Unless you’ve been out of the country, on an introspective social media fast, or under a rock you’re well aware of the devastating nightclub shooting that took place on June 12th, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. A blood bath where fifty people suddenly were ripped away from their friends, family, and loved ones.
As a Christian, my motivation for this blog post is not to address gun issues, terrorism, gay rights, Muslims, and so on. Today, I am writing about what I believe the justice and judgment of God to be and how we as Christian’s are mandated to represent Christ in situations where there is injustice.
As much as there were ministries and Christians who responded with care and aid, I honestly was sickened by seeing well meaning Christians using this opportunity of tragedy to chime in their political and religious opinions. There were many that used it as a soap box platform for gun rights, stricter anti-terrorism laws and bashing the president. The worst of these misguided rants, however, were those who called it God’s judgment against sin in the LGBT community.
John 3:17 NIV For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
This verse that comes after the famous John 3:16 – one of the few scriptures people memorize – sets the stage for Jesus and His plan of redemption. This plan was not to condemn the world but save it through Him. When we encounter the love of Christ we are adopted. We are no longer strangers or orphans, but we belong to a loving Father who cares for our heart. We love because we were first loved by Him.
Any need for justice is settled by the death and resurrection of Jesus. If someone is a believer and has fallen away from their faith we are expected to be in the process of restoring them through love. If someone does not know Christ we are expected to be a witness to them through the power of our own testimony. Our testimony that is how we overcame darkness through Jesus and His love for us. We are called to intercede and to cover those who don’t know the love of Christ. As Christ stood in the gap for us we are called to stand in the gap for those who live outside of the protection of God’s will.
Does God punish with those who sin?
Let’s look at an example in the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus, Pharaoh refuses to release God’s people from captivity and because of this, God sends plagues against Egypt. Ten plagues are sent against the Egyptians. Well at first glance, it seems that way but after looking deeper, you see that all ten plagues are representations of the Egyptian gods. God is speaking a language the Egyptians can understand by destroying the gods they worship. He was saying “I’m the true God and here is your chance to worship me instead of those bullfrogs.” God gives many opportunities to change but Pharaoh continues to refuse and the Egyptians suffer at the hands of the gods they are attached to. God uses the language of the cultures in Old Testament times to say I’m the only true God. His desire then as is now, that none would perish without knowing Him.
Now in the New Testament everything changes when Jesus comes on the scene. The Old Law of how to satisfy justice and God’s law is fulfilled. Anyone on the planet can believe that Jesus is the Son of God which provides access to not only heaven but a rich spiritual life in Christ. We see God withdrawing His presence from situations, which cause sin to run it’s course, but we don’t see God sending catastrophes or death to punish those connected to other gods.
The death of Ananis and Sapphira is a good example. It doesn’t say that God killed them because of their sin. It says in Acts 5:3 that they allowed Satan to fill their heart. This wasn’t their first evil act and to establish the authority of the apostles, God withdrew from them. In withdrawing their own sin destroyed them. God did not kill them. The wages of sin are death and without the active and redeeming work of Christ, sin will destroy. It is the nature of sin.
Theologian Greg Boyd puts it this way, “The cross reveals, and a wealth of biblical material confirms, that the essence of God’s ‘wrath’ against sin is simply allowing evil to run its self-destructive course.”
If Jesus fulfilled the law and God no longer punishes by destroying idols attached to unbelievers, how then does the judgment of God work in the New Testament?
1 Timothy 1:12-15 12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
God didn’t withdraw from Paul which would have destroyed Paul’s life as he was persecuting and killing Christians. If God had a reason to withdraw from a person to let their own sin destroy them, it would be Paul. Yet, Paul says he did these things ignorantly and in unbelief. God meets Paul in a huge way on his way to persecute others.
My point is, we are not God and we must not judge the value of others based on their actions. Judgment separates us from valuing others, and with that we do not pursue. It’s hard to care for someone when you do not value them. It’s impossible to love someone who you’ve deemed judged by God. If we are not loving and connected to a culture then God’s presence is not manifested. In other words, how can God withdraw from someone when they didn’t have the opportunity to know Him in the first place since we are the hands and feet of the Lord? This only comes through the love of other believers through the demonstrated power of the gospel.
God’s judgment looks like Jesus and His availability to all.
If we are not seeing a harvest in a particular community, it is because we are not loving and demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God. That power is the sacrificial love of Christ that brings God’s authority into their lives. Jesus explained to the disciples in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” If we are the harvesters why no harvest? Maybe we aren’t stepping into our roles as harvesters?
There is a lot of confusion and overall fear for some Christians when faced with the question “how do I love those who identify as LGBT without seeming to approve of their lives?” I’m actually asked this question often since people desire to do the right thing. My answer is firstly, ask God to ravish you with His love so much so that all bondages are broken in your life and secondly, remain thankful that He loved you first. If you do those things you’ll stay out of judgment. You’ll be salt and light to the world without the religious or political jargon. Angry people who use God’s judgment to try and punish sinners are often those who are bound themselves. They are attempting to control their own sin so they pour out anger towards others. Those who understand the work of the cross, forgiveness, and transformation address others with humility and love. They are aware of their own need for a savior all the while face to face with those who don’t know Him. They risk being brokenhearted in the process as Jesus did with us. True love is not love without the risk of rejection.
With all that being said,
God’s justice in Orlando would be that 50 people didn’t have to walk into a gay bar to find love and community.
God’s justice looks like the American church no longer tolerates religion, which only produces masked Christians who don’t know the true transformation of Jesus.
God’s justice looks like those who are so angry at a community for their sin take a step back to take the plank out of their own eye.
When you know the work of the cross in your own life and know the power of transformation by His love, you are last in line to throw stones. You understand that you’ve been forgiven much. You are not an entitled person who is angry at another’s faults because you know what Christ did for you.
Let your life tell the story of God’s redemptive work. Stay unbound to the world’s system of finding identity and worth. Live openly in love and others will follow.
That is God’s justice for all the earth…that people would know the transforming power of Jesus. He took care of all justice on His end by the work of the cross.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.
Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.