Today: Psalms 85:1-7; Romans 2:1-16; Jonah 1-4
“You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins. You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.” Psalm 85:2-3
I joke with my husband now that I’ve become one of those crazy people in ragged clothes holding a “Repent! The End Is Near!” sign, shouting at the sky from a street corner. Maybe it’s true… This isn’t who I intended to become; wasn’t my choice really. I’m a fool for Christ. (And I wouldn’t change a thing!)
I talk a lot about God’s judgment and about repentance. But God isn’t all fire and brimstone. He is also unending grace, mercy and love. Those aspects of God are much easier to meditate on!
I focus on the harsher side of God sometimes because our post-modern church overlooks those traits. But they are just as important and all the feel-good mushy stuff.
BOTH sides are equally important, equally necessary, and equally TRUE all at the same time. Some people think that God could only be one side or the other… a forgiving Savior OR a punishing tyrant.
But God is MUCH bigger than that, capable of much more complexity than we are. To focus only on one side or the other renders an unrealistic view of God. God really IS our righteous judge whether we like it or not. He says it about Himself. It is true. Trying to ignore this uncomfortable fact doesn’t make it go away, it just makes us wrong.
Fortunately He is all those wonderful things too! There is a time and season to focus on each side.
There is always this divine tension between God’s grace/mercy/love and His righteous judgment. Part of our journey in this life is to find our balance between these two sides of God.
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1
AH, there it is! That convenient verse that non-Christians (and other Christians too) like to bash us over the head with if they think we are being too ‘judgy.’ Yes yes, God is the only judge. Yes of course, we are ALL sinners. But the Bible says a lot more than ‘Thou shalt not judge.’ And so does Paul.
Remember this is a letter from Paul to a specific group of people. This particular verse is in the middle of a point that Paul makes about God’s righteous character. Paul starts at the bottom, in chapter 1, with “all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (v.1:18) God’s wrath begins with these who are “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, and depravity.” (v.1:29) These people, Paul argues, are without excuse for their utter rejection of God because creation itself testified about God to them.
Next Paul moves up the depravity ladder to his readers. As they read Paul’s list of sins in chapter 1, could they have been congratulating themselves for their own virtuousness? Paul says, wait a minute! Not so fast! You are guilty too. We are ALL guilty. And God has demonstrated incredible “kindness, forbearance and patience” when He forgave US. We should extend the same to others.
Ultimately Paul is describing a final judgment day when God’s “righteous judgment will be revealed” and “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’ (v.6)… on that day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ.” (v.26)
Until then, God is actually showing us great grace by not blasting us all to smithereens. He could. Maybe He should! God is the ONLY perfect righteous judge. He has every right to do it.
But He doesn’t. Because He is ALSO rich in “kindness, forbearance and patience.” He loves us and desires to draw us to Himself. That is why He withholds His judgment. That’s why He showers us with blessings so that His kindness will “lead [us] to repentance.” (v.4)