Jan. 19, 2016

Punishment

It is often difficult to balance the love of God with His judgment. We have a tendency to swing one way or the other. We like to quote, “God is love.”  “He is the Just Judge” isn’t something most of us go around saying; although there are a few religions that seem to find joy in reminding everyone that we do not measure up to God’s standards. Never have. Never will. Thank God for Jesus. Amen!

A young mother with a dying child looked at me with tear-drenched eyes and asked, “Why is God doing this? What could my toddler possibly have done to make God want to punish him? Or is it me? Is it something me or my husband did? Is that why we are being punished?”

For my conservative, holy-rolling friends, don’t worry…I am not going to try and claim that a Just God does not punish people. What I have noticed, however, throughout God’s word is that our behavior typically results in some kind of consequences, but there are also times that bad things happen to really good people. Most of us have a warped image of God as being someone who is sitting back, waiting for us to mess up, and then shooting lightning bolts down from Heaven in order to zap us. This image is common among legalistic religions, but it is totally false.

When you or someone you love faces chronic or terminal illness, it isn’t a matter of what have I done? The real spiritual question that produces both comfort and growth is, “What is God doing?” For human beings, we seem to think death is punishment. The opposite is true. The gift of death takes us immediately from this life into the next – eternal life with God. If we have chosen well while living.

The point of death reflects punishment or reward. God will separate those who are His from those who chose not to be connected to Him through Jesus Christ. Please understand that hardships aren’t typically God punishing you. Eternal death of your soul and spirit is your way of facing the consequences of choices that either denied God or disclaimed Him altogether while you existed in human form. The choice is yours. Seriously, the choice is yours.

I cannot say it any better than the prophet Isaiah said it in Isaiah 43:

“But now, thus says the Lord
    who created you, O Jacob,
    and He who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by your name; you are Mine.
When you pass through waters,
    I will be with you.
And through the rivers,
    they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you shall not be burned,
    nor shall the flame kindle on you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Sweet Jesus, thank You for this thing called, “grace.” Thank You for seeing us through Your eyes of compassion. Lord, do what it takes to get our attention. Father, help those who are blinded by the physical, what’s scientific or someone’s human reasoning and philosophy. Lord, breath into their spirit reminding them they are created in Your image, which includes a body, spirit and soul. While our bodies become ill and die, our soul and spirit depends on the decisions we make while we are living a human life. Help us choose well. Lead us to You. Amen.