In August I finally bought a smartphone and began to discover the joys of Instagram. And today is Jewish New Year – and yes, I see a connection…
Jewish New Year is, for religious Jews, a pretty scary time – according to tradition, this is the time of year when God looks at how we’ve behaved, weighs up our good deeds and our bad deeds and decides our fate according to which way the balance goes.
And unlike the world of Instagram, or social media in general – with God we can’t hide our less nice bits, we can’t pick and choose the perfect moments to share, cropping out embarrassing stuff, applying a nice filter to the image before hitting Share…
Imagine how you’d feel if your whole life – every moment of it, uncensored and unfiltered – was played on a screen before your eyes. Including all those moments when you’ve felt pathetic, disgusting, horrible, sometimes so horrible that you try to erase what you’ve done from your own memory, let alone tell anyone else about it.
Now imagine there’s someone else watching this whole thing.
Now this would be terrifying enough if it was a good friend who you hope would understand and say: hey, we’ve all done horrible things, I’m in no position to judge you, I’ve got my own stuff to feel bad about.
But God – he doesn’t have his own stuff to feel bad about. He is holy and perfect. He is the only one who is in a position to righteously judge you, and not only does he have the right to judge you, he also has the power to decide your fate.
You see how New Year can be rather terrifying…
So, knowing that God actually knows me inside out and that I can’t hide the bad stuff from him, how come I’m not trembling with fear on this supposedly awesome and terrifying day? Is it because I’m sure I’ve done enough good to make up for all the bad stuff?
No. Absolutely, definitely, resoundingly NO.
Oh, come on – I hear some well-intentioned people say – surely you’re not that bad… You’re not like some evil murderer or rapist or child abuser…
And it would be nice and comforting to buy into that, but I’m confronted with what Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
And that’s just one bit I picked out of a whole diatribe, which ends with the command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – can any of us honestly say we can consistently live up to that?
The intro to this whole thing is one that his audience at the time would have found shocking:
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The scribes and Pharisees were the super religious guys – if you need to do better than those guys then what chance have you got?
Here’s the thing:
We can’t live up to this. But there’s someone who can and who is willing to give us a piggyback ride into heaven on his shoulders. And that’s why I’m not terrified of God’s judgement – not because I’m good enough, but because I’m riding on the shoulders of Jesus, the only one who is good enough.