What Happened to a Just God?


Is God just? Scripture says He is, but you would hardly know by reading some of the literature coming from Christians these days. Or by listening to some of the sermons broadcast over the airwaves.

Interestingly, some years ago in my church’s weekly newsletter, they included a select number of high schoolers’ credal statements based on a meditation of Matthew 16:13-20—including Jesus’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” While three published statements focused on things like God’s love and our purpose, the fallen nature of the world, salvation, and our eternal destiny, one started out like this:

I believe in a jealous God, one who demands our complete faith.

I believe in a wrathful God, an all powerful God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulfur and fire, and snatched away every first born son of the Egyptians.

I wonder how many Christians would include those two statements in a personal credal statement, let alone start with them.

But isn’t God’s character as a just Judge as much at the center of the gospel as is His love and mercy? For without His jealous demand of an exclusive relationship with those He loves, without His unbending judgment against sin, why would we even need a Savior?

Who needs to be forgiven when no offense has been recorded? Who needs Jesus when sacrifices to some statue will do, or when looking deep inside for the secret in all of us will bring us to a higher plane, or whatever the latest road to spirituality proclaims?

Make no mistake. The God of the Bible hates sin, to the point that He punished two of His first priests, Aaron’s sons, by putting them to death. He brought plagues on His people for disobedience, caused the ground to swallow another group of rebels, and sent fire from heaven even on their families.

For some reason, perhaps because of God’s mercy extended through His Son, many today discount the clear evidence of God’s wrath. Even when He says, Vengeance is mine, I will repay.

Somehow, lost in the preferred image of Christ as the mild-mannered cool dude, is the truth that Jesus clearly taught that those who rejected Him would be judged accordingly. He said it in parables, He said it in exposition, and He said it to the faces of the Pharisees (“how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” Matt. 23:33b, NASB).

So in this day of tolerance, do such strong statements and stories of judgment (such as God’s clear decree that the people of Israel were to utterly destroy the nation of Amalek) embarrass Christians? Are we ashamed because our God is jealous? Because He punishes sin? After all, the rest of the world seems to be all about tolerance and acceptance and understanding.

Ah, make no mistake. God understands. Therein is the missing piece—He knows the hearts of Humankind that they are desperately wicked, deserving of death.

We, on the other hand, have convinced ourselves that we humans are actually good and entitled to riches and pleasure and a life of comfort and ease.

It’s just that this mean ol’ god spoils it for us. Why won’t he cooperate and make life better, especially since I’ve done my part? He ought to step up, to come through with his end of the bargain. And honestly? I’m furious with him for missing opportunities. Why is he taking so long to give me my blessing?

Apparently, we don’t believe in a wrathful God, but wrathful humans, we have no problem with.

From the archives: this post is a revised and edited version of one that appeared here in October, 2009.

Published in: on February 27, 2019 at 5:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Religious Melting Pot


Last week the news carried a story based on a Wall Street Journal article by Stephen Prothero entitled “A Hint of This, A Pinch of That.” It seems that a recent Pew study shows Americans “are swingers as well as switchers, flirting with religious beliefs and practices other than their own without officially changing their religious affiliation.”

In other words, a growing percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “religious” incorporate more than one belief into their lives or practices. According to the article, for instance, 23 percent of those who claim to be Christians also believe in astrology, 22 percent in reincarnation, and 21 percent in yoga as a spiritual practice.

How, how, how is this possible, I wonder. Surely these people can’t be sitting under Biblical teaching and come away thinking reincarnation is consistent with what they just learned.

But this is probably the critical point. They are NOT sitting under Biblical teaching. I know from scant exposure to religious TV programing that there are preachers out there claiming the name of Christ but declaring a false gospel.

Some dismiss parts of the Bible wholesale. Others I’ve heard yank verses out of context and string them together until they say what the preacher wants them to say.

Either way, the net result is a “Christianity” that is far from the teaching of the Bible. In fact, it reminds me of the error of the Israelites in the Old Testament, worshipping God but also keeping their household idols, first the ones they brought with them from Egypt, but eventually the ones deified by the nations around them (2 Kings 17:7-18).

Interesting, I thought, that Mr. Prothero started his article with this line:

So much for the jealous God.

Instead, it seems more and more people claiming the name of Christ are happy to claim the name of whatever other spirituality they think might be of help. A little Jesus, a little Eastern mysticism, a little humanism and … wa-la! Out comes contemporary religious experience that makes all roads lead to happiness as long as the seeker is sincere in his journey.

It sounds so consistent with a theology of peace. We need to love others by accepting them as they are and allowing then to hold their own beliefs without persecution, but also without challenge. After all, the most important thing next to freedom is tolerance.

Sadly, anyone declaring such is a false teacher. It is not loving to allow someone to march into eternity without Christ!

What Happened to a Just God?


Is God just? Scripture says He is, but you would hardly know it to read some of the fiction that is popular today. Or to hear some of the sermons broadcast over the airwaves.

Interestingly, my church’s (First Evangelical Free of Fullerton) weekly periodical, Newsbreak, included a select number of high schoolers’ creedal statements based on a meditation of Matthew 16:13-20—including Jesus’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” While three published statements focused on things like God’s love and our purpose, the fallen nature of the world, salvation, and our eternal destiny, one started out like this:

I believe in a jealous God, one who demands our complete faith.

I believe in a wrathful God, an all powerful God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulfur and fire, and snatched away every first born son of the Egyptians.

—Michael Jones, Troy High School

I wonder how many Christians would include those two statements in a personal creedal statement, let alone start with them.

But isn’t God’s character as a just Judge as much at the center of the gospel as His love and mercy? For without His jealous demand of an exclusive relationship with those He loves, without His unbending judgment against sin, why would we even need a Savior?

Who needs to be forgiven when no offense has been recorded? Who needs Jesus when sacrifices to Molech will do, or looking deep inside for the secret in all of us will bring us to a higher plane, or whatever the latest road to spirituality proclaims?

Make no mistake. The God of the Bible hates sin, to the point that He punished two of His first priests, Aaron’s sons, by putting them to death. He brought plagues on His people for disobedience, caused the ground to swallow another group of rebels, and sent fire from heaven even on their families.

For some reason, perhaps because of God’s mercy extended through His Son, many today discount the clear evidence of God’s wrath, even when He says, Vengeance is mine, I will repay.

Somehow, lost in the preferred image of Christ is the truth that Jesus clearly taught that those who rejected Him would be judged accordingly. He said it in parables, He said it in exposition, and He said it to the faces of the Pharisees (“how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” Matt. 23:33b, NASB).

So in this day of tolerance, do such strong statements and stories of judgment (such as God’s clear decree that the people of Israel were to utterly destroyd the nation of Amalek) embarrass Christians? Are we ashamed because our God is jealous? Because He punishes sin? After all, the rest of the world seems to be all about forgiveness and acceptance and understanding.

Ah, make no mistake. God understands. Therein is the missing piece—He knows the hearts of Man, that they are desperately wicked, deserving of death.

We, on the other hand, have convinced ourselves that Man is actually good and entitled to riches and pleasure and a life of comfort and ease.

It’s just that this mean ol’ god spoils it for us. Why won’t he cooperate and make life better, especially since I’ve done my part? He ought to step up, to come through with his end of the bargain. And honestly? I’m furious with him for missing opportunities. Why is he taking so long to give me my blessing?

Apparently, we don’t believe in a wrathful God, but wrathful Man is just fine. 😯

Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Comments (4)  
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