Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I am writing this at 12:30 am on a Saturday night, my children having woken up repetitively for the last several hours, due to a boisterous and noisy house party down the hill from our house.
After increasingly broken or non-existent sleep I grew more and more frustrated. Eventually I decided to get up and do something about it. I got dressed, left the house exhausted and somewhat delirious with lack of sleep and anxiety, with some vague idea of causing some sort of disturbance of my own. Perhaps a broken window or at the very least, a phone call to the police.
After walking past the offending houses and marking their addresses, I returned home. But I didn’t go in the front door, instead I asked myself, how, or what would I pray if I prayed for the people in that house. Drinking and yelling loudly from their hot tub, totally unaware of their own effects on others.
Do I pray for vengeance? Then remember, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.”
Do I pray for judgment? I remember, “Judge not, lest you yourselves be judged.”
I ask for forgiveness, and remember, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So what then? I find myself searching through my memories of scripture and see that the same Jesus that later Romans 8 will tell us is sitting at the right hand of God, who is indeed interceding for us, whose image we are destined to be conformed into, the same Jesus who would have the one without sin cast the first stone, is the one who covered my sins, when I was out in the world, greedy for selfish gain.
We were all by nature creatures of wrath, destined for destruction, and these poor folks, seeking satisfaction in wildness, companionship, and strong drink, are like us walking with our accuser to the judgment seat. If they meet not the judge on the way, and come to terms with him quickly, then they will be imprisoned forever. And they will never get out until they have paid the last penny.
So I prayed like this:
Help me. Help these people who have disturbed my life, and disturb theirs to shake them from their stupor. Let the emptiness that comes with the morning light drive them to seek the source of the light. Forgive them Lord, and teach them wisdom. Teach them truth and forgiveness.
A short evening of selfish gathering and I am near to asking for judgment on them or passing it on them myself. God, you are the merciful God, for who is like you? Who passes over iniquity and gives mercy and steadfast love to all who call on his name? My whole life was bent on destruction and through no strength of my own, you saved and forgave me. Paid for with your life. Thank you God, give me patience and endurance.
It came to me then, that I stood for a moment between two future versions of myself. I looked at my hands. Healing hands?
I looked at the stone that I had put in my pocket and placed it on the rail in front of my house where I stood. It seems to me that throughout the Bible, stones are used for one of two things. They are either used to kill sinners, or they are used to build an altar.
So I looked at my single stone altar, an altar of remembrance, of warning, and laid on it my right for earthly punishment and judgment for others, I laid on it my disdain for those who remain unaffected and unchanged by the Spirit of God into better men and women, and laid on it my own plans for self-protection.
When Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” He certainly knew that Paul would write “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And so by the grace of God, I passed no condemnation, and hope that I never shall, until I agree with the great gathering of Christians on the judgment day to approve every word of our Holy Judge and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord.
That Holy Amen.