I have a friend who is greatly disturbed that the church has moved away from preaching God’s judgment in favor of His love. I understand the concern. Our entire society is moving away from the idea that any action must have consequences. This denial does not negate the fact. I think that most judgment comes in the form of cause and effect. When we act contrary to God’s design, He need not actively intervene in most cases in order to bring about punishment. His judgment is built into His creation. Admittedly this may be considered just word play. It is through His active creative energy that we exist at all. In that sense it cannot be said that anything happens without His doing it. This used to make me uncomfortable, and I know that for many in the tradition I come from it amounts to heresy. It seems to make God the source of evil. The same logic that leads us to His existence inevitably leads to this conclusion. If He created everything, then He created the potential for evil, if not evil itself. Or, maybe evil exists in the basic structure of reality. Anything that is contrary to Him is by definition evil, since He is good. That still leaves us with God creating beings with the potential to do evil, thus being an indirect cause of the evil we suffer. Why?
I’ve addressed this in other posts if you would like more perspective on that question, but I believe the answer is love. In order to love Him, we must be able to choose. We cannot choose if there is no choice. That doesn’t compromise His sovereignty. Since He already knows the end from the beginning, all of us have been predestined by the fact of our creation. That he knows our choice before we make it does not absolve us from making the choice, and that choice is crucial.
That is why I can say that judgment is part of love. I agree with my friend that we do a disservice to those we would reach with the good news of God’s love when we do not expose the consequences of spurning it. I only suggest that we need not deemphasize love in the process. Just like a good father who teaches his children through discipline, Yahweh teaches us. Would anyone who has studied the Bible thoroughly doubt that He loves His people Israel? What then can we make of His many pronouncements of judgment except that He means to redeem them? That is exactly what He did, and the entirety of the Bible shows how He used even the evil to bring about ultimate good. He has completed it in Jesus, and this generation may well be the one to see the final evidence thereof.
When we share the good news, we don’t need to try to strike some sort of balance between judgment and love. We do need to speak of judgment with love. If you saw a child running into oncoming traffic, would you not try to get him out of harm’s way? If you saw a blind man walking toward the edge of a precipice, I hope you would warn him to turn around. Would you spend any time wondering if these people might reject your attempts to save them? Most of us would not, yet there are people all around us who are heading for their own eternal destruction. We just stand by and watch, fearing some minor bit of unpleasantness if we should intervene. Thank God that you do not live in a country where your life truly would be on the line if you speak the truth. Use what you have been given. I am writing to myself as well. Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow or centuries from now, our own time is short, and every day we remain silent someone loses life forever. What kind of judgment awaits us for our lack of love for the dying around us? Maybe it will be that we find ourselves living in one of those countries I made reference to. We could be closer than you think. Maybe this would be God’s love in action for us. It would force us to choose between love of our comfort and love of our God.