March 2007 - Vol. 6
Mercy of God's Judgment
“God’s judgment is a sign of his mercy and love”
by Bruce Yocum
John the Baptist,
a painting by Michael O'Brien
and God's judgment
We should obey God because we love him, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be afraid of him.
A friend of mine once found himself in a compromising situation with a woman who was trying to seduce him. He was powerfully tempted.
“I didn’t think much about the love of God at the time,” he said, “but I did think about God’s judgment. I said to her, ‘Lady, I don’t know what I think, but I’m afraid of what God thinks, and I’m leaving.’”
My friend showed rare resolve. Fear of AIDS deters many more sexual encounters these days than fear of God does. At a time when standards of public and private behavior have reached new lows, it is worth asking why so many of God’s people are not afraid to sin. Why is there so little fear of God? I believe it is because the judgment of God is seldom proclaimed.
It should be. We should live in full awareness that God will hold us personally accountable for our lives. Furthermore, we should be ready to proclaim God’s judgment when appropriate.
of conviction and courage
The reason we rarely hear about God’s judgment is not lack of discernment or revelation or wisdom, but rather a lack of conviction and courage.
A Catholic bishop wrote: “When I was given the position of authority, I, started to inquire of those being trained for ministry what was being taught by their teachers of moral theology. One simple question I asked was, ‘Do your teachers teach that fornication is serious sin?’ In all the schools of theology the best answer I could get was from one teacher who said that it is a serious sin, but that he couldn’t judge. He said that if a boy and a girl have intercourse and they are in love, well, he wouldn’t judge them because our Lord said we’re not supposed to judge.”
That sentiment is common in the church today. We are told that judgment is presumptuous, even when the offense is clear and our responsibility for a situation is unquestioned. It is felt that judgment is harsh, that it betrays a lack of love, that we don’t need so much “gloom and doom.”
judgment is a sign of his mercy and love
To the contrary, God’s judgment is a sign of his mercy and love. “When your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9). We may not like to hear his judgments, but to pronounce God’s judgment is much less harsh than what will happen if those who sin are not warned to turn back from their sin.
God is showing his mercy today by acting to purify the church. It is obvious that many Christians are being led into doubt and unbelief and even sin by some of their teachers and leaders. His judgment is falling on them because God wants to save those being lied to. He is acting, and will continue to act, in judgment of his people to make his mind and word clear so that those being seduced can be saved. God is also acting in judgment to save the seducers and deceivers. We can be sure that God loves them and wants to call them back as well.
Current world conditions lend some urgency to God’s purifying work. If we look at Western societies, we would be naive not to think that Christians may well face greater hostility, more open opposition, and more serious attempts to limit our freedom to live as Christians and to proclaim the gospel.
In nations ruled by Marxist regimes, the church faces an implacably hostile foe, which is ideologically committed to its destruction. In parts of Africa and Asia, Christians clash with a resurgent Islam.
Many of the difficulties Christians face throughout the world are part of God’s judgment. The church’s foes are the instruments God is using to make it strong enough to face even greater troubles in the years ahead.
At the same time, God is purifying the church to prepare it for the task of global evangelism. It is significant that some of the most encouraging signs of spiritual vitality and renewal are occurring in the Third World—where population growth is greatest and opportunities for evangelism abound. It is also obvious that Marxist persecution has in many places made the church stronger and more self-confident.
reward for righteousness
“He will render to every man according to his works,” Paul writes in Romans. “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first but also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good” (Romans 2:6, 9, 10).
The reward for the righteous and the penalty for the wicked are not always experienced in this life. Indeed, when we are prosperous and happy, we should ask ourselves whether God is blessing us as his faithful disciples or whether we are enjoying the benefits of an unjust social system or sharp business practices. When we are troubled and in pain, we should ask whether we have fallen out of God’s favor or whether we have come into the tribulation Jesus promised to his followers.
Whatever the case may be, God does intervene in this life to execute judgment. Frequently we are the ones he uses.
A bishop I know had just been appointed to a diocese that was becoming confused about some areas of basic Christian teaching. Early on, he presided over a meeting where his advisors were discussing what the diocese would teach about sexual ethics. The gist of the conversation was: “Well, we really can’t say very much. We don’t know that much with certainty.” He sat there feeling too uncomfortable—he says candidly—to speak. He was a new bishop. He had to establish himself and win his staffs confidence.
But then he thought about God. What did God think about this? So the bishop spoke up. “You know, I think there are a few things we can say with some certainty,” he said. “Adultery is wrong, for example. Homosexual acts are wrong. Let’s just begin with those things.”
The whole conversation changed. The bishop discovered that most of his staff believed in traditional Christian teaching and were relieved that someone had the courage to lead them in saying it.
If we are faithful in seeking to understand and proclaim God’s ways, he will pour out his merciful love. If we speak the truth when the truth should be spoken, God will move those who hear us to repentance, to mourning, to change.
The judgment of God will bring God’s people to life in ways that we are not capable of imagining. Such is the mercy of God’s judgment.
[Bruce Yocum is President
of Christ the King Association and a member of the International Executive
Council of The Sword of the Spirit. This article was originally published
in New Covenant Magazine, September Issue, 1987.]