It is our willing desire to develop the habits of virtuous character, formed in the light of Christ. The more we do this, the more we look forward joyfully to the judgment to come.
The author of Ecclesiastes tells us here in Chapter 3 that, “There is a time for everything under the sun.” Then he goes on to say:
“And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment–wickedness was there,
in the place of justice–wickedness was there.
I said to myself,
‘God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time to judge every deed.'”
As there is a time for everything, good, or bad, to be done under the sun, there is also a time for judging all those things. The problem of retribution is tied up with the gift of free will. As human beings we are free to choose the good, and we are free to choose evil. We can choose to live noble lives, conducting ourselves in our labors and in all else with virtuous character, or we can freely choose to live morally licentious lives living today like there is no tomorrow, paying attention only to our own selfish desires. We are truly free to do both good and evil. But there are consequences that come to play, both here and now, and in that time that is beyond this world. In that time to come God will bring both the righteous and the wicked to judgment.
As finite, often broken, human beings burdened with the knowledge that life is short and that we all must die, we sometimes fall into the habits of pursuing immediate gratifications of all kinds. We can fall into the cynical attitude of living today like there is no tomorrow. We may be tantalized by momentary and fleeting pleasures and argue that it is better to get what you can while the getting is good. We can even fool ourselves into thinking that we can avoid the consequences of our words and deeds, that those things happen to other people, they won’t happen to me. How often have we been proven the fool thinking that way?
As Christians, we know that we possess God-given, immortal souls. We know that our choices have consequences not only in this life but in the next. Therefore, we willingly choose to follow Jesus, to live the Christ life precisely because our deepest desire is to be with him forever in Paradise. We also, by experience, understand that life is difficult, that choosing to follow Jesus in this world is not easy. We know that we need God’s grace to carry on and to grow in our efforts. This is why, through prayer, scripture study and church attendance, we endeavor to know God’s law of love more intimately and to serve all others out of that same love. Knowing and accepting God’s laws helps us to choose the good more and more regularly. It is our willing desire to develop the habits of virtuous character, formed in the light of Christ. The more we do this, the more we look forward joyfully to the judgment to come.
Lord, you have made us in your own image with our free wills. Help us to live in your likeness more and more each day by increasing our ability to recognize what is truly good, and to, more and more often, choose to carry it out in our lives. We ask this in your name Jesus. Amen!
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