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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

God of love, God of judgement?

March 5th, 2012

This question goes to the very nature and character of God. Why, if God is loving and merciful, is he not be more tolerant and accepting?

The Home Office has a motto, used on its stationery, “creating a free, just and tolerant society” but is it not entirely possible that tolerance can become the enemy of freedom and justice?

Tolerance is regarded as a positive virtue in Western society, yet the word is often still used in a negative sense (e.g. telling someone that their cooking, or company, was “tolerable” is not likely to be seen as a compliment!). Tolerating someone implies that you hold yourself superior to them. You cannot tolerate someone and disagree with them but you can respect someone and disagree with them. The old mediaeval idea of defending someone’s right to disagree with you is much closer to “respect” than “tolerance.”

Justice involves defending what is right and thereby refusing to tolerate what is wrong.

How then can a God of love and compassion also be a God of justice?

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy tells Elizabeth Bennet that he loves her against his judgement and better character, and is shocked when she is insulted by this. We live in a world where people often project a better image of themselves than they really are and so end up not knowing true love because other people fall in love with the image and not the real them. True love can only exist in the presence of true judgement.

This is also seen in a quotation from a Black Eyed Peas song, “If you’ve never known truth, you’ve never known love.” God’s love is meaningful because God has a true judgement of us – he knows what we’re really like.

To act with compassion is to make a moral judgement about something and be moved in the depths of our being to do something about it. If we are not moved in this way, or don’t act, then we do not have true compassion, only moralism, yet we can’t have true compassion in this sense without the moral judgement. God, who passes judgement on our hearts, also has true compassion for us.

How then is it fair that God must sacrifice his Son in order to have mercy on us?

Mercy always comes at the expense of justice. How then can God be both merciful and just? The answer is that God exercises his mercy through his justice, by fulfilling the law on our behalf and suffering the punishment of his justice on our behalf so that justice can be upheld and mercy extended to us.

But isn’t God’s judgement a massive overreaction to our sin?

There is evidence to indicate that more people are sold into slavery via sex trafficking in modern Britain than were enslaved when the slave trade was “abolished” in the 19th century. Whereas earlier movements fought against treating people as objects, we now live in a society where people are encouraged to treat themselves as objects (e.g. we “market” ourselves). The reason why God is so angry at sin is that sin dehumanises us, destroying our capacity to relate to him and to each other.

What is the appropriate emotional response to sex trafficking? God’s wrath at our sin is the appropriate emotional response to our sin.

Isaiah 42: 1-4. God’s justice is described in terms of repairing bruised reeds and not quenching dimly burning wicks. This passage was written in southern Iraq where the marshes produce strong reeds (strong enough to build houses with, unless bruised) to a Jewish community who were not permitted even to snuff out wicks on the Sabbath (dangerous if you live in a reed house!). God is telling us through this passage that his justice will not discard those who are broken from the outside or exhausted from the inside.

Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the church to return to true radical justice and love from his cell in Birmingham, Alabama. The modern church too needs to regain its compassion.

Michael Ramsden

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Romans 3: 1-8

February 16th, 2011
  • At the beginning of Romans Paul is teaching about why we need the Gospel
  • Later on in Romans, he is sharing the joy of the Gospel
  • Romans 1: Paul explains to the Gentiles that they are sinners
  • Romans 2: He is explaining to the Jews that the law itself won’t save them
  • Romans 3: He answers three questions:
  1. The faithfulness of God
  • The Jews had been given the oracle of God
  • There is great advantage to growing up in a Christian home – you get off to a flying start, but this isn’t enough – we need to encounter God
  • The Jews thought the problem was God – in today’s world the objection is to sin, war, sex trafficking etc.
  • Vs 4: Paul’s response is from the Greek translation of Psalm 51
  • King David was judged for his sin with Bathsheba – God is just and His will be done
  • Revelation 4 & 5: key theme – the throne of God à however messy and chaotic the world is, God is sovereign – we need to look up and see God
  • God’s purposes and promises come to pass as God is faithful
  • God is in control – He is always on the throne
  1. The righteousness of God
  • Argument: God is being unrighteous because He could just forgive us – people ask: what gives God the right to judge me?
  • Vs 6: how then can God judge the world?
  • People want justice and judgement, just not for themselves
  1. The grace of God
  • God seeks us out
  • People think that more evil is needed so God can do more good – this is not true! – Paul says if you think like this than your condemnation is just
  • Romans 6 – Paul asks the same question and his answer is “by no means!”

What they teach us:

  1. We are not the first people to face objections and challenges
  • Even Jesus faced trouble – people tried to trick Him and catch Him out
  • The Gospel demonstrates the wisdom of God
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 2-6 – we understand the Gospel because God let the light in
  1. Take care how we speak
  • Sometimes we are logical not Biblical
  • Titus 2: 11-12 – grace teaches us to say “no”
  • Don’t abuse grace
  1. We need to be clear on the principles
  • God is faithful
  • God is righteous
  • God is full of grace for us
  • Jesus Christ is sovereign over all and one day every knee will bow to Him

Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?

November 8th, 2010

All of us hear/see the message of the resurrection through a particular set of “lenses” – our own opinion and worldview. Even if you don’t care about the resurrection, that is still a lens – one that believes it doesn’t matter or affect your life. The aim of this message is to challenge some of those lenses.

1 Corinthians 15:1-9 – this is part of a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth, addressing some issues they had with the resurrection. Here in Brighton there are many popular lenses.

1. “Scientific” response

  • This says that the resurrection is impossible because people don’t rise from the dead.
  • People with this lens with explain away the resurrection as Chinese whispers, started by fans of Jesus – that his story got greatly exaggerated into legends.
  • But one problem (of many) with this is that scholars will say that it takes generations and generations for legends like these to form, as well as a lack of historical evidence. However, the Gospels are agreed by historical scholars to be excellent historical evidence, and the first one (Mark) was written around 50-60 AD – not anywhere near long enough for a legend to evolve.
  • Paul also talks about how Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time in his letter to the Corinthians – most of whom were still alive at the time of writing the letter, so people could check with those eyewitnesses to validate their story.
  • There are several keys facts that the majority of historical scholars (most non-Christian) will agree on:

i.      Jesus’ death and burial. He was crucified and died on the cross – the spear that was put in his side proved he was biologically dead – and he was buried in a tomb.

ii.     Empty tomb on Easter Sunday

iii.    Appearances of Jesus – many people claiming to have seen him

iv.    Testimony of the Jesus’ disciples – they preached the death and resurrection of Jesus with confidence and most died for their beliefs. Pascal: “I tend to take notice of witnesses who have their throats cut.” 10 out of the 12 disciples ended up being martyrs.

  • Two people firmly did not believe in Jesus – his brother James and the apostle Paul, who went around persecuting the Church. But they ended up turning around and living their whole lives for Jesus, proclaiming his death and resurrection.
  • We have to deal with this information!
  • People conjure up explanations for these facts – e.g. they got the wrong tomb, or the disciples stole the body. But you have to deal with the fact that the disciples died for this – why would they lose their life for a lie? Also the authorities could’ve put an immediate end to Christianity (they sure wanted to) by simply producing the dead body of Jesus – but they couldn’t!
  • Or people will say that Jesus somehow didn’t really die. This is ludicrous – most people didn’t even make it past the flogging stage but died then. How can we honestly think that Jesus survived the flogging and the crucifixion, and somehow burst out of his grave clothes which were tightly wrapped around him, and move aside the heavy stone from the tomb, and beat off the Roman guards?!
  • This leaves us with the only logical explanation – that Jesus really did die for our sins and he rose again to give us new life.
  • So many people have become Christians from studying the evidence of the resurrection in an effort to try and disprove Christianity!
  • If you disbelieve in this evidence then it follows that you can’t believe in a god of any kind at all – at least this is a consistent viewpoint. But if you do believe there is a god or spirituality, how will you account for this?

2. Personal response

  • This viewpoint says “OK maybe it did happen, but how does it affect me and my life?”
  • Interestingly, a lot of people in the “scientific” response camp will fall into this view once they are presented with the solid case of evidence.
  • The resurrection matters so much – it’s the most important thing! Because of these reasons:
  • It means we have to take all the rest of what Jesus said and claimed seriously. They are surely the words of life. Otherwise we shouldn’t pay attention to him. But he does offer us true life! He can be trusted because what he promised came true.We all care about something – justice, right/wrong, the environment, etc. But why care about these things – or anything – if Jesus didn’t rise? Life would be without any meaning or value – it will all just burn up one day. We need to understand that this message was first preached to Jews and Greeks – both who had their own problems with the resurrection, one being that the physical creation is good and that God wants to not just get rid of it, but to restore it. And Jesus is the firstfruits of this new creation – of the physical creation resurrected and made perfect.
    • Christians believe that life matters and know that one day it is going to be restored and made right again. That is why they have been at the forefront of the creation of hospitals and schools – because life matters.
    • Tragically, the single largest cause of deaths among men aged 18-35 in Brighton is suicide. So many people have no meaning in life. But the resurrection gives us HOPE.