Monday, September 19, 2016

Justice and Mercy

"The God I believe in is all love and kindness, there is none of this judgment that you speak of." This is what she said, and I was quite sad to hear it. Sad, because the way that we view God reveals much about our devotion to Him, and if someone views God as a lenient grandfather more than a loving father, then that person does not likely have much motivation for holiness. After all, if God always forgives everything (and never disciplines anything) then why should we bother obeying Him?

It was a discussion on a certain sin that is prevalent in our society today, and I had mentioned the need for obedience to God, regardless of one's personal "lifestyle". The listener had no problem with the idea of obedience to God, she merely objected to the idea that "those out-dated morals" were still relevant in today's "enlightened age". The rest of our particular discussion is not germane to this post. What I am concerned with today is merely how we view God.

The concept of a God Who loves without discernment and Who never judges anyone, regardless of how evil their actions may be, has been around for a while now. Unfortunately, it is completely out of touch with reality. There is not a single hint in Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation), nor in Church tradition that God's love leads Him to ignore sin. Hell is a reality, regardless of the fact that people do not like to hear about it. Have we made a biblical truth into a taboo subject? Although I have heard that few priests will mention either Hell or sin in their homilies these days, I keep thinking about the fact that I have to give account to God for what I preached about as His priest (Ezekiel 33:8).

No, this is not a hold-over from the days when I was a Baptist pastor--I was never much for the "fire and brimstone" sermonizing that some of my colleagues did back then. I fully believe in the love and mercy of our Almighty God, and yet, I do not believe that those are contradictory with His eternal justice (which is just as frequently spoken of in Scripture). Only within the context of the justice of God, and the reality of eternal punishment, can we ever appreciate and be thankful for the mercy of God.

I am not a prophet and do not have any special revelation from God that explains just what caused many Catholics to slip into an errant view of God, but it has happened. I pray it is not just a self-serving effort to ignore sin, but I suspect that some have fallen to this temptation. We easily give into the temptation to justify our sins so that we do not need to put any effort into overcoming them. Like the woman I knew years ago who did not want to go through chemotherapy so she kept looking for a doctor who would tell her she did not have cancer.

Jesus' mercy is one of my greatest joys in life. It is because of His mercy that I have been given so many wonderful blessings. He alone is responsible for all the good that has come to me and my family. We rejoice in His saving work for us. Yet, the fact that He is merciful, does not mean that He accepts sin but rather that He forgives sin. Were Jesus to accept sin, that would mean that we can keep sinning with no consequence (a heresy that the Church condemned long ago). Rather, Jesus forgives sin, and that means that we must come to Him repentant. We must be humble and contrite as we willingly turn away from sin. Anything else leads to eternity without God.

So, some may be upset at me for it, but a wrong view of God is a terrible "dragon" that needs to be slain in our lives; beware that dragon. God is mercy, yes; but His mercy does not negate His justice. He is still the Judge of all the earth. He is still the One to Whom we must all give account to. It is because of the fact that Hell is real that God's mercy is so wonderful. Were there no judgment (as my friend above claimed), then God's mercy would be pointless and insignificant. Let us rejoice in His mercy, both now and forever.