Friday January 6, 2006
Reconciling Love and Justice
Skeptics ask, “How can God be loving and full of wrath at the same time?” Many believers avoid replying because they wonder the same thing. To answer, we must understand two things: God’s love and the way His love interacts with divine justice.
Love is often considered an emotion, but for God, it’s a commitment that began before the first man ever drew breath (Ephesians 1:4). Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8); therefore, His love cannot be restricted to certain people who practice a “perfect” faith. He loves both sinner and saint, regardless of their actions.
Unfortunately, people latch onto one characteristic of God and use it to question other aspects of His nature. Justice and unconditional love do not contradict each other as some suggest. True justice will be meted out with love, and love cannot be genuine without justice. In a similar way, human suffering exists under the umbrella of divine care — believers don’t like God’s divine discipline, but it is needed to return us to the right path (Hebrews 12:5-6).
God’s justice includes righteous anger; wrath is His holy determination to punish sin. Christ’s death — the one acceptable sacrifice that can pay sin’s penalty — has been rejected by the unfaithful. As a result, unbelievers are subject to divine anger. The Lord still loves those experiencing His forceful wrath, but His holiness demands sin’s punishment.
Believers live under grace, not wrath. God’s unconditional love followed us through our wicked days until we learned to love in return.