Being Nice While Preaching Judgment.
What happened to the coming judgment? What happened to preaching judgment? It seems more appealing to preach justice, since everyone seems to be able to define that for themselves and can more or less agree that there should be justice. Judgment is a necessary part of justice, without it there is no retribution, no payment for sins, no restoring of balance, no making sure the oppressor gets what coming to him. What has happened to our Gospel where it is embarrassing to hear anyone conclude that this disaster, that slaughter, that storm and drought are all signs of the impending judgment of God? The chatter on social networks after some prominent preacher tries to connect the dots of trouble with previous sins and the justice of God is almost universal in condemnation, and that mostly from Evangelicals. Quite often the conversation is to rebuke the rare preacher who raises his voice and to point him to a more loving, compassionate, appealing Jesus who would never say such things. This kind of hell, fire, and brimstone should be reserved for backwards and backwoods Fundamentalists it seems. Our present American culture seems to respond favorably to those who preach justice especially if it is for their current preferred victim. These days those most in favor seem to be homosexuals and women. We have come to the point in American society where the President of the United States publicly advocates for the Boy Scouts of America to open their ranks to homosexuals, and there will be barely a whisper from pulpits or pundits about it. Opening the “opportunity” in the military for women to go into combat, so that they might kill and be killed as their primary military specialty, is painted as justice. I remember when Billy Graham included warnings of judgment as part of his evangelistic preaching. Most of the preachers I know in this present generation would never do that, especially those among young urban professionals. It just doesn’t seem nice to draw any kind of definite connection to “natural” events and God’s anger, and God being angry is not something someone mentions to sophisticated, politically aware, non-Christians when attempting to share the love of Jesus with them. How can one speak about God being angry and being loving at the same time? Is it a loss of courage? Is it a measure of wisdom in evangelistic technique? Is it unbelief in God being a God of justice in the fullest sense implying that he brings justice and will execute it? Is it a choice to choose a future (and now evidently debatable) distant hell over the Biblical declaration that judgment has already come and will surely come in universal terms for everyone who doesn’t hide themselves in Christ? Obviously politics is part and parcel of the problem. Those hysterical vitriolic haters of President Obama and the Democrats post the most extreme and sensationalized diatribes and it becomes difficult to make any meaningful and legitimate criticism without seeming to be thrown into the same crowd as them. “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.” (Isaiah 59:14-15) But…”The lion has roared-who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken-who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8) I want to be a preacher of justice, and I have tried to faithfully proclaim God’s love for the poor, his call for all of us to stand against injustice and for mercy. Often this has been directed at the issues of racism, materialistic greed and selfishness, the failure to evangelize among the very people Jesus had been anointed to preach to while becoming so self indulgent. Advocates of justice have said “amen” when they have heard these salvos delivered against the white majority, against the rich. They become uncomfortable when I declare that homosexuality is not only a sin, but an evidence of the judgment of God against an immoral society such as ours. Judgment has already fallen and in our compassionate witness to those in the “gay and lesbian community” it needs to be said, while absolutely holding out the mercy of a forgiving, cleansing, and delivering God. If Romans 1:24 and context is true then homosexuality is an evidence that God “gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” He says it again in verse 26-27. All the arguments about others sins being equally bad, deserving of judgment are true, but in this case God specifically describes a particular sin as a judgment in itself. This has nothing to do with despising homosexuals or running away from engaging them with the Gospel, or in not standing up of human rights when and if they might be horribly treated. It does have everything to do with being honest with them, and with our nation, about what the God of the Bible actually is saying, and He is speaking, now, in this current moment so that we might hear the warnings before it is too late; too late for individuals, and too late for a nation that in a rather schizophrenic way sees itself blessed by God, and teetering on the lip of hell. It has everything to do with truly loving people by not letting them avoid unpleasant truths that are the source of their salvation.