Healing judgment. These are not usually words we put together. Judgment is normally associated with law, fear and processes when things are imposed on us with little or no input by us. Healing on the other hand is much more personal, hopeful and positive. We like the idea of being healed, but we fear the idea of being judged. Yet I am now coming to see that the judgment of God is always for the purpose of potential healing if at all possible, never for the purpose of imposing punishments or for balancing imaginary scales of justice. So how might judgment involve healing? And if this is true, can we come to the place where we might even be eager to be judged instead of being afraid of it?
The seeds related to this new idea that were planted in my mind many years ago and that have grown in my understanding involve several passages that long puzzled me. For years they didn't seem to fit anywhere into the theology I learned growing up. Now I realize this is because mainstream theology does not really have a good place to put these because of how it skews our views of God and what we believe about the methods He uses in relating to sinners. It was only after my appreciation grew for the beautiful ways of God and I formed a better understanding of them, was I was able to revisit these passages to discover amazing truths in them that had been hidden from me for so long.
The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgment, while the sins of others follow them there. (1 Timothy 5:24 NRSV)
For years I did not see a way to explain this strange statement. What would make the difference between these two kinds of people, or is this referring to different kinds of sins as some translations infer? As with many scriptures I believe this can have multiple ways of interpreting it that can all be legitimate, though not interchangeable. For me the that opened this for me was linked from another verse that concludes Jesus' straight-forward definition of the true meaning of judgment.
This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light.... But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21)
This last verse was another puzzler for many years. I could not rationalize a good explanation of this verse that would fit what I believed a person was expected to be in order to be right with God. What kind of works would be revealed when such people come to the light? Were they coming to have their good works exposed to prove how righteous they were to everyone? This didn't make sense given the fact that God's children are supposed to be humble, not strutting around seeking to draw attention to their own goodness. And what did Jesus have in mind when He said their works have been done in God? That too was something that took many years before making sense to me, so I simply waited until a fuller understanding of what it means to be in Christ was opened up to me.
I came into an awareness that the original definitions of nearly every religious word has long ago been hijacked and supplanted with misleading definitions. I saw that nearly everyone embraces and relies on these skewed opinions, but over time as my emerging internal updated dictionary was rewritten, I began to see entirely new paradigms impossible to appreciate while using the old definitions that prop up the traditions of religion. As my appreciation for God's goodness, kindness and unconditional love increased, so too did the challenges to the way I have interpreted Scripture, and the new insights began to rearrange how I understood the deeper meaning of passages such as those above.
One of the discoveries that helped my new understanding of judgment happened when I learned that the Greek word translated saved is the same word translated as healed. In our language those two words have little in common with each other. One is generally associated with legal ways of thinking about religion and God, while the other usually has more to do with our physical condition. Yet in the original they are one and the same word, meaning it is our presumptions that need adjusting more than trying to figure out how one or the other words fit into a passage. Saving and healing from heaven's perspective all means the same thing, and the more I perceive the truth about sin, the more this new understanding makes sense everywhere I apply it.
Then I came to see that heaven's judging is how Jesus describes it here in John 3 rather than how I had been conditioned to think of it based on our cultural ways of doing justice and judgment, I realized that true judgment is not something God imposes on people but is very different. According to Jesus, judgment describes a time of revealing that exposes whatever is trying to hide in the dark. It is not legal decisions or forced execution of sentences that override a person's will. This was a huge paradigm shift that shed light on many things and is still revamping the way I read Scripture and discover truth. True judgment is what exposes the many lies that have kept me afraid of God and His healing judgment.
The truth about judgment keeps growing in my awareness as do many other things about truth. I now see that sin is a condition resulting from distrust of God's heart, and the fallout from sins are natural consequences, not punishments from an angry or offended deity. Punishments describe the negative effects of withdrawing from the healing presence of God's love, rather than payback by God for insults He has received. This had a huge impact on how I related to God's love. I now can see more clearly why a person who wants to escape the power of shame, fear or dysfunction because of lies, will choose to come closer to the exposing light of truth. The light not only exposes but brings one into the freedom and joy of knowing God intimately. Light that brings judgment also invites us into freedom and peace.
Judgment means exposing what is real and true about our condition. It does not involve investigating and digging up dirt on people for the purpose of public shame, blame and punishment. Nor does it use a person's behavior or beliefs as defining their identity. God's judgment is actually passive compared to how our world imposes judgment on people. This is key for experiencing freedom from fear of judgment. God is not into forcing us to do anything, but rather is always seeking to attract us to come into harmony with our original design of reflecting His glory and love. From this perspective, being exposed can be viewed as an opportunity to experience healing of mind, heart, spirit and soul, for that is what the light of love brings when we give our consent for His Spirit to dwell in us.
What causes shame and fear is when I resist being exposed by the light of truth and love. I have come to see that resistance of one of my worst enemies, for when love and resistance come into the same space, the result is always torment. This explains why the torment in the third angel's message of Revelation happens in the presence of holy angels and the Lamb, for that is where love is most potent.
Love is similar to electricity, for when electrical current encounters resistance, the result is heat. When the ratio of power to resistance becomes too intense, whatever is resisting becomes so hot it produces fire and self-emulation. This is the same principle as what occurs in the spiritual dimension, for God has implanted the principles that operate in the spiritual domain into the physical and natural domain, so that we may understand His ways by observing them in creation (Romans 1:19-20). This helped me unravel another baffling statement of Jesus related to this principle in His kingdom.
But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:39-42 NAS95)
For a long time I puzzled over this instruction of not resisting an evil person. Is Jesus suggesting we are to let people do anything they want to us anytime they feel like it? Are we to give up our identity and be swallowed up to be exploited by evil people without any objection or resistance?
There is no end of debate on this issue, and I don't want to ignite more at this point. But one day the Spirit alerted me to see this in a different light that helped to make more sense. My greatest danger, when it comes to eternal salvation, is not from people who want to exploit me or abuse me nearly so much as the presence of resistance itself in my heart. After learning the truth about God's fire during a two-year tutoring session from the Holy Spirit, I saw that the fire that consumes is not due to an offended deity compelled to punish people who crossed him, but is a metaphor of the intensity of the dissonance experienced when one becomes exposed to the intense presence of the One whose essence is pure, passionate love. In other words, the metaphor of fire describes the passion of love, not anger or wrathful execution of law enforcement.
I learned of the very real danger of holding onto resistance internally, and that resistance creates our greatest liability when exposed to the power of love. Resistance to love is another name for unbelief, and our reaction from resistance is what produces intense torment whenever a person is exposed in the presence of God's love. I also learned that hell is not a place of torture where God is compelled to punish people who refuse to repent, but rather it is a violent reaction to His passionate love, and our resistance to love is the very catalyst that reacts in painful dissonance so intense it is torture.
When this revelation of the truth about judgment and its relation to love became more clear in my thinking, another troubling passage began to make more sense in this light.
Therefore you are without excuse, O man, whoever you are who judge. For in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself. For you who judge practice the same things.
We know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. Do you think this, O man who judges those who practice such things, and do the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you are treasuring up for [within] yourself wrath in the day of wrath, revelation, and of the righteous judgment of God; who "will pay back to everyone according to their works:" to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, eternal life; but to those who are self-seeking, and don't obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation, oppression and anguish, on every soul of man who works evil, on the Jew first, and also on the Greek. (Romans 2:1-9)
This passage intimidated me for many years until I embraced Jesus' definition of judgment. Then it all began making more sense as I allowed the light of truth and love to interpret this for me.
Paul begins by warning people who judge others that they will not escape being judged themselves, for their very choice to point out the sins of others, as if they themselves were better by contrast, would result in their being judged themselves in the same way they judge others, which means they are using the counterfeit way of judging, not God's way. Jesus stated this principle too.
Don't judge, so that you won't be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)
Clearly there is God's kind of judging in contrast to the counterfeit ways of judging. Both Paul and Jesus referred to God's kind of judgment as righteous judgment.
Don't judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24)
Here Jesus contrasts righteous judgment with its counterfeit which He describes as judging according to appearances, meaning we assess someone's worth and identity based on externals such as behavior, physical appearances or anything else upon which we assess value and worth according to the variable value system that is rooted in trading. Satan invented trading originally, and that system relies on value that is measured according to the relative worth of how much a person or thing is useful to us or how they make us feel. In this system the whole world subscribes to, a person is judged according to how they fulfill our expectations, or how much they offend us rather than the identity created and secured by Christ. Under the trading system, value is always changeable, while in heaven's system, value comes from creation and is impossible to alter because the Creator never changes.
In short, false judging is assessing value, worth and identity as derived from performance, from conformance to expectations or rules and to a person's relative usefulness for contributing to our personal comfort or happiness. God's way of assessing a person's identity and value is not fluid, for every human being is created to be a reflector of His glory by design, and nothing or no one can alter that design no matter how good or how wicked they may become. This is why Paul warns people who imagine they are superior in moral worth than those he just described in the last half of Romans 1, that in judging open sinners as being worthy of punishment and disgust or anything else, they are choosing the wrong system of judgment and are thus in line to be judged by the same false standard of measure and suffer the same consequences because they are embracing a system that is condemning, not redemptive. He then goes on to describe how this will happen.
the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. Do you think this, O man who judges those who practice such things, and do the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
The judgment of God according to truth means that God views every person starkly differently than how we measure their worth and identity. We judge other people's identity based on their dysfunction or how much they offend us, while God sees each person as a unique reflector of His heart, but who is malfunctioning because they reflect distortions of Him by the enemy because they don't believe the truth about His passionate love for them and deny the riches of His goodness, forbearance and patience as Paul puts it. It is our unbelief in the goodness of God that leads us to condemn others and ourselves.
What Paul is exposing here is similar to what James describes at length in his book. Here is one passage that parallels what is being studied here.
But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:8-10)
Cursing involves talking bad about someone, not merely saying cuss words. The kind of judging Paul talks about in Romans 2 is really cursing. Such words are not redemptive but accusatory, and often we label people as having an identity defined by their, behavior either nice or evil. James tells us that it is wrong for us to speak good things about God while at the same time speaking evil of other people, for from heaven's perspective every human being is created to be a reflector of God, even though their reflection may be tragically distorted by lies they believe about Him..
What we need to learn is how to come into alignment with the way God treats people, which is called righteous judgment. This involves separating in our thinking about them (and ourselves), the difference between identity and condition. Too long we have identified people based on their condition, and we do the same to ourselves as well. This is one of the most subtle and successful schemes of the enemy that keeps us trapped in self-defeating thinking, because so long as we believe that our worth and identity is based on our condition, we will trapped in the snare of Satan that leads us into either pride and arrogance or depression, discouragement and hopeless despair. This is the curse of sin, and it involves identity theft that Satan has used on every one of us. It also affects even the way we have thought about the identity of Jesus.
Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
What Paul is saying here refers to the way we define identity, including the identity of Jesus. When we imagine that Jesus was perfect because He was God, or was perfect because He somehow managed to live a life of total obedience to every law of God without ever missing a beat, we endorse the false way of measuring worth and identity. This sets us up for a life of defeat that robs us of peace because we imagine that our status and value in God's eyes is predicated on our performance, or is based on the performance of Jesus substituted legally in our place. All of these suppositions about the source of identity are dangerous because they miss the truth about the nature of sin, of righteousness and misconstrue God's design for saving us.
We must appreciate the original design of creation in order to better discern what went foul when sin messed up and hijacked God's design. Humans are created as reflectors of God, to image God's heart, His nature, His disposition and glory. This means our lives and psyche are designed to reflect in our actions, disposition and treatment of others what we believe God is like and how He relates to us. When we live in the light of the truth that God is love, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), then the reflection that naturally results from that view of God's goodness, kindness, graciousness, humility and compassion will be demonstrated in our relations to other people. But when we imagine God to be like the great accuser makes Him out to be rather than as Jesus reflected Him, our lives will be reflective of those lies and we will malfunction in how we live. This is the very essence of sin. Sin is mis-reflecting God, not making God upset because we break His rules.
Another problem with sin is that because it is rooted in lies believed about what God is like and how He relates to others, those lies blind us to the truth so that we do not reflect His love and glory or experience peace and joy, because there is no peace to be found in dark views of God. Such living is a violation of our original design intent, so what is released by our lives is a curse rather than a blessing. The principle of cause and effect operates everywhere, so when we judge others with anything other than righteous judgment (meaning we view them and ourselves the way God sees our true identity as His beloved children), then we are cursing them and denying God's word about the true nature of our identity as well as others. In doing this we join the enemy in accusing those created in the image of God as having an identity in the image of Satan. Yet in doing so we agree with the accuser and identify ourselves as accusers like Satan, thus condemning ourselves. This is the danger Paul is warning us about in Romans 2 and is a very real issue for every one of us, especially religious people.
What Paul points out also is the cause of our malfunction when we judge others and agree with the great accuser. He says we do this because we either despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance. When we look down on, discredit or denigrate the kindness and unconditional love of God as too weak to deal with sin or reform sinners, we in effect blaspheme the name by which we alone can be saved resulting in a deadly disease called hardening of the heart. A hardened, unrepentant heart is a result of resisting the truth that God is love and nothing less. When we despise the graciousness and patience that God has with those we view as worthy of severe punishment and censure, we align ourselves with the accusations of the enemy of God and also erode our own capacity to respond to love, while the people we condemn and censure may actually be more open to responding to God's love than are we.
Paul says that this will be the cause of the torment that will be experienced when resistance to love encounters the intense presence of love when God's righteousness is exposed in judgment. Everyone will be brought into judgment, along with God and all the rest of us. When brought into the light of God's kind of judgment, everything that resists the passion of God's heart of love will be exposed by that love. Any resistance stored up in the heart will then react violently to the intense light of that fire, and the result is torment, shame and all the reactions that trigger inside of us that we have imagined are punishments imposed by God. In reality, the torments of hell are reactions to the truth of God's heart of love and His non-violent methods to win the trust of His enemies. When this revelation of pure love exposes the righteousness of God fully, this judgment exposes our lies, fears and resistance to truth and love and we end up judging ourselves. This is what is meant by saying that God will pay back to everyone according to their works. Their works reveal their heart condition which determines their reaction to the fiery passion of love.
God's judgment is not about relying on some imaginary set of justice scales as we have thought. That is the way Satan's counterfeit justice operates, for under this world's system of justice, laws are artificial and thus require external enforcement lest they be ignored. God's principles are all self-enforcing, meaning they contain within them the natural consequences released by how we interact with them, either in blessing or releasing curses into our lives. Our works, our character, our reactions will demonstrate clearly whether we have allowed God to transform us into His likeness by focusing on His lovely character, or we have stored up bitterness, resentment, desires for payback and revenge and anger inside us that resists the grace, mercy, kindness and unconditional love that defines God.
False justice and judgment is all about inflicting penalties on those who disobey the rules while giving rewards to those who comply and go along with the rules. This has to be enforced by means of artificial imposition of both the rewards and punishments, since our rules and laws have no inherent power like God's principles contain. We must pull back entirely from imagining that God operates His government through use of Satan's methods, for such thinking is infected with the deadly virus of sin and causes us to reflect these false notions of God in the ways we relate to others and even to ourselves.
Notice the kind of works Paul lists that will be 'paid back' by God when judgment reveals His righteous character and everyone reacts according to what they have chosen to believe about Him.
to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory, honor, and incorruptibility, eternal life; but to those who are self-seeking, and don't obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, will be wrath and indignation, oppression and anguish, on every soul of man who works evil
This lists the natural cause and effect relationship between what we focus on in our thinking and beliefs about God, and the outcomes of those beliefs and opinions.
One group patiently seeks for glory, honor and incorruptibility
This group experiences eternal life. Jesus said to know God is to have eternal life (John 17:3).
The other group is self-seeking, so they don't obey (believe) the truth (about God) but obey unrighteousness (un-like God who is righteous, kind, good, humble, forgiving, loving etc.)
This group experiences the power of love as wrath, indignation, oppressive and tormenting.
This is what happens in judgment involving the fire of God's passionate love. Those who have stored up wrath/resistance to love inside themselves experience this fire as torment, even though others who are not resisting it experience ecstasy in that same fire and thrive in it.
This parallels what we find in another passage that spells this out.
The sinners in Zion are afraid. Trembling has seized the godless ones. Who among us can live with the devouring fire? Who among us can live with everlasting burning? He who walks righteously, and speaks blamelessly; He who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing to take a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of blood, and shuts his eyes from looking at evil-- he will dwell on high. His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks. His bread will be supplied. His waters will be sure. Your eyes will see the king in his beauty. They will see a distant land. (Isaiah 33:14-17)
While this is a major advancement in understanding the true nature of the the lake of fire and what the lost experience who refuse to let go of their resistance and unbelief, how does this fit into what Jesus said about resisting an evil person? Surely an evil person could not be seen as a channel of love to me, so how could resisting abuse by evil people relate to resisting love from God? This is a very real issue that cannot be ignored, so we have to keep exploring to see how other Scriptures help to expand and clarify this further.
Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Here we have something of a balancing instruction to the one Jesus gave relating to evil people. We are to resist the devil, after submitting to God first, but we are not to resist evil people. It is important that we separate how we think of people from how we think about the source of all evil, the great Satan. We are now circling in toward the issue of identity and how that affects everything in our life.
We recall that James warns us to not curse other people, and what was the reason given for this? It is because humans are created in the image of God, so when we curse them, even if they are acting out evil in their lives, it is because they are not acting according to their true identity, which is to image God's heart. The reason they are malfunctioning by acting as evil is because deep inside they believe God is like that. We cannot help but reflect whatever we believe God to be like. This is why what we believe about God has everything to do with our preparation for eternal life with God, for if we develop a character shaped by lies about God that instill fear and that He uses force and intimidation to gain our compliance to His rules, we will end up unfit to be able to thrive in the eternal flames of love that defines His very presence and in which angels love to dwell.
We do not know the heart of any person, and seldom have a reasonably correct assessment of our own heart. Thus when we resist any person, whether apparently good or evidently evil, we are still exhibiting resistance to a being inherently designed to reflect God, whether or not they are currently doing so. When we resist them, it usually means we are labeling them as evil, thus contradicting what Jesus has declared their identity to be as His beloved child. This is regardless of the fact they don't yet believe it and are acting out a false identity received from other sources. Too often we may be that way ourselves, acting out evil toward others even though we may not want to do it. The worst thing that can happen to a person in such a situation is for other people to label them, assigning them an identity of an evil person against which they will have to struggle to discover the real truth about themselves to break free of this curse caused by such lies and reinforced by those around them.
Let's return to the original issue we began with to revisit it in the light of all this. Can judgment really be healing? And if it can be healing, we will experience this healing by properly responding in times of this kind of judgment as we encounter them.
Jesus said that those who do the truth come to the light for a specific purpose. The light represents the healing presence of Jesus, interestingly the very same presence in which those who worship and have the mark of the beast experience extreme torment. This is no accident, for as we saw in Isaiah 33, there are two reactions to being exposed to the same eternal fire of God's passionate love. We see the same pattern in John 3 where Jesus details two reactions to the oncoming presence of His light that has come into the world which is the revelation of God's heart in the reflection seen most fully in Jesus Christ.
The reason one would choose to come to the light of such judgment, this light that exposes what has been out of sight, is because what is hidden inside are the lies, the misunderstandings, the fears, the misapprehensions that make us afraid of God. Ironically the same light of truth and love that terrifies those who love darkness and want to keep their motives and actions hidden, is the same light that invites any who are ready to change their thinking and escape from the darkness that has held them captive in fear, shame and doubts. The same light comes to everyone; it is our choice as to how we will relate to the light that makes all the difference. And our reactions to the light of truth and love is what defines the very essence of true judgment.
This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn't come to the light, lest his works would be exposed.
But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21)
"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
You don't have his word living in you; because you don't believe him whom he sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me. Yet you will not come to me, that you may have life. (John 5:38-40)
The difference is in the direction we take in relation to the light. If we respond positively to the invitation of Jesus to come to Him and learn of Him, our lives can experience healing transformation as the light of love is allowed to expose and dispel all the lies of darkness that make us afraid, revealing that they are all a fraud, a mirage that we have believed that has blocked us from enjoying the intimate relation of trust God created us to enjoy with Him and with all heaven.
If we disbelieve and distrust Jesus' revelation of God's heart, clinging instead to the lies of Satan about God, we may be experts in Scripture and even rely on them to justify our opinions about what God is like, yet we will feel threatened by the light of Jesus' revelation of God that contradicts what we believe and desire to hide in a refuge of lies, imagining that they will protect us from disaster when the time of judgment comes.
...to whom he said, "This is the resting place. Give rest to weary;" and "This is the refreshing;" yet they would not hear. Therefore the word of Yahweh will be to them precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little; that they may go, fall backward, be broken, be snared, and be taken.
Therefore hear the word of Yahweh, you scoffers, that rule this people in Jerusalem: "Because you have said, 'We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol are we in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it won't come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and we have hidden ourselves under falsehood.'"
Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation. He who believes shall not act hastily. I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plumb line. The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place. Your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol shall not stand. When the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it. (Isaiah 28:12-18)
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness. If anyone listens to my sayings, and doesn't believe, I don't judge him. For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me, and doesn't receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day. (John 12:46-48)