The Real Debate
For years, the main conflict between churches and pastors among Protestant Christianity has been classified as the “conservatives vs. liberals”. Today, we continue to hear bickering about which side seems to be right and which side is wrong. Now, as we all do, I have my opinion. I may be wrong, but it doesn’t discontinue the practice of me having an opinion by which I firmly hold to. Although I have an opinion, I am open to the changing of that opinion, but I’m not so loosely willing to change that I lose the ground of conviction upon which I stand.
The issue among churches is not the debate politically, but rather it is the debate spiritually. Primarily, it is the debate of God’s character, which is revealed through His conduct. The issue always falls between God’s judgement and justice vs God’s love, mercy, and grace. Christians have developed a destructive habit to quote the scriptures that support what we believe while discarding the rest. If we only focus on God as being all-loving, then the endorsement of sin can easily be molded into place…this is currently happening. But if we focus on God’s work solely as judge and omit the practice of love, how sudden a catastrophe would plague Christianity. Is God mean? The Bible tells us that He can be angry. Is God kind? The Bible tells us that He can be kind. Is God just? The Bible tells us that He is, yet we must not misinterpret “just” to mean that “He does what WE think is right”.
You see, Christianity operates on this spectrum. Think with me of a line. To the left of that line is God’s love, to the right of that line is God’s judgement. Keep that picture with me for a moment.
Now let’s expound on that thought. Protestant Christianity for years has tried to compartmentalize, or divide, God into sections. Modern society especially seems to be good at compartmentalizing people and things, and that can be dangerous if we continue to allow the world to dictate who’s blessed, who’s oppressed, and who’s going to do what and where.
So the question is raised: “Is God all-loving or is He all-judgement?” Think of that line again. Is He left or right? He’s neither. The simple reality is that you cannot divide God. He’s in the middle. He’s both. Because God loves us, He sometimes has to judge us, meaning that he gives us the discipline we deserve. That may be punishment, it may be difficulties, or it may be trials. Sometimes God uses the circumstances in our life to gain our undivided attention. But when God judges us, He does it with love. Have you ever heard the phrase when your parent was about to punish you “I’m doing this because I love you”, or “This will hurt me more than it hurts you" before a spanking. Grasping that concept as a young child was difficult, and I thought that often to be a lie, but I find the chastisement that God gives his children is done out of love. That truth is displayed. For God to allow His children to run undisciplined is doing an injustice to those of whom He loves. By grace I’m saved, by faith I believe, through justice God teaches me if I’m willing to be taught.
God’s children are often metaphorically referred to as sheep. What a beautiful picture, yet we often miss the full concept. Remember the story of the lost sheep? How He runs after the 1 while leaving the 99? We like to sing the song “reckless love” at the top of our lungs, which presents this story, yet many are ignorant as to what it actually means. This indicates that a sheep got outside of the fence…outside of the boundary of his Shepherd. God has boundaries for His children. Often we don’t like those boundaries…we believe that the grass is always greener outside the fence, but it never proves itself to be true. We learn the hard way. Truthfully, the greenest grass is that which the Father nurtures inside His garden which He desires for His sheep to stay within. The Son of God came to seek and save that which was lost, and the entire character of the cross was the salvation of sinners, the destruction of our debt, and the freedom found in His forgiveness.
I’m thankful for the cross. What seemed a horrible event turned out to be the most blessed event in history! The purpose of God’s boundaries is to protect the sheep, to provide them with freedom under the watchful eye of the Shepherd, but to bring His chastisement upon those who stray with a fervent desire to bring them back. Psalm 23, being read at a lot of funerals, says “The Lord is my Shepherd”. He’s all I need, and if I stay within His boundaries, God can do more in and through me than I could ever imagine. And if I get outside that boundary into sin, the Holy Spirit convicts me of that sin, and I repent before God. God’s justice isn’t necessarily with a paddle, sometimes it’s just our lessons from the circumstances and returning to Him.
Back to our imaginative line:
So can we divide God? Absolutely not.
Is God so loving that judgement doesn’t exist? Absolutely not.
Is God so judging that love doesn’t exist? Absolutely not.
Is God in the middle? Of course.
You cannot divide the character or conduct of God. For us to try to figure out God in His entirety is like trying to make letters out of brail…I can’t do it! And for us to try to compartmentalize God is a selfish and ignorant attempt to exercise our fleshly “authority and reason” on a being that is far beyond humanity.
So, is the argument then over political standings, or does it really stem from our belief of God’s conduct? I’m led to believe that it’s over conduct.
Just a thought…