Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"My God Doesn't Judge"

A large majority of Americans believe in God, but many Americans have unbiblical conceptions of God. One of these is sometimes expressed by the refrain, “my God doesn’t judge.”

This attitude is a rather modern one. People have always desired to be free of divine condemnation, but few, if any, cultures have believed that it is unworthy of God to condemn. It has usually been believed that a good God is a just God who will not let the wicked get away with their wickedness. And yet, in our modern pluralistic age, tolerance is not only expected of men, but also of God. Judging people is seen as a form of hatred, as a kind of evil.

But for the biblical alternative, consider Psalm 96:9-13.

"[9] Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;
        tremble before him, all the earth!
[10] Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!
        Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
  he will judge the peoples with equity.”
[11] Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
  let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
  [12] let the field exult, and everything in it!
     Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
  [13] before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
  and the peoples in his faithfulness."

In this passage, the world desires God. It rejoices over His coming and worships Him. Why? Because God comes to judge the peoples. What is good about this? First, He judges with equity and righteousness (v. 10, 13). Rather than condemning people in tyrannical or oppressive ways, God is fair and morally good in His decisions. He judges all equally without partiality. In a world that is topsey-turvey and pervasively distorted by corruption, injustice, and evil, God’s justice is a breath of fresh air. Second, this judgement establishes the earth (v. 10). Without a judge, the world's foundations are shaken with unsolved crimes against its sovereign Lord. With God as judge, all wrongs will be put to right and His creation restored in order and cosmic harmony. The creation has been burdened with the disharmony of sin, but the enforcement of righteousness brings resolution to the dissonant chord of evil. Third, holiness is splendor and beauty, something that is attractive. Those who worship the holy God are exhorted to beautify themselves with holiness. True worship is a response to the beauty of His moral perfection and untarnished purity. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). True moral perfection is foreign to us, but if we even have a basic concept of what that means, then it should be clear that such a wonderful thing cannot make peace with wickedness.

Many say, "my God doesn't judge," but we reply, "a good God will judge justly."

Even our pluralistic culture will sometimes awake to the reality that just judgement and condemnation is a good and desirable thing. When college student Brock Turner was sentenced to a brief 6-month stay in prison (which turned into a 3-month stay) for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, our country was in an uproar. Not only was it a light sentence for a horrible crime, but it appeared that the judge was being swayed by Brock’s status as a star athlete at a prestigious university. People wanted justice, and the judge’s leniency seemed insensitive to the crime and uncaring towards the victim.

Again, many in our country have been outraged when judges have acquitted policemen who have shot black men for debatable reasons. These occasions have caused controversies, some defending the policemen and others accusing them, but the goal for both sides has been justice, not tolerance.

Why do we see it as a good and desirable thing for human judges to justly condemn the guilty while we hesitate to see God’s judgement in a similar light? Doubtless, this is because we are guilty. But the answer is not to deny that God can make moral judgements or to make tolerance the ultimate virtue. The answer is not to take justice away from God’s hands. We need a God who loves justice.

The answer, instead, is to cling to Christ, in whom justice and forgiveness meet. Jesus, since He is God, is morally perfect and completely opposed to wickedness. He condemned the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. In the Sermon on the Mount, He portrayed Himself as the judge of the earth on the last day who will send away into judgement the workers of lawlessness whom He did not know (Matthew 7:21-23, cp. Matt. 25). That is the key, to be known by Him and saved by Him. We are guilty of crimes in God’s court, but as Romans 3:25 says, Christ has been put forward “as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” In other words, He satisfied the demands of God's justice, so that God can be both just and the justifier of those sinners who believe in Christ (Romans 3:26). It is by the painful sacrifice of the cross that God continued to be the holy and just Judge we need and the forgiving Savior we need.

So, rather than dismissing judgment as unworthy of God, let us embrace the gift of Christ. This gift of forgiveness enables us to desire justice by taking away our fear of condemnation. Let us cling to the sacrifice of Christ. It enables us to rejoice over the coming judgment of the Lord and the restoration it will bring. Let us love righteousness as those who are no longer condemned by it.

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