Judgment of God
Judgment. This is the first thing many people consider when they think of God. Some of these people even have the audacity to mete out judgment in God's name, as if God needed their violent zeal and counsel. For other people, judgment is the last thing they associate with God. These people typically portray divine love as condoning an "anything goes" attitude of tolerance. Both of these extremes fail to represent the perfectly loving God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. They represent instead a god of our own making, a false god that reflects our own harmful attitudes and not those of the perfectly loving God.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus commands genuine love, and not condemnation or mere tolerance. Genuine love cares enough about people to seek correction without either condemnation of people or mere tolerance of whatever people do. God's judgment is corrective love toward people; that is, in love, it intends to correct. It is not condemnation of people. A mistaken confusion of judgment with condemnation of people has led many people to avoid the important matter of God's judgment. In avoiding this matter, we fail to appreciate the depths of God's love.
God's judgment involves anger, but it is the anger of passionate love. It is not harmful, selfish anger. There's a world of difference between the two. The former seeks reconciliation in love; the latter seeks destruction. Without anger, one cannot love in this world. The parent who lacks the passionate courage to be angry with his rebellious child playing on the train tracks fails to love properly. Corrective love calls for love's anger when such destructive conduct persists. God's anger seeks, in love, to correct what threatens to harm and kill us. Usually humans are the agents who threaten to harm and to kill. As a result, God's judgment comes against humans in need of correction. One form of this judgment involves God's letting us go our own way for a time in order to show us the futility of our lives without God (see Rom. 1:21-32).
All of us need God's corrective judgment. In fact, given our rebellious ways, God could justly condemn us. We have, in selfishness, revolted against the perfectly loving Giver of life. God thus comes against us in judgment, but His judgment substitutes fierce mercy for the condemnation we merit. The Good News is that, in Jesus, the living God has come near to us in judgment as severe mercy. Jesus brings us the divine judgment that is merciful forgiveness. Love's judgment knows no condemnation. In Jesus, God forgives us rather than condemns us. This is the amazing grace of the Father of Jesus. As John's Gospel states: "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17, NIV). The cross of Jesus is the place where our condemnation of God's beloved Son becomes God's forgiving mercy toward us. In receiving the mercy of God's judgment, we receive the life-giving friendship offered by Jesus (John 15:14-15). We thereby become free of our destructive idols.
If we reject God's offer of merciful forgiveness and friendship, we bring destruction and even death upon ourselves. This rejection of God's offer is the real hell, even hell on earth, brought upon ourselves by ourselves. It is the way to ultimate self-condemnation and suicide. John's Gospel states: "Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the condemnation: the Light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds will be reproved" (John 3:18-20). Condemnation, then, is brought upon us by ourselves as we reject the Light of God's love, namely, Jesus. This selfishly willful rejection of the Light is the rejection of life itself. It is suicidal. Hell, then, is the cauldron of ultimate suicide. Jesus came to save us from the hell of our self-condemning suicide. He challenges us to be redefined and revitalized by our receiving his Father's free gift of merciful forgiveness and friendship. Will we receive this gift and live?
out in praise and pain reJoicing!
Lord who loves me,
fences I build,
pride swells up,