The measure of our humanity


Acts 17

File:Montbrison-La Diana-20110209-Croix d'épidémie.jpg

Epidemic Cross from the Musée archéologique de La Diana

30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31He has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The notion of a judgment day is both frightful and appealing.

I like this phrase “the times of human ignorance.” For all our exquisite knowledge, we are still profoundly ignorant. We can build fabulous machines to search for the Higgs boson or peer back to the beginnings of time. We can reconstruct the languages of lost cultures and read the layers of geographical time. But we don’t know how to escape fear and bigotry. We can’t stop war. We have trouble sustaining a marriage.

What is the measure of human existence? When we stand humanity up against the doorframe and with a tissue box and pencil measure how far we have grown, what is the height that would mark our full maturity? The notion that the world will be judged by Jesus is less about dishing out rewards and punishments and much more about our lives being measured against his.

What will we say when we stand before eternity next to his example?

This we do not want. We want the judge who will punish the wicked, who will hold all the violent and brutal and thieving to account. We want someone to freeze Judas, Cassius and Brutus in a lake of ice. We rather like Dante’s vision of the torments of hell where all the lying, thieving congressman and bankers can get their due, and the authors of every terror be repaid.

But to have our humanity measured by Jesus’ humanity…to have our faithfulness measured by his faithfulness…to have our compassion measured by his compassion…to have our truthfulness measured by his…such thoughts lead only to humble silence.

The times of ignorance are past. The measure of humanity has been revealed. Seventy-sevenfold forgiveness is not the goal but the standard. Loving your enemies is not the hope but the requirement. Caring for Lazarus at the gate is not a noble charity but a necessary humanity.

So we come to that word ‘repent’: “God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” God is not asking us to feel bad for how poorly we measure up; he is calling us to grow up, to walk a different path, to show a different allegiance, to leave our ignorance behind.

All of us.

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