Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why the perpetual ‘God is love’ message can lead to despair

I have heard many preachers in my 50+ years.  Some have been the ‘fire and brimstone’ type.  Some have been intellectual, some emotional.  Others have been more about themselves than they ought to have been.  While still others were so full of God they seemed hardly human.

What I have observed in the last couple of decades is that there are very few Jeremiahs preaching the gospel.  There are few John the Baptists who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the truth.  Preaching the gospel has now become more about pleasing those who fill the pews.  Our pulpits are full of fearful and timid preachers satisfied to preach a gospel that is a mile wide and an inch deep.  The goal is longer to share truth in spite of the circumstances and bring glory to God in doing so.  The goal is to be sure no one is offended so everyone will come back again next week and write another check to the church.

Topical preaching has replaced expository preaching.  The most popular topics are love, love and love.  Unpopular topics include sin, judgment and hell.   The goal is for everyone to feel uplifted and happy at the end of the service and avoid the possibility of anyone feeling the sadness that a true conviction for sin brings.  In a nutshell, the preaching of the gospel has become more about us and less about God.  The focus is on our happiness instead of God’s glory.

I have heard so much of God’s love that I’m beginning to feel despair.  I hope I’m not misinterpreted.  I believe in God’s love.  It was his love and mercy and longsuffering that spared my wretched soul from an unspeakable judgment and for that I am eternally grateful.  But do we not do God an injustice by portraying him as a God of love only and not at all a God of justice?

If our portrait of God is love alone and no justice, then when will suffering end?  If we preach only the love of God have we no compassion for the immense amount of suffering in this world?  If God unconditionally loves the child molester, the wife beater and the abortionist who has dedicated his life to a large bank account even if he has to murder thousands of innocent children to do it, will God not love these sinners with an immensity that is immeasurable and eternal?  If there is no end to God’s patience for the sins of mankind against each other then when will he reveal his justice by putting an end to the horrible suffering?  This overemphasis on the love of God diminishes the justice of God.  If we take either of these traits away from God, he ceases to be God.

It is not the love of God that finally terminates the sin of those who refuse to repent.  It is the justice of God that ends the torture of the wicked over the innocent.  It is not the love of God that sends wicked, deserving monsters of iniquity to hell.  It is the justice of God that does it.  What brings an end to all suffering?  It is not the perpetual love of God. Again, it is the justice of God.  The purpose of God’s justice is not to simply punish the wicked.  It is also to rescue the oppressed.  At some point God must answer the voices of the oppressed who call out for justice.  Perhaps the ultimate expression of God’s love is when he puts an end to the pain caused by a baby killer or a child molester by sending them to an eternal punishment.

This is why those in heaven have no sorrow.  They rejoice that there is a hell because it is evidence proves that God is just and that he is determined to put an end to wickedness and suffering.  The existence of hell reveals a righteous, holy God who is victor over an evil, God defying enemy whose intentions is to damn us all to the pit prepared for he and his imps. 

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

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