Do you ever have those moments when you’re listening to a sermon and suddenly you get struck by lightening? I mean like an actual bolt of lightening coming down from heaven and sapping you in your chair? Personally that’s never happened to me, but I try to avoid wearing metal and standing in water.
A moment that was like that for me a while back was when I was in a sermon listening to Paul Tripp, and he said:
You have no right to condemn what God is redeeming.
I don’t know about anybody else in that room, but my audience with the God of the universe got pretty personal.
One of the great declarations of the Bible is Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Here was an all to powerful practical and theological point wrapped into one concise statement. I tend to not be easily deceived (it’s one of the distinctives of being a ninja), but I think what I had subtly begun to apply this truth in merely vertical terms: Jacob, there is now no condemnation for you because you are in Christ Jesus. But I had read this too narrowly and applied it in terms of American Individualism.
What Tripp was pointing out is that the declaration that there is “no condemnation” also applies in how we think about other people. God is in the process of redeeming people, changing them slowly over time, according to his timing and plan. So when I get all huffy about somebody offending me in whatever way (perceived or intentional), and laying on the guilt and condemnation (either mentally or verbally to them) then I am guilty of fundamentally misunderstanding what the Gospel of “No Condemnation for Those in Christ Jesus!” means.
Yea, that person in your church that really bugs you and does everything they do entirely different than you would – yea, they’re no longer under condemnation, and so you have no right to keep giving it to them. That’s right, the person who’s deliberately slighted you by hanging out with other people and not you – yep, they are no longer receiving complimentary condemnation packages, so you need to stop paying for the postage.
For me, it was a moment where I began to see my self-righteous, judgmental heart towards others. I like to condemn because it’s merely an application of “Jacob the King of the Universe” world I like to build. Last time I checked, I put my pants on like every other non-king-of-the-universe human around me.
The point Tripp was making was helpful though: That person you’re eagerly condemning (that God doesn’t anymore) is God’s personal glory story. They are God’s personal way with them of revealing his grace and redeeming a broken human being and making them whole in Christ. Are they going to annoy you? Sure. But is your annoyance really that important?
But Tripp’s point also speaks to love. Love so freely enjoys the glory and riches of Christ that it eagerly seeks to think about others the way Christ does. If you’re a person prone to condemn, consider how things would change if you took up your new right in Christ to “pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Apply “no condemnation” vertically and horizontally and you’ll begin to taste the rich grace of the Gospel that Jesus has freely given us.