9/24/12 Rich, early 20's
I was out to witness with my friend Anand and we encountered a young man on the sidewalk who turned out to be a dropout from my church's main campus. His name is Rich and he had grown up attending the church, but now rejects the faith he was raised in. Why? Because of the shallow theology that emphasizes God's love and mercy but is weak on teaching God's justice. I think the reason for this is simple - God's justice is scary. It doesn't bring large numbers of people in the doors. But I think it goes deeper than that. There is a simplistic notion that if we put two of God's attributes - His love and His justice - on either end of a scale, then to emphasize one is to diminish the other. Centuries ago the Puritans may have overemphasized God's justice to the exclusion of His love and mercy. Modern American Christianity tends to do the opposite. We love to talk about God's love. "How can a loving God punish sin?" we wonder. But God is bigger than that. We don't have a God who compromises His attributes in order to meet in the middle. God is not 50% love and 50% justice. He is 100% of both. Throughout the Bible, God's purpose is to display His glory. Among other attributes, His purpose is to display His infinite love AND his infinite justice. We love to think of God being glorified as we praise Him for His love and mercy in heaven. But a hard truth that most churches tend to avoid is that His infinite justice will also be displayed - in the suffering of God's infinitely worthy Son on the cross, or in the eternal punishment of hell. My new friend Rich rejected Christianity because he doesn't think it is fair that God will send people to hell for not believing in Jesus. He needs to be taught the real reason for our condemnation - our sinful rebellion against His laws - and what really isn't fair, that Jesus would suffer the punishment we deserve. The work of Jesus allowed both God's love and His justice to be displayed in all their infinite glory. Our church is about to begin a new sermon series on the first three chapters of Romans. What an excellent opportunity to teach some deeper, harder truths about the love AND the justice of God.