If the online world is part of your daily experience, you probably noticed yesterday that Facebook honored its 10th anniversary by giving a little “gift” to its users. Each person was presented with a unique 62-second video chronicling his or her time with the social media giant. Out of all the personal updates and shared photos, Facebook’s algorithms selected some of the most significant and compiled them into a simple slideshow, complete with a cheerfully nostalgic soundtrack. The result was millions of users delighted, and not a few horrified.
I enjoyed mine thoroughly, as I was reminded of some great moments. And looking at photos of the last 7 years was almost like watching my kids grow again. But when I read a news report about everyone else’s experience, I realized that some folks felt very differently about the whole thing. Facebook had dredged up moments that they would prefer to forget, and photos once taken in high spirits now prove humiliating.
Worse, Facebook wasn’t trying to embarrass anyone! Whether by how many of their friends liked what they did or said, or by how many people they shared it with, Facebook’s computer simply picked what seemed most important to each person. This could be the birth of a child or an all-night keg party. Some folks liked what they saw; others did not.
Which brings me to the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Bible mentions this clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:10, where we are told that all believers must appear before Christ to give an account of their earthly lives. We don’t often hear much about this in our churches today, unless we’re talking about crowns and jewels and “Atta boys” (a.k.a. “Well Dones”). But there is something about the Judgment Seat that we often fail to mention: it may not be entirely pleasant for everyone.
See, I think a lot of Christians make a huge assumption about the Judgment Seat. We reckon that if our sins are forgiven, then there is nothing to worry about. Sure, Paul, D. L. Moody, and some unknown missionaries will get a lot more rewards than we will, but we’ll get our fair share too. And because the Lord is gracious, we might even be surprised by how many we get!
But if that’s the case, then why did Paul mention fearing the Lord in connection with the Judgment Seat? (2 Cor. 5:11a) Why did he say that some would suffer loss on that day? (1 Cor. 3:15) What was he warning against? For that matter what are a bunch of other Scriptures warning against? (e.g. 2 John 8?)
We need to be careful here.
Christians shouldn’t go through life worried about the Judgment Seat. And there is, in fact, no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Our sins have been judged at Calvary and forgiven us. But the warnings are still there.
The warnings are there because while the legal guilt of our sins has been removed, the historical fact remains. For all the forgetting and forgiving of our sins as sins, they still represent segments of our life for which no reward is possible. This is why the Bible tells us that at the Judgment Seat, we will receive what is due, based upon our deeds, both good and bad. Punishment for sin? No. Responsibility for the lives we’ve lived? Yes.
That’s why I think Facebook did us a favor.
We’ve had to face what someone thinks is most important to us. For me, I know I’m not perfect, and I’ve said some dumb stuff, but I was gratified to see pictures of my family and read updates that gave glory to God. I hope this represents my life’s priorities, though I realize a different sampling might have given different results. I hope the Judgment Seat reveals something similar.
Some folks think it’s scary that Facebook could even do this. I disagree. It’s not revealing any secrets we weren’t willing to share publicly. We might be ashamed of ourselves now, but there was a time we didn’t mind showing and telling anyone who cared to know. I’ve tried to be careful, and I probably should have been more careful. But the really scary thing isn’t that Facebook knows us perhaps better than we know ourselves. (Or is at least more honest about who we are.)
The really scary thing is that God knows us even better than Facebook. He sees the things we don’t take pictures of; he hears the words we don’t post online. And it will be those things – along with the rest – that will be unveiled in his presence at the Judgment Seat.
Of course it would be easy to take this too far. The Judgment Seat is a time of reward and rejoicing, as well, a time for hearing “Well Done!” It’s a time of giving glory to God for the work of his grace in us, a time for collecting crowns that we may cast at his feet. Believers should live in such a way as to be eager for that day, not anxious.
As I watched Facebook’s video of my last 7 years, I was pleased. I was a little surprised to see what was selected, and what wasn’t! I probably would have weighted some things differently, but Facebook’s only a computer program. God, however, knows our hearts. He knows what – and whom – we live really for. I pray that on that day, when the secrets of all hearts are revealed, it will be shown that I lived for his glory. Oh, for the grace to make it true!