So, following on from last week’s entry, your life on earth is borrowed, your possessions are borrowed, the atoms in your body are all borrowed, your every waking (and sleeping) moment is borrowed, entrusted to you.
This reminded me of the words of the Inquisitor from Red Dwarf:
“You have been granted the greatest gift of all, the gift of life. Tell me, what have you done to deserve this superlative good fortune?”
It is a sobering question, because the honest answer is nothing. Life has been granted to us not out of obligation to us for something we have done, not a reward or wages, but as a gift, the greatest of gifts, perhaps even something, dare I say it, that is worth being grateful for in of itself.
In context however, that is not really the question that the Inquisitor was asking. What he was asking was far more serious, even terrifying:
You have been given this astounding gift, this incredible range of opportunities. What have you done with them to justify this enormous investment in you? What reasons will you give to dissuade me from erasing you from history and giving your opportunities to someone else?
The worst part is, the judge you have to convince is yourself. There is nothing you can hide, your every private action, thought and motive is known, your own personal standards are used to measure you. How many of us would survive? May I suggest none?
In the episode itself, The Cat and Rimmer pass the test by having ridiculously low standards for themselves, while Kryten and Lister trick the Inquisitor into erasing himself from history and thereby undoing all of his work.
The test itself reminds me of the start of Matthew 7
Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Every time you are disappointed with or angry at someone, you are judging the behaviour that disappointed you or made you angry. That is a standard you have agreed to, a measure you have used, which will be used to judge you. Things aren’t looking so rosy, are they?
And yet that is the point, isn’t it? We want the wrongs of this world to be corrected, bad and selfish choices to result in significant negative results for the offender, the people who got away with it in this life to not get away with it in the next.
Won’t it be great to see every arrogant bully being brought down low and getting their comeuppance, to see all those scandals people tried to hide being shouted from the rooftops, all those webs of lies unravelled, those who stirred up needless trouble standing face to face with all the damage they caused, and those with sordid secrets becoming utterly transparent…
Wait, now let’s be reasonable, nobody needs to know about the terrible ways I wanted to lash out when those kids were annoying me, or those selfish plans I made, or especially about that time I…
This is not looking good at all, and it shouldn’t. We object to double standards in this life, how much more should we object to double standards on Judgement Day? If Christianity is true, then the Red Dwarf crew’s escape route is not available to us.
There is no way to trick God, and his standards are infinitely higher than ours. Even our own standards, if we are honest, are far beyond our ability to meet.
Our every judgement is played back to us and our every offence against those values displayed for all to see. Our own moral outrage passionately condemns us to an inescapable fate and demands the ultimate punishment, a greater despair than we can imagine.
We are guilty, lost, helpless.
And then a man quietly comes up besides us and calmly states:
“Do not punish them, I am the guilty one.”
Before we can react, the judges we embody forcefully decree, “Let the punishment begin!”
You watch in horror as he is taken back in time to where he is betrayed by one of his closest friends and abandoned by the rest, seized by an oppressive regime and shuttled from one sham trial to another, like a pawn in a cynical power play. His own people, whom he came to help, disown him and scream for his death. He is beaten, mocked, ridiculed and sneered at while being flogged, gouging deep bloody furrows in his body. All of this agony and shame he accepts without protest, making no attempt to defend himself or his reputation.
The judges we embody approve of each blow, cheering each new humiliation and applauding each new trickle of blood down his increasingly disfigured form.
In his weakened state he is forced to carry a load he cannot bear up a hill he cannot climb, insulted all the way by the crowds and our judges.
He is finally publicly tortured to death in the most degrading way possible in front of his own mother, so he can see the pain in her eyes as his own life ebbs away. His Father looks away, the skies darken and he is left utterly alone.
With his dying breath he declares “It is finished.”
Our judges concur. “It is finished, justice is served.”
The broken corpse is taken away and sealed inside a rocky tomb. There is silence as you process what just occurred. Lost in thought, you lose track of time until great doors open in front of you and a warm, beautiful and living light streams into the room from the other side. A man steps through the doors and approaches you.
It is the same man, only different. The light seems to be emanating directly from him, causing the air itself to come alive and fill the room with an otherworldly aroma. You look back at the tomb; it is open, empty. Your list of offences has also disappeared.
“What happened? How is this possible?”
“Death could not hold me. I took your place and bore the wrath you earned. If you wish to accept this exchange, then follow me, change the way you think and live and through me you too will overcome death’s greatest sting.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then nothing has been paid for you, your original sentence stands and you carry on as you were.” He gestures towards you with an open hand. “Being your own boss.” He indicates towards the judge. “Setting your own rules. How was that going?”
Next in the series: The Joy (and Terror) of Judgement Day – Part Two