“Vengeance Is Mine, Not God’s”

A couple days ago I wrote about God’s judgment. Though the article didn’t generate any conversation, it did receive some negative feedback. I’m not surprised because we live in a day when people calling themselves Christians pooh-pooh the idea that God will actually be sending anyone to hell, while others question whether or not they might be nicer than the Almighty. Or maybe they’d prefer a different name for Him — the All Tolerant One, perhaps. But I jest, and this really isn’t a matter for levity.

The fact is, we humans find it easy to label others as bigots or hate-mongers or hypocrites. We have no problem criticizing each other to our faces. We can even yell at God and tell Him how disappointed or angry we are at Him. But far be it for us to believe God can do the same thing in return. No, no. He’s supposed to stand meekly by and love.

But that idea is nonsense. We get angry at the things we perceive to be wrong. Why shouldn’t God, in whose image we’re made?

Someone may counter that it is fine for God to get angry, but not fine for Him to give sinners consequences, especially ultimate consequences. That position, of course, strips God of His power. So He’s a loving God who can get angry when a child is molested, but He can’t punish the evildoer.

How then is He loving? Real love, as author and speaker Gary Chapman (The Five Love Languages) said in his sermon on Sunday, is expressed in God’s anger toward sin and the wicked.

Psalm 136 includes God’s divine intervention against Egypt and other nations standing against Israel as an evidence of His lovingkindness.

To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,…
He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting…
To Him who smote great kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And slew mighty kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And Og, king of Bashan,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting (vv 10-20)

Other passages in Scripture declare God’s acts of judgment to be the very way in which He showed Himself so that the nations would know Him, turn from their sin, and come to Him.

His intention in correcting those who forsake Him is to bring them back:

O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth?
You have smitten them,
But they did not weaken;
You have consumed them,
But they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
They have refused to repent. (Jeremiah 5:3)

When rejection is complete, God acts on behalf of those who are being sinned against:

So their houses are full of deceit;
Therefore they have become great and rich.
‘They are fat, they are sleek,
They also excel in deeds of wickedness;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.
‘Shall I not punish these people?’ declares the LORD,
‘On a nation such as this
Shall I not avenge Myself?’

“An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so! (Jeremiah 5:27-31a – emphasis mine)

An appalling thing, God says, when we spurn His authority and take it for ourselves. Such is the false teaching of our day.

Here are a few comments to a couple recent controversial articles, apparently made by Christians. This person agrees that Christians need to grow up, then he says:

I choose to find redemption in the gospel of Christ and yet feel empowered to refuse to accept the feudal rantings of many religious leaders.

Or there’s this one:

are all of you out there so naive and stupid not to see the propaganda

Then there’s this one:

As a Chrisitian, I do not want to come under the same umbrella as those that hate, undermine, are haughty and proud, and who cause millions of people to avoid even looking at Christianity as an option because of the behavior of many christians in their hate-mongering, their pride, their ‘holier-than-thou-attitude’.

Or how about this helpful question:

What rock are you living under?

Yes, these are people who claim to be Christians, though I don’t know if they all would claim God doesn’t have the right to judge. It’s quite clear, though, that they believe they DO have the right to judge.

Maybe it’s time we Christians take a hard look at our own attitudes. God is rightfully angry at sin and wickedness. What are we angry about? And are we taking it upon ourselves to reap vengeance with our words?

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Published in: on March 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm  Comments (9)  
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9 Comments

  1. I realise we’ve never met and i don’t know much about you; my impression has been formed from reading what you write both here and elsewhere.

    The other day in my comments on feminism you said I sounded angry and I was. I was angry because from where I sit reading your blog entries and comments it sounds like you are very eager to see people punished. As though you enjoy the thought of God coming back and putting people you don’t like in their place. You write a lot about God’s wrath, God’s judgement, God’s punishment.

    I believe in those things. I believe that God will deal with that which offends God, which is a stench God cannot abide.

    The problem is that I don’t think it’s my place to play hall monitor here on earth.

    I am the eldest of four children; I grew quite used to knowing that this brother or that sister needed a spanking. But my parents let me know in no uncertain terms that discipline was theirs to handle, whereas I was to just go about my business and do what they told me to do. I tend to see God’s relationship to people the same way.

    God is bigger than all of us. We are the fishers of men. I believe once a person is brought to God then the Holy Spirit is to fill the role of convictor and comforter.

    This isn’t an opinion formed out of some weak-kneed wishy-washy desire to fit into the world (as you and others repeatedly imply). Rather it is a serious interpretation of Scripture and a conviction I myself have arrived at after years of prayerful and devoted study.

    Christianity is not about getting to decide who is good enough to play for our team. It’s about being devoted to changing ourselves as we follow Christ.

    Am I being judgemental here? Probably…it’s something I’m trying to avoid and to grow out of. Yet I find myself continually frustrated with these posts that are a sort of dressing down. Over at Mike Duran’s you said that folks ” seem to believe that Christ died for gays and drug addicts and prostitutes and porn stars.” As though seeming to believe such a thing is a ridiculous proposition!

    I believe God died for everybody. I believe God’s judgement is to be handled by God. That doesn’t mean I think there is no judgement to be had.

    I just think it’s not my call.

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  2. Katherine, I’ll have more to say later, but I wanted to remark on this one point because it’s easy and fits into the time I have to answer comments just now. You said from where I sit reading your blog entries and comments it sounds like you are very eager to see people punished.

    If you check the numbers beside the various categories in which I file my posts (see drop down “Categories” menu), you see that I’ve written about judgment 12 times and love 14 times. I’ve written about justice 11 times, but grace nine times, mercy six times, and and forgiveness ten times. Most likely there are posts I have cross-filed because it’s hard to talk about one side of the coin without the other. Even in this one, I address the fact that God’s anger is actually an extension of His love (though clearly that point could be more fully developed).

    My point is, the perception is yours. I understand I won’t change it by saying you’re wrong or trying to prove you are looking at what I write through preconceived ideas.

    I must simply trust that God knows my heart and learn from your rebuke to proceed with caution, not reckless abandon.

    More later.

    Becky

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  3. Loved this one.

    Sorry I missed it earlier.

    I’m sorry that you have been misunderstood.

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  4. Katherine, I’ll try to address some of your other issues.

    First, I don’t think defamation of God’s character can be equated with playing hall monitor, for certainly when we Christians act in contradiction to Who He is, we drag His name in the mud.

    Christ said the world would know we belonged to Him by our love for one another. Instead, we seem to think they will know we belong to Him by how we pile-drive each other into the ground.

    I have no idea what part of this post made you write that we don’t get to decide who plays on our team. Perhaps you were responding to the line you quoted out of context from my comment on Mike’s site. The thought there was that hypocrisy, bigotry and … whatever the third thing was, are just as much in need of forgiveness as drug addiction, homosexuality, prostitution, but to listen to some who claim Christ, those are unforgivable. My point precisely was that we don’t get to choose who’s on our team. We don’t get to say, those hypocrites are just too egregious, so I’ll have nothing to do with those people — not if they have come to Christ for forgiveness like all the rest of us.

    I’m sorry that my meaning didn’t come through in my comment. Clearly, I’ll have to put more time into my comments or refrain from saying anything at all.

    Now to back up to your point about the Holy Spirit being the One Who convicts of sin. Of course He is. At the same time, we are to speak the truth in love, we are to edify one another, we are to rebuke those who sin (“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” – Luke 17:3 [see also 1 Tim. 5:20, 2 Tim. 4:2 as examples of passages that call believers to stand against sin]). In other words, we don’t have to shut up simply because we think someone is in error, saying instead that the Holy Spirit will correct them.

    Katherine, don’t you see a little bit of irony in you correcting me for correcting others? 😉

    And actually, if you’ll re-read my post, you’ll see I’m addressing us all, myself included. I’m not standing apart from other believers saying I’ve got it all figured out, do it my way. If you talk to those who know me in real life, they’ll tell you. When I said we should take a hard look at our attitudes, I meant it. This happens to be something God is convicting me about, if you want to know.

    In short, I think it’s important to uphold God’s character, and I think it’s important for those of us who are called by His name to follow His example. When He was reviled, He didn’t revile in return. How often can we say that in our Internet wars?

    Hope that helps you to understand where I’m coming from.

    Becky

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  5. ” I’m not surprised because we live in a day when people calling themselves Christians pooh-pooh the idea that God will actually be sending anyone to hell,”

    So, let me get this straight: If a person disagrees with you and doesn’t follow lock-step with your Evangelical talking points, they’re only “calling themselves Christians”?

    Which implies they’ll be a-burnin’ in hell.

    Fascinating.

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  6. Joe, I assume you’d think it odd if someone said he was a Muslim but he didn’t believe the Qur’an or follow the Prophet. Well, that’s the kind of thing a good many people are saying who claim to be Christians but disbelieve the Bible and only accept the Jesus parts they like. How are they Christians?

    As far as their eternal destiny is concerned, it depends on whether or not they continue in rebellion to the One True God, or not. He is just but He is merciful and loving and forgiving and kind. He says that it is not His will for any to perish. The only reason anyone is condemned is because he, himself, of his own volition, while standing in need of a Savior, rejects Jesus. Essentially he gets what he wants — he doesn’t want Jesus, so he’ll spend an eternity separated from Him.

    Becky

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    • Let me ask you another question: At what point is it ‘rebellion against the One True God’ and the person is hellbound? What if they earnestly love Jesus, but happen to have differing opinions, or have come to a different conclusion about certain things. And I’m not talking “postmodernism” or “picking-and-choosing” — I’m saying this theoretical person has different beliefs than you concerning parts of the Bible (not on validity, but rather interpretation and application to the modern world), but truly loves Jesus.

      Let’s be honest, neither of us don’t follow the Bible to the letter, otherwise we’d be observing Jewish dietary and clothing requirements, having priests come to our house to inspect for mold, and worshipping on saturdays. That’s picking-and-choosing as well.

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  7. Joe, thanks for continuing with the conversation.

    The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, so you’ll find in the New Testament places that explain why Christians don’t follow the Jewish Law. In truth, Christ set us free from living lives tied to laws like that.

    That being said, there are definitely things that people interpret differently in the Bible. My best friend, for example, believes in one kind of baptism, I believe differently, but we understand, this is not an essential. Some people believe fasting and prayer is a discipline for Christians today, some don’t. Some believe the work of the Holy Spirit shows itself in certain ways and some say its not that way. These are not issues that define a Christian, however.

    To say that your hypothetical person loves Jesus makes me ask, whose Jesus? There’s an interesting (and hilarious) fiction work called My Imaginary Jesus that addresses this issue. People today too often have an idea of who Jesus is, but they’ve formulated it from some other source than the Bible. It might be church tradition or greeting cards or some piece of fiction or from false teaching.

    Mormons, as an example of the latter, believe that Jesus is a created being, just like Satan. He is god in the sense that you and I are gods. But you ask a Mormon and they will tell you how much they love Jesus and how he made atonement for them. They use many of the same words as Christians do, but they don’t mean the same things.

    The clue that we’re on a different page is where they get their ideas. They say they believe the Bible and the book of Mormon. Where the two don’t agree, then they trust the latter.

    Again, using the Muslim illustration, that would be like a Muslim saying he believes the Qur’an and the Vedas or worse, some made up book that a new prophet of Allah translated. Would that person or anyone who believed as he did actually be practicing Islam?

    So the Mormon Jesus isn’t really Jesus.

    Individuals can do the same thing. You say this hypothetical person isn’t picking or choosing, but the only way not to pick and choose is to believe the entire Bible, including the parts that are hard. Jesus Himself is the one who talked about punishment for those who reject Him, more often than any other part of the Bible.

    In short though, Joe, the Bible isn’t about doing; it’s about believing. Jesus asked His followers, Who do you say I am? And that’s still the critical question today. We can say, He is who He revealed Himself to be or we can say, he’s this or that or the other thing that I think he should be.

    That’s what the people of His day did. They thought their messiah should be a political figure who would rescue them from Roman rule. They were not prepared to accept a spiritual king who demanded their whole life.

    Hope that answers your question.

    Becky

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  8. […] “Vengeance Is Mine, Not God’s” (rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com) […]

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