I grew up in the church, I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember. The first time I read the Bible was early in my teen years. I’ve been familiar with the stories as long as I can remember.
Eventually, I came to an uncomfortable realization: God judges and punishes wicked and evil…and I don’t get to determine who those people are.
The church I grew up in had no problem talking about God’s judgment. Sinners would be punished. You better trust Jesus, you sinner, or you’ll be punished too! Once you trust Jesus you can know you’ve avoided that punishment. Now, other than the occasional (near constant) worry that your faith was not sincere you can look down on those other people who sin and face God’s judgment…
It wasn’t God’s judgment and punishment that was the uncomfortable realization for me. It was realizing those who get this punishment may not be who I think. Jesus saved his harshest words, his most serious threats of punishment, for religious insiders. The people who, like me, had grown up in the faith and thought they had it all figured out were the most in trouble.
I’m seeing similar ideas in Psalms (the prophets have it too…maybe we’ll get to them in the 2020s…).
Read Psalm 9
God is on the throne (9:7) from which he rules with justice and equity (9:8).
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
God never seems interested in patting confident religious people on the back; God is there for people who suffer in the worst situations in life. God does not ignore the cries of those in pain. God cares about suffering!
Do I care about the suffering around me or do I assume people suffering basically get what they deserve?
16 The LORD is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. p
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish
The Lord is known by acts of justice, never forgetting the needy but punishing those who harm them.
Are we Christians known for our acts of justice? Or are we known for our hypocrisy?
Do we give voice to the voiceless? Or do we grab for more stuff?
I don’t write this to guilt trip anyone, especially if you are the one suffering or in need. But if you are like me, it is easy to become callous, cocky or arrogant. It is easy to read the Bible and identify with the good guys when…well, what if we’re not good guys?
We can be the good guys. Honestly, I imagine we’re a bit of both. But a huge step in being the good guys is confessing your sin and recognizing the tendency for wicked and evil within you.
What do you need to confess today? Then, who do you need to listen to?