-By Pastor Ashley Brown
Our Culture’s Problem with Judgment
Talking about God’s judgment can make God sound unloving. After all, we live in a society where one of the worst possible insults is “judgmental”. However, when we slow down to think clearly about judgment and love, we find God’s judgment and love go hand-in-hand.
Judgment and Love
God’s righteous wrath toward evil flows from His love, rather than against it. Think about it. How do you respond when someone you love is being destroyed by disease, choices, or relationships? Do you just take an attitude of nonchalant tolerance? No! You feel anger toward whatever is destroying the person you love! So, we see anger and judgment are not the opposite of love. Rather, we direct them, rightly or wrongly, at whatever threatens that which we love. As Timothy Keller has written, “God’s wrath flows from his love and delight in his creation. He is angry at evil and injustice because it is destroying its peace and integrity.” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 73)
Are People that Evil?
Some argue that people, as a whole, are not evil enough to warrant God’s judgment on entire nations and the world. However, in my personal experience, people only make this objection in the modern Western world. People in other parts of the world do not have any difficulty with God’s judgment. Rather, their difficulty comes in the reality of God’s mercy toward sinners. Roll into an Afghan village where the Taliban just finished making an example of people, including children. You will never again have trouble believing in deep, life-shattering evil that deserves God’s righteous wrath. Some words by Miroslav Volf come to mind. He is a Croatian theologian who grew up in Communist Yugoslavia and witnessed the brutality of the Balkan wars. He writes,
“If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make the final end to violence, God would not be worthy of our worship. …My thesis – that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance – will be unpopular with many Christians, especially… in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone. …Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. …Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, [this modern Western theory] will invariably die.” (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, 303-304)
In fact, my ability to be non-judgmental and not seek vengeance toward those who commit atrocious evil depends entirely upon the reality that there is a Judge… and He’s not me!
God’s Righteous Judgment on Our Sin
You see, whether or not this reality sits comfortably with us, evil resides deep in the heart of Man. God must judge that evil to be truly good and righteous. Every single person in all of human history has this sort of evil dwelling in his heart. We all harbor evil within us that deserves God’s unwavering judgment. That’s why Isaiah wraps up his series of oracles against the nations by pronouncing God’s coming judgment on the whole earth.
“The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.” (Isa. 24:5-6)
Isaiah is clear. We, as an entire race, have defiled the earth with our sin. We have gone against that which we know is right. Every one of us. We deserve judgment. Thankfully, the same Judge who brings down will also lift up.