If asked; “Isn’t The God of the Bible is a God of Judgment?” How might you go about giving a reasonable answer to this difficult question. I wanted to share my short paper because I thought the assignment asked a really important question.
The world can feel more divided than ever before. More and more cities are on the verge of riot and communities overflow with broken families and friendships. How can the judgmental God of the Bible be the answer when love and acceptance are so obviously needed to overcome the world’s judgment? I can see how the case appears to be opened and closed, but just before you retire God from His eternal post I believe we need to define our terms more clearly. We live in an age of increasingly relative truth, which means different people can define terms like love and judgment in so many different ways. Cultural diversity is a beautiful thing but to understand the love and judgment of God we need to make sure the original meaning of these words isn’t lost in translation and ancient history.
The Redefinition of Judgment
For example in the Old Testament book of Jonah, God’s judgment is swirling above the city of Nineveh when He called His prophet Jonah saying “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” If you have heard the story before you know that Jonah immediately sails the opposite direction without explanation. After Jonah’s boat trip gets a little fishy he eventually ends up in Nineveh preaching God’s message of judgment. Fortunately for the people of Nineveh the whole city apologized for their evil ways and God’s judgment was to forgive them all. So why do we see Jonah devastated by their deliverance? Finally Jonah cries out to God explaining “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
Like so many, Jonah thought he wanted justice. In the end what he really wanted was vengeance. He so badly desired for the wicked to get what he thought they deserved that he tried to keep God’s forgiveness from them. Jonah already knew that God’s judgment was different from revenge and he wanted to see God’s wrath instead of His compassion. Jonah did not just want justice; he wanted to be the judge. Normally all judgment is defined as bad judgment. Yet when we are the victims of a robbery or even an opposing view we cry out for justice hoping the courts will bring a good judgment. If you ask Jonah, God might not be the best place to demand that the wicked receive what they deserve. The judgment of God is fundamentally different from the judgment of the world because it is born out of His own sacrificial love.
The Redefinition of Love
There may not be a more difficult word to define than love. The original Greek New Testament has multiple different words to describe love were the English language only has one. Naturally the English use of love has taken on quite a few different meanings. One of the fastest growing definitions of love is tolerance, which can be a helpful piece of the picture but not the whole thing. In Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God he argues that, “If you love a person and you see someone ruining them – even they themselves – you get angry.” Love is acceptance but it also draws a line. The love of God provides the perfect judgment to inform the perfect intervention.
The truth of the Bible is that God’s love is seen in His judgment. Christ suffered and died in our place even though He was innocent teaching us that true love is a sacrifice that should challenge our view of justice. The Dalai Lama is famously quoted saying, “love is the absence of judgment.” Conversely the bible says in Romans 8:5 that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knows us fully, judged us rightly, and died for us anyway. The bible teaches it is a good thing that God is the almighty judge because His verdict was to die in our place taking the true judgment upon Himself. Love can be superficial in the absence of judgment but the God of the bible teaches us that the honest results of our judgment should be selfless intervention and sacrificial love.
Our Favorite Quotes Right Now…
“I ain’t tryin’ to preach no sermon, but I never seen nobody that’s busy as a prairie dog collectin’ stuff that wasn’t disappointed.” – The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck