Probably one of the most difficult things for me to overcome is my own self-esteem. I tend to have a very low one and it's difficult for me to look beyond it. So when people begin offering critiques, criticisms, or well-meaning advice, I try to view it with the spirit it was given. I don't always succeed.
In our Internet world, the fake anonymity that people seem to relish in makes comments even more harsh. Those comments from Christians seem especially harsh to me.
So when I read what Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, I realize that this is something I wish to aspire to. I wish to realize that God is the one who judges me, not humans.
(Just a side note: Judgment is not correction. If I have made an error in something I have done or said and someone shows me my error, this isn't a judgment. This is correction.)
I once had to answer for a statement that I had made online. The issue had to do with a discussion I was having with another person in my denomination regarding LGBT rights and marriage equality. I am in support of marriage equality for all people, regardless of their orientation. In my discussion with this other person, he had made the remark that the Bible is very clear on the subject of same-sex marriage. I responded to the other person that the Bible is rarely clear on many topics. It was only his interpretation of Scripture that was clear for him.
I was told by someone I used to respect that what I had written was heresy. I was shocked by that word. Heresy? What was it about that statement that was so heretical? Throughout Christian history we have debated, interpreted, and reinterpreted Scripture according to our own limited knowledge. However, I was told that I was a heretic. That floored me. It shocked me. I had never been called a heretic by someone in my own denomination.
I wasn't being corrected. I was being judged. I was told that I was being disloyal to The Salvation Army.
I do not equate having a differing opinion with being disloyal. That was something very difficult to listen to. However, my wife gave me some very sound advice. She told me that I should be who I was writing, not just in words, but in deeds. She was right.
What does this have to do with the Scripture in question and with Advent? Paul said, "I couldn't care less if I'm judged by you or by any human court; I don't even judge myself. I'm not aware of anything against me, but that doesn't make me innocent, because the Lord is the one who judges me."
For me in my situation, I believe I was being judged. However, I had to deal with the consequences of that judgment. That was a very bitter pill to swallow. Right now, I am dealing with a lot of bitterness, too, but I realize that this isn't good for me at all to dwell on. It is something that I am working on. I am grateful for my friends and relatives who have helped me through this time of bitterness.
So, what do we do when we are being judged? Right now, I wish I could say with as much confidence as Paul that I don't care, but to be honest, I do care. I do care about what people think about me and what they say. Unfortunately, that's not always healthy. If my self-esteem relies on what people think of me and I go around saying things that people might disagree with, it's going to be hard for me indeed!
What I do need is perspective. So although people could judge me by my actions and my words, the one judgment that does matter is the judgment by God. When the Advent of his Judgment comes, all will be brought to light. In that, I place my hands in a merciful God. I have no cause to fear.
The 8th doctrine of The Salvation Army states: "We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and 'he that believeth hath the witness in himself.'"
How do I interpret that doctrine? I do not have to justify my salvation to anyone. I am justified by God. He has judged me. That is where I find my identity. That is where I find my acceptance. That is where I find my peace.