Our local newspaper has a couple of “faith-based”pages every Saturday, with a question and answer column, a few articles, church announcements, etc. It’s very much a mixed bag, but every now and then there is something good and Biblically-based in it.
The Q&A column yesterday contained a note from a lady saying she had heard that God judged people for their sins and she thought that was pretty unloving. The preacher answered as most people I know would have, that God is righteous and holy and therefore cannot tolerate sin, but He is also loving and merciful and provided for forgiveness by sending His only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that if we believe on Him our sins can be forgiven and we can have a home in heaven with Him when we die.
But my mind ran for a little while with the implications of her comment. She seemed almost offended that God would judge sin. I wonder if she has the same problem with the librarian charging her a fine when she returns an overdue book (I was a college librarian for four years, and people do have problems with that!) or the policeman when he gives her a speeding ticket. I wonder if she would have the same problem with the drunk driver or the child molester or the murderer being judged? Ah, that’s a different story, isn’t it? When someone commits a “really big” sin, or when someone sins against us, we want them to be judged and to be made to make it right or pay for it. But our little paltry sins, well, we had good reasons for those, and who has the right to judge us, anyway?
Do we not see the inconsistency there?
Think what a world without judges would be like. No one to say anything was wrong, no consequences for doing wrong against another. Everyone doing what was right in his own eyes. Have you ever had someone do something he thought was right that impacted you in a way that you didn’t feel was right? What confusion and anarchy there would be. I wouldn’t want to live in a place like that.
I’ve been somewhat alarmed by the trend I see in parenting these days on not dealing with a child’s wrongdoing but rather handling everything in a positive light. Sure, parenting shouldn’t be all negativity, and there are times when a positive approach may be best. But a child who is never brought to face the fact that he has done wrong will be crippled for life. Imagine how all his relationships will be impacted if he can never admit that he has done wrong and apologize for it? One of our children used to have a really hard time agreeing that he had done wrong, and we had to emphasize to him time and time again that admitting wrong-doing is the first step in making things right. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Sure, it’s not pleasant to admit we’ve done wrong. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). One of the hardest things in the world is to have to go and tell someone that you have wronged them and you’re sorry. But besides that exercise helping you to make things right with that person, it also helps motivate you to do right so you don’t have to go through that experience again. I’ve gotten one speeding ticket in my life, but I almost automatically slow down every time I am on the stretch of road where I got it because I don’t want to repeat the experience.
Is it unloving to judge sin? Isn’t the opposite true? If someone is intoxicated, wouldn’t it be the loving thing to take him home or call a cab rather than let him drive as a danger to himself and others? Would a parent really be loving a child to let him hit others or steal candy from the store and make excuses for him, confirming and justifying in him that behavior and therefore reinforcing it? It can be the most loving action ever taken to let someone know that what they are doing is wrong and that it needs to be faced and dealt with.
The woman’s comment about God’s judging sin has even further implications, though, as if she thought He had no right to judge sin.
We accept the fact that a store owner, message board owner, school administrator and board, etc. all have the authority to make the rules about how people act in their establishments. If a student defied the rules and was expelled, we wouldn’t look on the principal of the school as unloving. Why do people look at God that way? Perhaps they don’t recognize that He has the authority to make the rules?
He’s the Creator, the God of the universe. That in itself gives Him the right to make the rules. But because He made people in His own image, and because He is righteous and holy and good, He knows how best how we should live.
The problem boils down to our own pride. We don’t want anyone to tell us what to do or even suggest, much less judge, what we’re doing as wrong simply because it is what we want do to.
In Isaiah 57:15, God says, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
To be right with God, to dwell with Him, one of the first things we have to do is humble ourselves and be contrite over our sin. He is abundantly willing to forgive and has made every provision to do so, be He can’t grant that forgiveness until we admit we’ve sinned in the first place.