“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things.”
Romans 2:1-2 NLT
The word “punishment” is not a popular word or sentiment to bring up in a conversation down the pub. It conjures up thoughts of a child being sent to their room for some misdemeanour, or a criminal being imprisoned as a punishment for their crime. But we live in a moral universe. By that I mean that every misdeed, every sin, every crime, all will one day have to be remedied by a suitable consequential punishment. Every bad deed will be judged, either in this life or the next.
God, through Moses, set down detailed laws that had to be followed by the rag-tag bunch of ex-slaves, as He led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Many of these laws still apply today, because they underpin the very cohesion of our society. But here’s one that illustrates the principle of justice involving punishment. God taught that the punishment must match the crime, so justice is achieved. We read in Exodus 21:23-25, “But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise”. I’m not, of course, suggesting that we should implement physical punishments as in Moses’ day – such a response is considered barbaric in 21st Century society, but many today will suggest that this principle of the punishment fitting the crime no longer applies in society, with apparent punishments being too lenient and favouring the offender rather than the victim. But, never fear, the scales of justice will be balanced on the Day of Judgement, if not before, when all mankind will stand before God.
But what about us pilgrims? When we see behaviour in others that we disagree with how do we respond? Criminal behaviour is of course the responsibility of the civil authorities, and we are told to pray for them. But unfair and offensive behaviour, “legal but harmful” in modern social media parlance, may initiate feelings of anger within us. Jesus taught about this in Matthew 5:22, “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell”. So we learn not to react when something happens to provoke us. Instead, we ask God to intervene and we then move on in the knowledge that our blood pressure and inner peace are unaffected. And the Master Judge will do what is right.
People in general, even many Christians, do not understand how detestable sin is to God. In fact, it is so abhorrent to Him, that one day all those whose sin and wickedness is recorded in their Judgement Day Book (not the Book of Life), will end up in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). Some will try and claim that our loving God would never do such a thing, but they fail to understand that God is not just a God of love, He is also a God of Righteousness, Holiness and Purity. For a season in these End Times days we have access to His grace. He has given us a remedy to sin and we can today stand righteous and holy before Him, through the sanctifying power of Jesus’ blood. But the door He has opened will not remain open forever.
Once again, I issue a rallying call to my fellow pilgrims. We have the knowledge of the redeeming Words of God. We must share them to everyone we can while there is still time.
Father God. We thank You for Your inexhaustible supply of grace. We embrace it today, with love and thanks, and pray for more opportunities to share You with those in our families and communities. In Jesus’ name. Amen.