December 8

Matthew 3:1-12

Isn’t it a shame, that in meeting up with the message about God’s love and grace and the life of joy that this opens up, we find ourselves confronted also with the theme of judgment? Matthew 3:12 puts it this way: just as a farmer thrashes his wheat crop after harvest to separate the grain from the chaff, so Jesus separates out those who live the life of God’s kingdom from those who do not. Mind you, we recognize that there are always consequences for our actions. We remind our children of this over and over again when we tell them to make good choices. If God shows us, in Christ, the way that people should live, why blame God if we suffer adverse consequences when we don’t live that way? If we don’t take the medication prescribed by the doctor, we only have ourselves to blame if the disease continues unabated. The most serious consequence of our disobedience toward God is separation and alienation. But God’s love continues to reach out to us even in our disobedience looking for a change of heart, repentance. God is a God of justice, but not the kind of justice that concentrates on punishing the wrongdoer, rather the justice that is aimed at restoring the offender to full life in the community. God’s justice and judgment are not the enemies of God’s love, but rather aspects of it. God never stops being the God of love, but love warns the loved one of the consequences that will follow from wrong action. The true prophetic voice speaks out in love to warn, whether it be governments or leaders of any kind, Christians or people of any other religion, about the consequences of their actions.

  • What is wrong with parental love that refuses to chastise the child?
  • Why was John the Baptist so critical of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7-10)?
  • How can we warn someone in love about their bad behaviour and not be judgmental?
  • What does the picture of the farmer flailing the harvested grain and then tossing it into the wind so that the chaff is blown aside and the grain falls to the ground in a heap say to you about God’s judgment?