Friday, March 9, 2007

God: Loving or Judge?

Sometimes God gets a bad rap.

In some of the congregations where I grew up, there was a tendency to emphasize God's justice to the exclusion of his grace. Most of you know how that went.

God came across as constantly sounding angry. The preacher would spend most of the sermon yelling. There seemed to be a lot of time spent on the stories of God in the Old Testament where people would be struck dead for an act of disobedience.

Nowadays, we have probably gone to the other extreme. "God is love" and that is the only side of God we hear from many pulpits, books, websites, and tv churches.

If we're honest, God is holy and therefore can't tolerate sin, AND God is love. Both of those things are in there. It is a balancing act to present the truth of who God is honestly and as completely as we can.

2 Peter 2 is an attempt on the part of the church to do just that: balance these two very important parts of God's character.

We start with justice and punishment. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment, if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people...if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes...then the Lord knows how to...hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment...They will be paid back..." (2 Peter 2:4-13a, NIV)

BUT, in the midst of all that, there is Gospel (or Good News).

"The Lord knows how to RESCUE GODLY MEN FROM TRIALS..." (emphasis mine). And in the time of the flood God, "protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others" (v5). He also "rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men).

God IS going to judge. There is no getting around that. But He is also patient, not wanting any to perish but ALL TO COME TO REPENTANCE. (1 Peter).

So God is both the God who demands his people be holy, and live holy lives, as well as the God who sends his one and only Son, seeking to save all that are lost.

May we learn to live between the tension of these two great truths today!

Grace & peace

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