We have now covered how God’s wrath is birthed from his love and how God’s desire for justice is intrinsic to his character – it is one bookend to the two different bookends of Jonah (who brought grace and repentance to the Ninevites) and Nahum (the prophet who pronounced judgment on a later group of Ninevite who refused repentance). We have also seen how God’s purposes might appear at first daunting, obscure, or hopeless – but upon second glance, beyond the veil of human thinking, we see that His purposes always are for pure and good goals.
God LOVES, but God also HATES
It might seem like a moot point at this point. But both of these qualities are seen at the cross. If we look at the cross, we do not only see how much God loves us by His great infinite grace and mercies poured onto those who would accept Him as Lord through faith, but also, it shows how much God hated and hates sin – that he would need to pour out hell’s wrath to take care of it.
God is not watching the chaos indifferently. Psalm 7:11 announces how God’s justice does not tarry but is waiting like a massive dam… “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” Think about that, every single day, God experiences hatred. It is not like our human hatred. It is not fleeting and selfish, and he knows the end – whether they will one day repent or not, whether they are chosen as his elect or not. He knows their end. But he does not merely look through these events. He feels them.
Consider the following verses:
Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity.”
Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”
A Story About The FREEING Power Of Giving It Over to God
God Allowing a Church to Face a Real Test
Some years ago, a small church I attended (and had to move states for extraneous reasons and not due to the church itself) experienced a perfect storm of struggle. A dear gospel-centered, Christ-centered preacher for a small church became highly ill, facing his deathbed. Shortly before this moment, one of the three elders had suddenly renounced his eldership.
Through tears and sobbing, a construction man, not one to express himself in this way, balled on the phone. He admitted to a 12-year affair. Not just an affair but across the aisle with a founding family of the church’s wife. Her marriage had suffered as her husband had initially helped start the church and preached but had walked from God – it was a point of struggle and distrust for him.
The two families were foundational supporters of this little church, with no more than a bit over 100 participants, if that. This pastor and this woman came forward before the other two elders and the deacons and wept bitterly and put themselves under their instruction, lead, and turned repentantly. Like any of us, two sinners were rescued that day – and we know from the Word of God that when a sinner turns from their sin to Christ, the angels rejoice!
But, oh how grievous it was! Agh, the shackles of suffering on their children! The sudden onset of shame is unimaginable! How to move forward? They are repentant! What a test of God’s church. Will they accept sinners as Jesus does with radical love and grace? Or will we forever treat them as secondary Christians? Is their sin erased? Or should they be punished with shame for the rest of their days, as often happens in the church today…? Where will years of teaching lead us to go?
The Response: More Fleeing The Church
Fast-forward, and now, the eldest pastor is hospitalized and facing his deathbed. The remaining pastor sought his brother (also a pastor) for advice and many other teachers of the word. He questioned how to handle the situation as some members fled (as some always do when difficulties come). He came back to the deacons and, just before the hospitalization of the pastor, argued that the former pastor who had been in sin should be booted from the church.
Though there is no verse backing that a true believer who is repentant should ever be kicked from the church, he defended the thought by saying, how should the former mistress’s husband heal if he stays in the church and his wife continues to come? The pastor who was to face deathly woes argued; differently. He asked, “why should the wife, who refused to divorce her husband, be punished for her faithfulness and bear the shame of all involved?”
He had spoken with her one-on-one, even counseling her that she had the biblical option of escaping the marriage if she could not bear with sexual intimacy and fulfilling her conjugal rights with a man who had cheated for 12 years. With the Christian warrior boldness of Jael, the wisdom of a faithful Abigail, and the tenderness of a weeping Hannah, “divorce is not in my vocabulary.” One might argue that she saved the remainder of the church that day, how it brings me to Christ-exalting tears to type such a remark. Only God could give a woman this type of love.
Many after this point left the church seeing the two families still in the church. Even though there was a ceremonial announcement where the sin was denounced, the repentance was made clear through snotful tears and hung heads on separate sides of the church.
And then, shortly after, the remaining pastor left, deciding that it wasn’t suitable for the woman, who was involved in the adultery, and that her husband shouldn’t have to face this obstacle from potentially returning to church. But the issue here was that he had not, with ample opportunity, desired to return for more than those 12 years, and why, again, should the innocent suffer more in the situation?
Reconciliation and Radical Eyes of Love
Jesus is fiercely jealous of His people and exceedingly radical in the love he calls us toward. We often, lulled by the happenings and goings of this world, can miss just how radical the call can be. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul warns the congregation about a couple boasting about their sexual immorality. He encourages the church to have the couple taken out of the church so that their influence would not persist and to their potential benefit (in hopes that they would consider returning).
This command from Paul (and also from God) was not spoken out of bitterness but from love and hopes for reconciliation. When those who live in continual unrepentant sin also elevate their sin but do not mourn or despise it, they influence those within the community.
But what happens when they turn from their sin? And how might anyone find healing?
2 Corinthians 2 addresses this! In the very following letter, it is immediately addressed, likely, the same person who had been kicked from the church in the previous letter. At this point, they are returning and now repentant – Paul (Jesus’ Spirit guiding this prophetic message) warns them sternly to accept the repentant person and to not treat them like a second-hand Christian, seeing as they’ve had enough shame.
“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11, NIV).
We are to accept those forgiven with radical grace as ourselves. Paul recognizes the challenge – don’t forget – Paul also, once too, was a murderous man saved by grace and would have been feared by his compatriots. He called this whole situation a test of their spirits, where some could be ‘outwitted’ by satan. Think of that concept! In an earthly sense, why should ANYONE have to suffer from the sins of these individuals?
But from Christ’s perspective, Jesus had already taken on that judgment, punishment, and shame on their behalf. The only way we can accept such a thing is to believe that God truly CHANGES people and that true repentance exists and to remember that we too are and were saved by grace and grace alone. This thing is never and will never be earned. Nor can it be.
God’s Justice Necessary For Healing From Shame
God’s word announce this:
“Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’” (Deuteronomy 32:35, NKJV)
Why do I bring this up in the middle of the story?
Because the big overlooked question… What about the children of the two families (including the son and daughter who were married between the two families). What of their shame? What can heal them of this? If we make little of the sin, how will they ever be able to be understood? How will they ever know they are loved and that their pain is real?
The strongest means of healing is not some government-sanctioned drug, and it is not forsaking all negative thoughts for positive and ignoring pain… it is squarely at the feet of the cross, and knowing that God has noticed, seen the pain, and knowing that he hates the shame and evil you’ve faced. If you know that God not only cares but IS doing something about it, then man, is it easier to let go!
Dear Believer, He Sees Your Lot
“They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid,” (Ezekiel 39:26, ESV).
In the verse above is a promise about the restoration of Israel, something I primarily believe is fulfilled after the judgment and revealed in this next life, yet, it is a promise for us who believe. The promise, believer, is that you “shall forget” your “shame” and this includes from your own deeds or that of others toward you. God is able to restore to the utmost. There is no limit to what God is able to restore, especially as he knows wholeness fully.
In Matthew 12:13, we see Jesus restoring a man’s arm fully, and in 1 King 13:6 we see the king’s hand that is cursed is restored when he entreats the prophet. It literally says, “and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before” (my emphasis). Is God able to make me as I was before I lost my legs in war? Yes. As theologian D.A. Carson puts it, “there’s nothing a good resurrection cannot fix!”
We are told to draw near to Him, because he will draw near to us in the book of James, and in Psalm 147 we are told that he binds up the wounds of the broken hearted and outcast. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 we again are told to cast all of our anxieties upon God as he “cares” for us.
Not to put this too gruesomely, I truly want to encourage you to think of how this lacks any limits. How does the one who has been trapped or raped for years find healing? You will be restored and forget all shame. How does the one who is hated by all find refuge? He is a strong tower, and he comes near to the sufferer!
My point is to say that there was healing in announcing to the church the woes that these kids faced in this church and in announcing how much God hated these sins. They needed to know how much God hates this evil. But when a sinner is restored, we need to allow this hatred to lie on Jesus’ brow. Not one smallest increment or crumb of sin will be overlooked ultimately. He will take it upon either his brow or on the brow of the offender. There is no in-between, as it is written in Psalm 60:3, Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:22, Jeremiah 25:15, Obadiah 16, and Revelation 14:10, the nations shall drink the cup of staggering and wrath, down to the dregs.
How We See One Another
In the end, the test of my former church was for radical love. When the two admitted their sins, repented, and put themselves under the leadership – no matter how many people left the church at that point – they were still believers, and we were biblically to regard them as such. I watched as beloved deacons left the church over this issue. It was as though an asteroid had made its way through a glass city, shattering so many and splitting so many away.
Yet, that was the test, would you be filled with such radical grace that you could love those who betrayed your trust? How easily and how shortly you’ve forgotten, beloved, that you too were capable of such things. Are you above any man? Of course not! What would we be, any of us, apart from the saving grace of our Jesus?
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor. 5:16, ESV).
We, now in Christ, do not look at the flesh when regarding one another. We are called now to a new way of the Spirit where we do not remember or see each other’s sins but look at one another with the eyes with which the Lord and Master and King and Authority and Definer of the universe see each of His own – which is spotless and white as snow. No Christian is now a secondhand Christian. You have finally walked through a hoop that has no pecking order, the least is the first, and the first shall be last, and all are before God righteous dressed in Him.
Seeing with what I call “God Goggles” means seeing the natural man as a zombie walking around as though they were alive and seeing the living one in Christ for the beauty within them in Jesus. Let God transform this and let yourself be healed of the silly patterns of this world. God does not look at the movements of presidents as the most important days in his calendar or book of life, but, perhaps, today, that gray-haired, overweight lunch lady who mutters each day but is inwardly praying for every student she scoops some mashed potatoes for – maybe she was the delight and focus of his day.
Perhaps, she was the princess God had his eyes on – because he was moving in those prayers, and more damage against the barricades of demons was accomplished that day through her than the media’s coverage of Barack Obama or Trump walking down the street.
Casey is passionate about helping other Christian men in their walk with Jesus Christ. His writings on faith draws from a love of malacology, kinesiology, and quantum physics.