Reaquiring the full character of love
Our religious culture has forgotten God’s holiness and justice. We have embraced God’s grace and love to the exclusion of His other attributes. Jesus was as much a man of judgment as He was a man of grace. If fact, you can’t have grace without judgment, for without judgment, you can only have merited favor. Unmerited favor (grace) requires judgment to be commuted so a blessing can be given instead.
Much of the Bible is taken up by the violent acts of God: flooding the Earth, destroying Egypt, and punishing Israel for its disobedience. God describes himself as a jealous God punishing the rebellious to the third and fourth generations.
We want to believe that God intends only goodness and mercy toward all the Earth and its people. This is a fallacy of our imagination. Yes, God loved the world, and Christ died for all. But God also will throw unrepentant sinners into Hell. He will eventually destroy the entire world by fire. God will bring apocalyptic judgment upon the world and all those who run after the devil’s ways. Christ does not cancel God’s wrath for sin. Instead, he takes it upon himself so that anyone found in Him will not be subject to that wrath. When one reads the book of Revelation, one realizes that wrath is coming. Penalties and judgment are still pending for all those not found in Christ.
Christians are peacemakers who proclaim the good news that anyone found in Christ is saved from the wrath to come. We must also recognize that those who reject him are condemned already, for they have rejected the only means by which they may be saved. If sinners repent, we embrace them. If they do not, we do not go chasing after them. Instead, we live a life of light and love that will witness God’s grace to the lost, hoping they turn from their wicked ways and receive Christ.
The Godless need the message that they are bound for destruction, that their pride and sin will destroy them; that their best behavior is like fetid muck-filled rags before God. Until they realize their sinfulness before God, there is no repentance and no value in a Savior who died for them and their sin.
Confronting sinfulness is one of the most loving acts a person can do. It is unpleasant, unrewarding, and, when done in love, humbling. The world portrays a loveless confrontation of sin where Christians are seen as judgmental and self-righteous. That portrayal is Satan’s accusation, not the reality that Christ wants in His church. Great awakenings happen when dull-hearted sinners realize their sinfulness and turn to a merciful God and a loving Savior to rescue them from their fate.
People will say, “We don’t want to be judgmental.” What they mean is we don’t have the love and the courage to address someone’s sin. Fear and false love keep us from needed confrontations. If there is no confrontation, there can be no peacemaking with God or people.
God’s love, jealousy, and wrath are all expressions of who He is. Therefore to fully receive His love, we must also embrace the more challenging expressions of His character. Doing so will help us to love more fully.
Photo: Pastor Johann Marsland Church of the Nazarene Kasson