A few days ago, I got an email from some person who didn’t like the fact that I was gay and that the church I serve is okay with gay folk. The writer said something to the effect that I was basically hellbound and that I needed to ask God for forgiveness for being gay.
I promptly deleted the email.
It’s interesting that this coming Sunday is Christ the King Sunday and the gospel text of Matthew 25:31-46 is one of the interesting stories where we see the not-so-nice side of God. For most liberal Christians, the idea of seeing a God send people to enternal damnation is a tad disturbing…to a point. We don’t like to think of a God that send folks to hell unless they happen to be people we don’t happen to like. In his study of the texts this week, Bob Cornwall notes that maybe the world’s bankers and those who work on Wall Street will end of up as goats:
The image that emerges from these texts that marks this final week of the liturgical calendar lift up the idea of judgment, something that many Christians don’t find all the attractive. Especially those of us left of center prefer a loving and merciful God – though even liberals seem attracted to the idea that there are those who will be judged, and perhaps judged harshly. They may not embrace the idea of people roasting for eternity in the fires of hell, but from what I can see from the rhetoric surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement, there seem to be few tears for the world’s bankers. Perhaps the denizens of Wall Street deserve judgment. Possibly they are the goats who are to be sent off to the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It’s hard for me to tell if Bob is being serious or simply posing a question, but sentiment seems to be that there are some folks even liberals think deserve God’s judgement. For some reason, that bothers me, mostly because it’s been folks like Cornwall that seem to talk about a God of love and judgement- but seem to drop that Happy God talk when it comes to people they don’t like.
The crank who sent me that email and those who would like to see bankers burn in hell have something in common- they want to decide who gets punished. My crank emailer wants to see me burn because I’m doing something he disapproves us. Those in the Occupy Movement want to see bankers burn because, well, they’re bankers.
The more I think about this gospel text though, the more I think that it’s not about me or who gets sent to hell. In the text, both those who tend to the “least of these” and those who ignore them, don’t know they are encountering Christ. None of them know their ultimate fate.
I do believe God is a just God, but the fact is, we don’t know who will end up where. We aren’t supposed to know. What we are supposed to do is take care of our neighbor as if that person were Jesus himself.
I think far too often, we want to sit in the judgement seat. But that’s God’s job, not mine. God will one day judge all of us…gay people and bankers and everyone in between. At that time, all I can do is rely on God’s grace. Until then, I will try to care for my sisters and brothers and not wonder or wish who is going to have eternal heartburn.
Judgement day is coming…but thankfully that’s not on my to-do list.