During Lent we’re called to examine how our lives are or aren’t producing the fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as we anticipate Jesus’ death and resurrection. But as we evaluate ourselves, we are bound to be reminded that, even as God has made us saints, we are still sinners. We can easily become focused on our sin and overwhelmed in self-condemnation. 

Yet, as we examine ourselves and our communities, it would behoove us to employ the compassionate judgment of Jesus rather than humanity’s harsh, shameful lens.  

In a recent discussion of Jesus’ peaceful ways, my friend asked, “But what about Jesus in the temple? He got violent with folks, right?”  

“Well, not exactly,” I answered. 

What is often missed in John’s account of the cleansing of the temple is that Jesus was nonviolent while rebuking profane uses of the holy precincts. Yes, Jesus overturned tables and poured out money because he was angry that the temple had been turned into a market. But he used the whip to drive out the sheep and cattle, not people (John 2:15). And when it came time to address those people, he simply told them to take their things and go (John 2:16). Jesus delivered kind judgment.  

The grace of God is that the one who illuminates our sin is the same one who comes to free us from  all condemnation.  

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). God sent his son Jesus to shine a light on our world to help us see uncomfortable truths we would probably prefer to keep hidden.  

Some welcome the light. Others hate the light because it exposes our evil deeds (John 3:19-21).  

God knows we are all guilty but chooses to save us anyway by sending us Jesus. According to John 3, God is most interested in how we welcome or turn from the Light of the world.   

The grace of God is that the one who illuminates our sin is the same one who comes to free us from  all condemnation.  

Later, when he was about to be executed by the Romans, Jesus proclaimed: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:31-32).  

The judgment that Jesus declares prior to his crucifixion is good news for humanity. What Jesus means here is that, with this act, he will draw all people to himself and force Satan to flee. Jesus’ judgment is a great kindness that leads to reconciliation.  

Thus, in this penitential season of Lent, let us repent and make sure that our expressions of judgment emulate Jesus’. 

Jesus shines light into the world not to condemn us but to save us from ourselves and our evil impulses. It is right and good in this season to reflect on ourselves and where we have fallen short. It is even better to reflect on Jesus, whose kind and gentle judgment leads to salvation. 

Cory Driver
Cory Driver is an ELCA missionary serving as the director of graduate studies at the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo (Egypt). His book on wilderness spirituality, Life Unsettled, is available from Fortress Press.

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