Once, when reading the story of a burglary in a small community similar to our own, I began to think of what can happen for a person who has no sense of God’s presence in his life. A person who can storm into a house, bully a sick and elderly person or a terrified child (as it was in that particular story), can hardly be said to really believe that a good God exists or that He is attentive to His creation.
Consider the depths to which a person can sink when he or she believes that there are no consequences for his or her actions or thinks that “no one will ever know!” What holds such a person back? The Bible says in Psalm 14:1 that “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile….’” The result of a contemptuous disregard for God is corruption and deeds reeking of the stench of vileness! If there is no belief in God, the human heart cannot help but sink into the swirling maelstrom of selfishness and evil.
Of course, we must have the right kind of “belief,” too. Belief in a harsh, tyrannical deity can leave us vainly trying to “perform” for His favor or trying to earn a salvation, the price of which cannot be met by human effort. That God is sadistically “just waiting for a chance to toss you into hell” is not a very encouraging thought!
On the other hand, it’s almost as bad to believe in either a sugary, wishy-washy God who’s just too big a “pushover” to ever confront us for our being “naughty” or a God who’s nearsighted and just a bit deaf, without His glasses or batteries for His hearing aid. If this last notion is what we subconsciously believe about God, we’ll feel as though we can simply do anything we please confident in thinking that “God isn’t ‘man enough’ to stop me.”
In response to such reoccurring “dumb ideas about God,” the Bible announces two equally vital attributes of the Lord that both complement and uphold the other. The first is that God is perfectly righteous and, consequently, judges sin. Consider the fierce but encouraging words in Proverbs 24:19-20, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”
“No future hope?” Does it really mean that one’s wickedness can result in his being “snuffed out?” Well, yes. It means exactly this if his wickedness runs to its ultimate and logical conclusion. It is a fatal error to not realize that God takes human wickedness seriously. “The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; He throws the wicked down to ruin” (Proverbs 21:12 ESV).
Sadly, it is increasingly clear that we are collectively failing to realize this truth. The evidence isn’t only in the crime in one’s neighborhood. It is also evidenced every time we nonchalantly shrug off integrity in the workplace, when we’re lazy in the care of the health and well-being of our families, or when we turn away those in genuine need though they desperately need help. It is reflected in unkindness, bigotry, and racism. It is seen in those who carelessly lie to or misrepresent others, possibly for material gain or perhaps for some sort of emotional release.
Consequently, the only response that one can expect from a perfectly righteous and holy God is a perfectly righteous and holy judgment.
The second attribute then is our only hope. For though our individual and collective rebellions earn us a wage of judgment, He lays before our feet a season of grace, a window of opportunity to turn from our own way and follow Him. “Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?” (Psalm 14:4 ESV).
What should we do in this short but wonderful era in which we might choose to turn to Him? Our response should be what is said in Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your unplowed ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.”
Such grace is not cheap: it cost God His very best so that the shower of His righteousness might completely cleanse the horror of our sin. God’s very best was the sending of His Son to receive upon His own body His Father’s judgment of human wickedness. May we individually and as a people respond to such an offer of grace by turning from that which will only drown us in destruction to that which offers us life beyond the limits of our imagination.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)