I always wonder at those who constantly insist “You can’t judge me.” I don’t need to judge you. We always judge ourselves. Our words, our actions, and our thoughts all contain all that is needed to “judge” rightly the true state of our souls. It is also why the Last Judgement and our constant Orthodox prayer “For a Christian end to our lives, peaceful, without shame and suffering, and for a good account before the awesome judgment seat of Christ, let us ask the Lord” all reveal that even the Lord will only reveal, not condemn us.
But why do we get so defensive when we feel we are being “judged?” It has everything to do with being exposed for who we really are, and that is quite uncomfortable.
Look at our Lesson today in Matthew 21:33-42:
The Lord said this parable, “There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in our eyes?’”
Jesus tells stories in the Gospels to teach us deep and profound truths. And this story is no exception. He relates to His hearers in a way that leaves them with more work to do after He speaks. So many layers of meaning! So much wisdom! And so much challenge. If we truly have eyes to see; it really is marvelous!
First, God is the Lord. You see, our lives are chaotic until we discover Whose we are; not just who we are. That’s why there is such a distinction between people who live their lives as if there is no God and those who live their lives as if there IS a God. If all of this is random and meaningless, then why bother with self-sacrifice and caring? But if there is a “householder,” well, that makes a difference. A big difference. Especially if that Householder wishes you to know Him! And He does!
Next, We are Tenants. I’ve rented houses before as both landlord and as a renter, and I can tell you it matters a great deal how you care for Someone else’s property. In fact, how you care for Someone else’s property says a great deal about you, yourself. If there is a God, and if that God wishes to be known, then even my very body is “rented property!” I am a tenant in the Lord’s Vineyard and how I care for this rented place reveals who I really am. This is why judgment is NEVER an attack but a revelation!
Next, We are Servants. There are those whom the Landlord has chosen to go into His Vineyard and “reap” what is truly His! How we treat those servants; how we embrace those servants, also reveal who we are. When we mistreat God’s servants, we reveal our disbelief in the Landlord. We assume this life is ours and ours alone. We prove to be functional atheists.
Finally, We have received the Son. God loves His vineyard, His creation. And He will not hesitate giving everything, even His very Son, to make His vineyard what He intends it to be!
Today, no wonder the Church has us say “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” God’s judgments are His Light revealing who we really are. By the way, just because something is marvelous doesn’t mean it is always pleasant. Being confronted with who I really am is always an invitation to repentance and wonder at the inexhaustible mercy of God! That’s why we must be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord, You are beautiful. Your mercy is past finding out. Your grace is immeasurable. And, in the face of such love and mercy, I still struggle to bring my honest confession to You because I am ashamed. Forgive my lack of trust in Your love for me, and show me Your boundless mercy. Amen.