“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do…” Romans 8:1-3
We so often think of the judgment of God being something to be afraid of. But in Psalm 96, judgment is not portrayed as something to be afraid of. In fact, the whole earth rejoices because the Lord is coming to judge the earth!
“… Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.” Psalm 96:11-13
We imagine judgment and mercy to be two independent things that God might choose to do, but this group of verses tells us that judgment and mercy are who God is. So how can God be judgmental and also merciful at the same time? The verses tell us more―they tell us that Jesus Christ, God’s son, is God’s way of judging the earth (John 5:26-27). But what does it mean to say that Jesus is God’s judgment? Romans says that this judgment is one which gives us freedom—it is because of this judgment that we can say with confidence that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
It is not that there is a judgment that we have somehow avoided, but that the judgment is good news. The judgment is the person of Christ, in whom there is no condemnation. The gospel—the “good news”―is that through Jesus, God has done what we could not do. This does not mean that we live without sin, but that, despite our sin, God frees us by her Spirit to live lives of freedom. Perhaps you don’t like the thought that our sin does not disappear immediately, but let us consider this more closely. Those moments of transformation for us as individuals, and for us as a group of people, indeed even as nations, happen when God moves us to look at ourselves with honesty. Sin is not immediately removed from our lives, but the condemnation is, which frees us to look at our sin with humility and without defensiveness. We are freed to do better and to be better, to learn again and again what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. Not because we are afraid of God’s judgment, but because we already know God’s judgment, and because we know it is good news.
— Gillian Breckenridge