Why We Need a God of Judgement

               Sometimes in the Bible, it seems that God’s judgment is too harsh for our modern tastes. Why would a loving God send someone to hell? Why would he punish sin? Aren’t people “basically good?”                One of the reasons that we are turned off by God’s judgment is because of our privilege. We are extremely comfortable and wealthy Americans. We have “first world problems.” That stupid guy at the McDonald’s counter got my order wrong! I am inconvenienced and will have to wait another five minutes to get my food. This guy cut me off in traffic, and it is literally going to waste fifteen seconds of my time. We have a family dispute, some hurt feelings, or some other trivial issue.                It is our privilege that those are the worst things that normally happen to many of us. However, in many parts of the world and throughout history, evil manifests in extreme ways. Imagine how “inconvenienced” you would be to find that your house was burned down by a rival tribe, or that you had to start your family again after finding your children kidnapped. Imagine the anger to find yourself subject to the oppression of a ruling class, unequal opportunities for education or advancement, or even the victim of a bloody genocide?                We shield ourselves mentally from much of the evil in this world because it is nicer to pretend the world is good and people are good. History tells us otherwise, with Milton Leitenberg of the Center for International Security Studies estimating 142 million killed in the 20th century between wars, genocides, and government persecutions of their own people.                We seclude ourselves from the great reality of evil and then pass judgment on God for judging it. It is our narrow mindedness and cultural privilege that allows us to reject a God who judges the world. Counterintuitively, a God of judgment is the only path to peace. Because if there is no God, then we must repay vengeance on our own, inevitably leading to perpetual conflict and struggle for power. However, because God has said, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay” – we are actually free to love and forgive our enemies.                The magnificence of the Christian message is that the ultimate Judge was judged in our place so that we could escape the day when he will punish all wrongdoing. When we see God in his fullness as a God of judgment and mercy, then we are humbled, thankful, joyful, forgiving, and full of peace knowing that one day, things will be right. It gives us tools for engaging evil that were employed by some of the greatest champions for progress ever known, like MLK and William Wilberforce, Martin Luther and John Knox, and countless others unnamed who fought for the rights of third world people under oppressive colonialism as Robert Woodberry has documented.                On a personal and pastoral level, not a week goes by where I don’t meet with someone who has suffered deeply at the hands of an abuser or tormenter. I am glad that God will judge evil one day, once for all, and remove it forever. I do not find this harsh or primitive, but a key component of my hope for a ultimate justice and better future. And I pray, every day, that everyone will find forgiveness and escape from that judgment by personally embracing, through faith, the work of Jesus Christ on their behalf.               


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