Thinking about the end - when we see God face to face, when we review our life and the actions therein - has caused me to reflect on the nature of my thoughts and actions now.
It makes me think of growing up and attending school in a not terribly large town, a school where one unit covered all grades (K-8) and a single high school. I do not know that I was ever a terribly misbehaved child but as I think on things, I realize that one of the reasons that I kept from doing certain things was the knowledge that inevitably (prior to the Internet, if you can believe it) things that I did would get back to my parents.
And I would have to explain them.
In some ways it was not the actions themselves -usually stupid but not harmful on my part -that were the problem, but the reason why. Why did I do them? Why did I think they were such a good idea at the time?
Which if I think about it, extends to all of the regrettable actions, all the sins, throughout my life. If I ask "Why did I think they were a good idea at the time?" I come up with not very good reasons. Sometimes it is because of temporal reasons - seldom long term - sometimes it was for the very foolish reason that many others were doing it, sometimes just because I knew better and chose otherwise.
And this is just for the things I acted on in public. But there is a far deeper thing, one I will have to explain to God - and those injured by them - on another day: the things I did and thought that I told no-one else of.
These are the secret sins, the sins of the heart that Christ discussed in The Sermon on The Mount: Hating your brother internally as well as externally, committing adultery in your mind as well as physically. to be religious on the outside but not on the inside. These too we will have to explain in all of the sordid details - and the reason why will never be enough.
So I wonder: could I not begin to apply this metric to my own life? When I am thinking of a thought or action start not just with "Is this right?" - how many times have known the right and acted other - but with "How will I explain this to God?" How will I create the justification that this was the right thing to do and standing by that? Does "They really, really hurt me" ever justify the revenge I seek to take? Does "I was forgotten and alone and powerless" ever justify addictions?
They do not, of course. But knowing I will have to justify them one day, and knowing I cannot - will this not help keep me more to God's will for a righteous and holy life? Not the guilt of having done a thing but knowledge that I will have to explain a thing may very well change how I make a decision.
Plus I foresee a useful side effect: if I lead a life as if I have to explain things to God, will this not mean almost by default that I will keep secret sin out of my life? There should only - ever - be things in my life and actions taken that I can very explain and justify in a way that brings neither shame nor embarrassment.
One of the issues for the satraps of the Persian Empire was that when they tried to find something to accuse Daniel of, they could find nothing -except in relation to how he worshiped God. Would that I could live this way as well.