Friday, 17 June 2016

Justice mitigated with love

We live at a time when culture can tend to dictate trends and attitudes. The church continually struggles with what that means to long held and theologically wrestled with views of scripture and how Christians should live it out in their daily lives. We struggle with what scripture says and what society says when they don't seem to add up together.

Is it so different a time, I wonder, from what we read of in the Bible? Take the Hebrews who in the desert soon reverted to the cultural norm of worshiping animal shaped gods when Moses was up on the mountain, a practice they had learned from years in Egypt, I suspect. The Israelite's struggled continually with God's call on their lives to be set apart, to be Holy and righteous and to keep his commands. They struggled with the religions and cultures around them and ended up caving in and adopting those ways, demoting God. As result God's judgement on them was played out in separation; the prophets talk in terms of unfaithfulness and divorce (take a look at Hosea for example).

God, as the Bible tells us is, among other characteristics, a God who is just and his works perfect. However we read the Bible, that message comes through in the New and Old Testaments. Justice suggests judgement which at times is pretty hard for us to stomach. The rebellions in the desert of the Hebrews resulted in swift responses and at times only Moses intercession seems to have averted total disaster for them. God's justice was visited on King David for his blatant abuse of power in claiming another's wife and having the husband killed. We don't like a God who punishes and corrects and yet its a part of who God is, a God who judges our actions and is just and Holy.

And us, what about us today? The Bible tells us that Jesus came to save humanity from the price of sin, the things we do that offend against God's ways, that rightly and justly deserve the penalty. In Jesus' words if we don't turn from sin and turn to God we will die.

So what about culture and cultural pressure for Christians to adopt new ideas or change their theological positions? We are inevitably and, in my opinion rightly, slow to change, if we change at all in some situations. Scripture must be wrestled with and not simply looked at with a new cultural agenda or lens or with a view to a quick fix, after all that would be, as Paul puts it, like being blown here and there by every wind of teaching ... Through the centuries the Church has had to wrestle with change in its understanding and often for good reason, but not everything can be changed, some things are in God's word to us for good reason even if we don't like them or if they challenge our views.

Gods justice is mitigated with love, love that knows no bounds, love that pays the price, love that offered a sacrifice to end all sacrifices, Jesus, in our place. God's just punishment for our sin, paid in full so that we might be set free, in Christ.

However I look at scripture I see love and justice going together, God is creating with his people a holy priesthood, a royal nation, modeled on his ways, not ours, our template? Jesus Christ. Living with cultural pressures to change means that what is acceptable to some will not be to others and there is a need for the church not to move with every wind and pressure, but to seek faithfully to know God's heart on each issue - after all Jesus told us that he was sending, and I believe he has, the Holy Spirit to lead us in all truth.

No comments: