“I think that anyone that says ‘Yes, God is love, but God is also just’ might be misunderstanding both concepts”
This tweet by Michael Gungor (think Gungor band) which was also blogged earlier this month spurned a conversation with myself that has now lasted for over two weeks. While I believe the interplay between justice and love is an important issue, I couldn’t find a way to approach it. Honestly, I had to first reconcile the two concepts in my own head before I could unearth this private discussion in the public arena. Let me tell you, my perceptions of the two have been gravely mistaken for a long time. It wasn’t until reading through Jude (yes, the tiny letter found on the page before Revelation) that the degree of my ignorance was revealed to me.
Jude’s letter is an often overlooked part of the Bible, but most commentators agree contains one of, if not the most, beautiful doxologies of the entire Bible. Yet, because of its size and location, it is ignored by causal Bible readers such as myself opting to frequent the oft-quoted letters of Paul and Gospels. However, there is a message here that rings truer today than I believe it did back then.
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” — Jude 3, 4
You may disagree, but I believe that with the overabundance of information today, never has the Truth been more susceptible to perversion and watering down. We have instant access to whatever false gospel on which we wish to get our hands. However, I’m not here to lay a beat down on the Church I am called to love. Instead, I wish to do just that, love her.
Without getting into your belief on predestination and its ethics and merits, I want to take a look at the people here who are spoken of as ungodly. The letter goes on to say how this sort of people have been and will continue to be condemned. Yes, this sounds harsh and even hateful, but I say that after further consideration, it’s not at all.
God is love. In being love, He relents and gives those who want nothing to do with Him exactly what they want. He eventually grants them permanent separation from Himself. Ungodly people here refers to people who have rejected God and because He gave us all free will, God eventually gives these people exactly what they have proved they desire most. Yes, they are judged, but their judgment is just and loving. They have both gotten what they deserve as well as what they wanted most.
Yes, I don’t fully understand all that is going on here and I don’t like the thought of people going to hell, but I can’t help believe that there is both love and justice here. As another illustration of this interplay, I look to my parents. They disciplined me a good bit when I was a child. I did lots of things that were wrong and hurtful to myself as well as others. As a means of justice, it was only sensible that I be punished to deter my poor behavior. It was also in love that they granted me justice so that I might take that justice as a cause to act more civilly. It was love that provided the motivation, I believe, for my parents to feed me the otherwise bitter medicine of justice so that I would be slowly cured of the infirmity of a reckless and ignorant spirit. Doesn’t God just do this on the macro-scale?
Rather than “love, but…” we should be saying “love and…” God is love as the Bible makes perfectly clear. I don’t know if we can even separate true justice and love, because without love, justice is merely revenge. In fact, I challenge you to show me justice that is not an example of love. Justice is merely a way that love manifests itself so that we can feel it, see it and experience it; or maybe we’re really experiencing a preview of God Himself.