judge other people. That doesn’t mean that we, as Christians, can’t use our God-given intellect and reason to know good from evil. We know that murder is wrong. We know that child abuse is wrong. We can know that actions and behaviors are wrong and offend God. What we can’t know and can’t judge is the landscape of another person’s heart. We don’t know their souls or their motives. We don’t know their weaknesses, their hurts and their own past wounds. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions, in almost every case. But when we find ourselves judging hearts and souls, we make ourselves into God. Or we try to.

Only God can know what beats in someone’s heart. Only God can know what sort of justice a soul needs or deserves. God made our souls, so only He can know what medicine can heal them and make them whole again. When we judge a person—not their actions—but who they are—we’re being prideful. We’re playing at being God and that’s dangerous ground. It’s holy ground. It’s breaking the first commandment. Even when we judge ourselves. We offend God when we judge another person’s heart. And when we we judge our own heart, too. If we think that we’re beyond His love or mercy, we’re playing at God. If we believe that our sins are so horrible or unforgivable that God could never show us mercy, we’re playing at God. This sort of thinking keeps us away from Him and when we don’t approach God, we’re trying to take His place. Our Savior opened His arms wide on the Cross so that we could come to Him. He took on our sins so that we could be freed of them. He took the punishment that we deserve, so that we wouldn’t “get what we deserve.” The Gospel isn’t karma. The Gospel is love. And so in the midst of all the day’s bad news and name-calling and talk of justice and torture, remember that God is in control. We’re not called to sit in judgement, but to take up our cross and follow Him. The promise of Christmas is the fulfillment of our hope for peace on earth. And peace in our hearts.

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that belong to each other.”
—–Blessed Mother Teresa

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