See Luminosity

When We Don’t Want the God of Love

When We Don’t Want the God of Love

I read it recently, from my friend.

The one who was sexually abused from the age of three by her father.see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-13

It was an open letter written on the day her father was getting out of prison, after having served just a few years, in spite of a lifetime of perpetuating physical, emotional, and spiritual destruction. It was an open letter to her mother – the one who, when she finally got brave enough as an adult to tell her mother what her father had done all those years, supported her FATHER over her…and still does.

The letter overwhelmed me. Partially because I was struck by how unbelievably strong my friend is. Partially because I was infuriated at the reality of the abuse I was reminded she had experienced at the hand of her father (and, by way of lack of protection, her mother as well). Partially because I was amazed by what the Lord has done in her life in spite of and through her horrendous suffering – both in healing her and working through her to change the lives of others.

But partially I was overwhelmed because of the lack of justice in this world. And it makes me reflect on how we understand God.

see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-9God Is Love, Right?

If there is anything our world knows about God, it is that He is love. And, of course, He most certainly is:  1 John 4:8’s “God is love” is one of the first verses children learn.

Unfortunately, the average Joe’s understanding of God’s love looks very little like that of the Bible, with a selfless, holy, all-consuming regard for the well-being of His creation being reduced to little more than a tepid good-feeling acceptance of whatever people desire. Consequently, whether we’re engaged in a Facebook argument about being tolerant and non-judgmental, or private thoughts about something we did that we think might screw up our kids forever, we are, as a culture, generally very happy to appeal to a God of love.see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-11

But what our culture doesn’t recognize very often is that that’s not ALL He is. At least, not love in the way our culture understands it, which is a tolerant, accepting nod toward whatever we think makes us happy and feel good.

No, He is not just a God of “love”, He is a God of…


And, for all of our “don’t be judgmental because Jesus is love” appeals, there are times when we’re quite happy to trade in the God of love for the God of justice.

When is that?

When we, or someone we love, has been on the receiving end of injustice.

see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-6We Want The God Of Love Until…

We totally want the God of love, until a co-worker we were trying to help lies and manipulates people into believing that we were trying to do just the opposite. We totally want the God of love, until our spouse cheats on us while making plans with his lover to take our children away from us. We totally want the God of love, until we find that an acquaintance spreads untrue rumors that we did something illegal. We totally want the God of love, until we find out that our significant other has squandered thousands of dollars without our knowledge. We totally want the God of love, until we discover that someone we trusted has exposed our child to sexually explicit material. We totally want the God of love, until we discover that a family member has been living in an abusive relationship.

see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-7We totally want the God of love, until a man who sexually molested his daughter from the time she was a toddler gets out of prison after serving just a few years.

Yes, there are times when we don’t want the God of love at all; we want the God of justice.

Proverbs 21:15 says:

“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”

Psalm 9 explains the longing for justice this way:

The Lord reigns forever;

he has established his throne for judgment.

He rules the world in righteousness

and judges the peoples with equity.

For he who avenges blood remembers;

he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

The Lord is known by his acts of justice;

the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,

all the nations that forget God.

But God will never forget the needy;

the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;

let the nations be judged in your presence.

Strike them with terror, Lord;

let the nations know they are only mortal.

see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-8When we have been oppressed, when we have been betrayed, when we have been abused…we put aside our desire for tolerant, forgiving, loving Jesus and suddenly find ourselves longing for God to put things to right. We do, because there is an eternal, unchanging standard of right and wrong, and there are real consequences when that standard is violated. When our rights are violated, we do not ultimately want a milquetoast, tolerant, “I accept you and what you do without judgment, no matter what” kind of deity.


Because that kind of god not only simply accepts whatever we do, but whatever is done to us.

And those of us who have been on the receiving end of evil know its terrible consequences – consequences that demand restitution.see-luminosity-god-justice-1920

An Accepting God Isn’t Good

What our culture doesn’t understand is this:

We do not, ultimately, want a god who accepts everything in “love”, but a God who is GOOD.

Because it is only a good God who is able to do what is truly loving for us.

A God who is truly good does not allow evil to go unpunished. A truly good God is not loving if He allows sin to reign unchecked. Love can only abide that which is good or right for its objects – that which is in their best interests – or it is not loving at all. And what is in the best interest of humanity is that which is commensurate with the nature, will, and intent of the One who made us.

I’m Not Good, But Glad He Is

Of course, God’s inability to accept wrongdoing includes our own evil. We cannot, no matter what we do, ever be good before a holy God, which is where God’s plan for a perfect person (Jesus) to take the punishment for our sins satisfies God’s nature as both loving and just. And that loving and just God has modeled for us forgiveness against those who do us wrong, rather than retribution.

see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-15I know it. I know my own sin, my own nature of selfishness that seeks my own well-being over the well-being of others. I know that, before God, my sin equally condemns me as does the sin of those who have betrayed me. And I know that remembering my own sin should spur me to release those who have sinned against me through forgiveness. When I focus inward, I become exceedingly thankful for the God of love, who gave Christ the punishment for my sin.

But there are times, when I focus outward, when someone I love has been deeply hurt…that I am thankful, like the Psalmist, that our God is just. That He cannot look upon evil, and that He isn’t, actually, tolerant at all.

No, He is good. And He will not abide evil forever.

Which Path Are We On?

We are all on a journey – either toward recognizing our fundamental badness, and accepting Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (and his accompanying lordship over our desires) or toward believing we are essentially ok the way we are, and rejecting the lordship of Christ.

If we’re in the first group, we still do plenty of bad stuff, but when we do, we repent of it (read: actually acknowledge it fully without minimization or justification, and then turn from it) and continually allow the Lord to reshape our natures to become more like His (in other words, holy). As a result, He responds to us not according to what we have done, but according to what CHRIST has done for us and in us, and He gives us beautiful, eternal life with Him.[1]

If we’re in the second group, we not only do plenty of bad stuff, but our nature remains bad. There is no retribution, no payment to bridge the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God. As a result, in the end, a holy and just God will allow us to remain as we have chosen to be – sufficient within ourselves and opposed to His goodness – and to experience the consequences of the death that go along with it.

Love and Sin Can’t Go Together, Because Sin Kills

see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-16Of course, that death doesn’t just happen when our bodies give up the ghost. If we’ve been the recipient of someone else’s sin…we know all too well the death that happens while we are still very much physically alive.

Death of trust.

Death of innocence.

Death of dreams.

Death of relationships.

Those deaths are real. They are devastating. And part of my journey of sanctification involves forgiving those who have caused those deaths in my own life and the lives of those I love.  I must, I know, always bow in gratitude, out of recognition of my own sin, that my Lord is a God of grace and love.

And I do…I would not be here, writing this post, without it.

But, like the Psalmist, there are times when the injustice of another’s sin is overwhelming. And when it is, I am thankful that I don’t have a god of mere accepting “love”. I take solace in the fact that I serve a Lord who is righteous. He is holy, He is just, and He is good.see-luminosity-god-justice-1920-4

And because He is, no matter what the consequences are to me or ones I love from those who do us harm…

He will not allow wrong to go unchecked forever.

[1] Romans 3:23-26; Hebrews 9:11-28

















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