When I started thinking about The Rules of T-Ball, I began first with the “no-one-keeps-score” rule and how that relates to our relationship with God. The typical scriptures jumped to mind: 1 Corinthians 13:5: (…love keeps no record of wrongs) or Isaiah 43:25 (“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”). But it seemed like a message about “God-not-keeping-score” sounded as sincere as a drugstore card. And a little theologically screwy.
There is a divine "score-keeping" with which we have to wrestle.
One of the most frightening scriptures for me is Matthew 25:31-33: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
That scene, honestly, is terrifying to me. The picture of a global accounting leaves me speechless; I don’t know how to fit it nicely into our Western approach to church that is essentially suffering-free. And hellfire preachers typically don’t do it justice either—they can strike me as style-over-compassion. But this cosmic shakeout of humanity is simply outside my scope of understanding. Even more fascinating is how utterly dumbstruck the sheep are that they had actually done anything for Jesus. And it’s not just the social justice aspect that gets questioned, like how we respond to the poor, the prisoner, etcetera, but power-encounter-spirituality as well. Jesus said earlier: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22). He frighteningly responds with, “Get away from me. I don’t know who you are.” Nearly every book in the New Testament specifically refers to this Judgment Day…and keep in mind these are primarily letters written to friends and churchplants.
Here’s the rub: we know it’s not by our works of righteousness that we enter into the Kingdom (Titus 3:5), yet we are still accountable for our actions. But as we see in the “Lord, Lord…” verse, it’s not just our actions, it’s how actions are connected with our motivations. And if our motivation isn’t love or compassion, then it’s disqualified. Or as Paul put it: If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn't love others, it would be of no value whatever. (1 Corinthians 13:3 Living Bible)
God does keep a compassion-check scorecard. It’s not just the things we do, but the things we do that are driven by true love. And I have to admit that’s more than a little unnerving for me, because I know I can't wait until I'm motivated, but it won't count until it morphs into compassion. That's sobering.
But as the psalmist said, the bright side is this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...” (Psalm 111.10).
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God has God living inside, and that person lives in God. And so we know the love that God has for us, and we trust that love. God is love. Those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. This is how love is made perfect in us: that we can be without fear on the day God judges us, because in this world we are like him. 1 John 4:15-17 (New Century Version)