Thursday, November 3, 2022

When Love Renders Judgment

YES! There is divine judgment — and thank God for it! It is how God puts everything right. But the judgment and justice of God is not antithetical to the love of God, nor does the love of God need to be somehow balanced out by the justice of God. Further, if we try to squeeze the love of God here and there into the judgment of God, we are working completely backwards from how the gospel reveals bot the love and judgment of God.

Why? Because God is love (1 John 4:8, 10). Love is not merely something God has or does or chooses to exercise on certain occasion and withholds on other occasions. But God is love. So whatever the judgment and justice of God is, it will always be according to love, perfectly manifesting the love of God, even towards those who are the objects of God’s judgment and wrath.

God is love, and God shows us what love is and how it operates. We see it most magnificently at the cross, where Christ poured himself out in self-giving, other-centered love. Greater love has no man than this. We also see how love is in Paul’s wonderful description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

God is love, so the judgment of God will never contradict or violate how love has been presented to us in the gospel, at the cross, and in Paul’s description of love. We must always understand the judgment and justice of God through the love of God.

Therefore, because God is love, the judgment of God is not and cannot be retributive, for love is not retributive. God’s judgment is, rather, restorative. It chastens, corrects, disciplines, but always for the purpose of restoration.

Scripture tells us that God is love and also that God is a “consuming fire.” Whatever the consuming fire is, it is always a manifestation of God’s love. It is a refiner’s fire, burning off the dross yet leaving unharmed the gold or silver (Malachi 3:2-4). It burns away what is “wood, hay and stubble,” while preserving intact the “gold, silver and precious jewels”  (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). It purges from us whatever does not belong in us, whatever in us that does not come from God.

Even the wrath of God is a manifestation of God’s love, even toward those who are subjected to that wrath. And what is the wrath of God? Paul tells us in Romans 1, and he says it three times: “God gave them over ...” to impurity (v. 24), to dishonorable passions (v. 26), to depravity of mind (v. 28). This wrath is not something God does to them. Rather, God lets them have their own ways, which have their own terrible consequences.

But why does God do this? Why does God give them over to these things? Is it so they may ultimately be destroyed? No, that would not be the act of the God who is love. But Paul shows us the answer later in his letter, at the very end of the argument he is making all along the way. We see it in Romans 11:32, “For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.” Then follows wonderful doxology in verses 33-36. God hands all over to disobedience so that he may ultimately have mercy on all — even on those subject to divine wrath in Romans 1!

Thank God for divine judgment, come to set all things right by the consuming fire of divine love.

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