Many people think of God as an angry judge, one of those classic “Hangin’ Judges” from an old movie who sentences every defendant to death, even if the crime is merely jaywalking. Folks who view God this way are often frightened and anxious. They regularly engage in church activities and fervent prayer, in a desperate attempt to please this angry God. But deep down they are resigned to the fact that they fall far short of spiritual perfection, and therefore they most likely will spend eternity suffering in the fires of Hell.
Many other people think of God as a jolly grandfather, who never says a negative word to his cherished grandchildren. Even if the children do something really selfish and cruel, this jolly grandpa just smiles and pulls mini Snickers bars out of his pocket and hands them out. Folks who view God this way are often happy-go-lucky. They almost never engage in church activities or prayer, because there is no need to try and please this jolly God. No matter what they do during their lifetime, they are convinced they will spend eternity in Heaven—mostly because they are certain Hell does not exist.
Both groups of people are very wrong in their understanding of God. The Creator of the Universe, the God of the Bible, is neither a perpetually angry “Hangin’ Judge” who sentences everyone to death, nor a perpetually jolly grandpa who gives mini Snickers bars to misbehaving children.
The real Almighty God performs a divine balancing act between two extremes: justice and mercy. When it comes to justice, God has set down very clear laws of right and wrong. God hates sin, and He decrees that a price must be paid for sinful behavior. If there is no price paid, then evil is rewarded as if it were good, which makes a complete mockery of the concept of righteousness. So, sin is real, and it is bad, and there must be consequences for sinful behavior.
On the other hand, God is all merciful. He loves each and every one of His precious children, we human beings. He wants desperately for each of us to be in a loving relationship with Him, and He desires that everyone spend eternity in Heaven with Him.
This is quite a conundrum. God is righteous, and evil cannot be condoned. And yet, God loves us so much and wants us in Heaven despite our sinful hearts. If God gives us what we deserve, eternal torment in the fires of Hell (kind of like a “Hangin’ Judge” would do), then love and mercy are crushed by rigid righteousness. But if God ignores our sinful behavior and welcomes us all into Heaven (kind of like a jolly grandpa would do), then justice is crushed by sentimentality, as good and evil are treated the same.
What can God possibly do to balance justice and mercy? Well, what God did was respect justice by making sure a price was paid for sin—so that evil was not treated the same as goodness—and at the same time He demonstrated His boundless love by paying the price for sin Himself. That’s what we celebrated a couple of months ago. Jesus’ passion and death on the cross was the perfect atoning sacrifice that paid the price for mankind’s sins. It was the greatest gift ever given in the history of the world.
If you are convinced that God is always angry and vengeful, and as a result, you despair of every making it to Heaven, please relax. God loves you more than you can imagine. If you trust in Him and try your best to live a faithful, holy life, He will honor His promise to give eternal joy to those who love Him.
And if you are convinced that God is always jolly and doesn’t care about your chronic selfish behavior, and therefore you are guaranteed a place in Heaven, you might want to re-think that position. God does love you, but His righteousness will not be mocked. Evil is evil, and the sooner you repent and seek forgiveness, the sooner you can be in a true loving relationship with the Almighty Creator.
“Hangin’ Judges” are fine in old movies, and jolly grandpas with an endless supply of mini Snickers bars also are fine—in moderation. But God is far different than either of those caricatures. He is at the same time all just and all loving. It’s an amazing balancing act. We should rejoice that we are loved by Him, but at the same time we definitely are called to holiness.