Season 5 - Week 5
“You do you?”
“Judgment” has a PR problem, especially with our young people and not without good reason. They’ve read the news and heard the stories about people and systems exerting control over the lives of others. Perhaps the problem, they surmise, is any claim of moral authority that might lead to that kind of control. Here in America, the young people use this phrase: "You do you." After all, who are we to judge?
I have to come clean here—I like this sentiment! I don’t want to get into the business of judging, and I certainly don’t want to be labeled judgmental. As a Christian youth worker, it’s pretty clear to me that the last thing God’s Church needs is another authority figure in the lives of young people who alienates them further by claiming some kind of moral superiority to which they must conform. You do you, I say! Who am I to judge?
Investigation and Defense
Read John 5:19-29.
When we encounter Jesus in this passage, he’s in big trouble, and he knows it. Earlier in the chapter (John 5:1-18), he meets a chronically ill man and tells him to stand up, take up his mat, and walk (v. 8). The trouble is, it’s the Sabbath, and as all properly religious people know, only God can work on the Sabbath. When the religious elites confront Jesus about it, he digs an even deeper hole for himself by asserting that he was indeed working on the Sabbath because his Father was working. In other words, Jesus claims his divinity here, and the religious elites are having none of it. In fact, they double down on their efforts to kill him (v. 18). Not exactly a “you-do-you” kind of reaction.
Jesus defends himself with an exhaustive forensic case and rhetorical skill. The real issue for him isn’t what he did or didn’t do; the issue is who he is. As he describes his divine identity and relationship with the Father, it becomes clear that Jesus isn’t actually the defendant here at all—he is the judge! These religious elites think they have put him on trial, but Jesus explains that the real courtroom isn’t even human. While their court of law might condemn someone to death, Judge Jesus raises the dead (v. 21, 24, and 29; cf. Lazarus in John 11) and grants eternal life (v.24 and 29).
The gospels provide us with a front row seat to how Jesus wields his authority to judge. From dinners with sinners and healing of outcasts, from forgiveness of sin to raising the dead, Jesus rules again and again in favor of mercy, compassion, and love. In this, Jesus reveals his judgment as good, just, and worthy of trust.
When young people express their disdain for judgment, I wonder about the gulf between their experience of judgmental Christians and the biblical revelation of Jesus’ authority to judge. I wonder about when I have exercised bad judgment, the kind that ever gave young people the impression that they could not be themselves in all their beautiful, messy complexity that is so beloved by God. I pray to Judge Jesus for the forgiveness of my sin and ask for the help to do better.
‘You do you,’ I hear him say. ‘As always, my verdict is love.’
Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.
‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voiceand come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
What is the difference between exercising judgment and being judgmental? How do you exercise judgment in your youth work? How have you been judgmental? How can you make this helpful distinction for your young people?
Read John 5:1-18 and encounter the story that led up to this passage. Notice the parallels between the man being healed and how Jesus describes the resurrection of the dead in v. 19-29. Close your eyes and imagine these two scenes unfolding. What do you see? What do you hear? How do you feel?
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.