Should a Loving God Punish a Nice Person Like Me?

 

I’ve made the point that if a country that had no laws against—or punishment for—evils like child abuse, rape, murder or battering, that country couldn’t possibly be considered good or loving. Laws and punishment are a reflection of goodness and love.  Similarly, God couldn’t possibly be loving if he had no laws against evil or punishment for breaking such laws. Love must punish evil. I will dare to press further into this question, as uncomfortable as it may be. What is evil? Or consider this disturbing version of the question. Should God punish a nice person like you? Me? We—who haven’t murdered, raped, battered or molested.

 

Are criminal violations the only evil in the world?  Are punishable civil crimes the only choices that violate the goodness and plan of God, the only decisions that wound, abuse or violate others, the only actions God should punish?  I’ve read and heard stories of children who had a parent call them a loser, a seagull, a pile of shit, a moron, worthless or better off dead—words scarring their souls and marking their lives. Spouses have heard similar words and worse.  In moments of anger, my harsh words have terrified my kids. Teens have been mocked by other kids(like me), leaving them in tears, or depressed or even suicidal.  Spouses have been abandoned for a younger, prettier or healthier mate. Wedding vows have been broken in a stranger’s bedroom. Generally, none of the above are choices that would be tried in a court of law. But do we believe a loving God can or should ignore them?

 

There’s more. Consider carefully this Bible warning: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5-6, NIV)  The wrath—or punishment—of God is coming! For what? For lust, greed, and evil desires—none of which are physical actions.  Don’t dismiss this too casually or quickly.  Lust, greed and desires could never be tried in a courtroom, because they could never be proven, but are you prepared to say that they can’t be evil? Let’s think about that.

 

Is it evil for someone to fantasize about raping your wife, molesting your son, or slitting your throat? Is it wrong to think about it, whether or not one does it?  Is it evil to plan a school shooting or a Ponzi scheme that will wipe out an elderly woman’s life savings—even if the plan gets thwarted? Are these thoughts and desires and plans something that a good and loving God should be concerned about, should forbid, should punish?  Could a God—who knows such thoughts and plans—be loving if He did not forbid them and punish them? Should a loving God ignore what goes on in our hearts? It’s a question I’d rather postpone or ignore, because I know that it has implications for me.

 

Me. Wonderful me. I’ve not thought about raping or molesting or murdering someone, but I’ve entertained thoughts I’d never want you to know about. Ever! And I’ve thought myself superior at times to people of a different gender, age, intelligence or skin color.  I’ve wanted mercy for me and harsh justice for others. I’ve hated in moments, and I’ve at times enjoyed the pain of others.  I’ve despised someone for doing something that I myself have done.  I’ve chosen to look the other way while someone is exploited, abused or ridiculed.  It’s convenient (and evil) for me to think God should judge some people’s evil thoughts but not my “lesser” ones. God can’t possibly be loving if he ignores anyone’s evil thoughts, plans and desires—including mine.

 

And I haven’t even raised the most evil action never to have been tried in a human court of law. Want to guess what that might be?

 

If God has given us our very lives, and every good thing in His universe for us to enjoy, and good laws to guide us—is it not the ultimate evil to rebuff His love, ignore his loving laws, refuse to thank Him, and to use our lives for ourselves and not Him?  We have laws against embezzling, child-snatching, kidnapping, and destroying rental property—which are crimes that involve abusing something that belongs to someone else and acting as if it is our own. That’s criminal, but is this not what we’ve done to God Himself?  Have we not used what belongs to Him in ways that He never intended? I certainly have!  Is this not an evil which a loving God can’t ignore?

 

One of the greatest deceptions in the world is that we aren’t the sort of people a loving God needs to be punishing.  Mind you, we could name some people whom God should punish.  We’ll passionately talk about people who will one day “get what’s coming to them.”  Some believe in Karma, in which the universe will somehow make sure evil people “get theirs.”  We believe that in a good world, evil people should—or will—pay, but we struggle to believe that we could be those people. God, in His grace, challenges that notion at every turn.  Why? Because that’s the loving thing to do.  Because no one will ever come to God for mercy unless they believe they need it.

 

[Featured image is from geralt at Pixabay.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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