At a wedding a few weeks ago, a new father was telling the table of guests about the many difficulties of raising two young children. After he finished, I shared my belief that God gave us the experience of fatherhood to teach us about his own love for us. I argued that our experience of difficulties as parents gave us an appreciation of God’s love. When I was finished, one of the older gentlemen at the table strongly disagreed with me. “That is a bunch of nonsense.”, this older Christian father of two opined, “God is not that petty.” The rich analogy between God’s love for us as a Father and our love for our children was thus dismissed on the basis that God was too good to let us experience difficulty for a good purpose. “God wouldn’t let us experience difficulty to help us to appreciate his patience and love for us! God wouldn’t let us experience difficulty to help us appreciate the way God loves our neighbour! God is too good to allow us to experience difficulty for any reason!” I wanted to put my head down on the table and cry. I wish this man had been joking.
This experience came back to me after I tried sharing the judgment that I think is coming on the United States with some of my brothers and sisters just yesterday. Israel is surrounded by demonically inspired enemies who seek to destroy her, the world economy is on the verge of collapse, the drums of war are beating in Moscow, Beijing and in the NATO capitals, health professionals worldwide are bracing for a global pandemic, weird weather is disrupting agriculture on every continent and secular geologists have said that the current level of seismic activity is historically high. And with all of this, these two good friends think I am crazy for thinking about the return of Jesus Christ. How is it possible for Christians not to be aware of the days in which we are living?
As I considered this question, I considered the fundamental bilateral symmetry of the human body. The Bible tells us that the church is the body of Christ and it seems to me as though the bilateral symmetry of the human body could teach us something about the church.
“‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn” (Matthew 11:17)
In this verse, I think we see the bilateral division of believers into two different kinds. Mourners look at the world and mourn for all the evil. They can fall into legalism because they are primarily concerned with the law of God and forget God’s love. Dancers long to love one another and love God. They can fall into carnality because their primary concern is the love of God and they think the law is irrelevant. Mourners think dancers are pagans who are only interested in sensuality, carnality and emotionalism. Dancers think mourners are a bunch of gloomy Gus legalists who do not know how to love others or love God.
This fundamental chasm can be seen in many of the issues that divide the church. The right side of the body (the mourners) can be heard to say, for example, “Those lefty nuts wouldn’t know the righteousness of the God that required His own Son to die on the cross for us if it came up and bit them in the butt.” The left-side of the body (the dancers) might reply, “Those right wing sourpusses wouldn’t know the love of God if He came down and died for them that they might have eternal life.” Each side has a truth which they absolutely know for certain which the other side denies. Each side also has those who do not know God at all and whose excesses cause the other side to react with appropriate disgust.
The attitude of Jesus Christ towards the two halves of the body is evident in the letters to the churches in Revelation. Jesus rebukes churches that are doctrinally sound for losing their first love. At the same time, Jesus also rebukes churches that disregard his law for their wicked behaviour. From these warnings, we can see what Jesus meant when he said:
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14)
The fundamental issue that divides the church from left to right is the issue of God’s judgment. Humanist Christians just know in their hearts that God would never judge sinners because he loves them so much. Christians focused on the Holiness of God just know that love has nothing to do with judgment and that God’s fierce wrath is poured out on the wicked. How do we bridge this great divide? By understanding that God’s love requires that he judge sin.
Probably the best way to see this is to ask a question. If you had a child who you dearly loved and you saw that child growing up to be a bully who relied on physically and emotionally abusive behaviour to get his own way, what would you do? Would you allow your child to grow up that way? To become an adult who had no true friends or companions because no one can stand to be around him? To allow that child to become the kind of father who dies alone in a nursing home because his own children cannot stand to be around him? Do you really think this is the more loving alternative to a discipline which causes the child a temporary physical discomfort in order to impart a vitally important spiritual lesson? Evidently, most left oriented Christians believe that a parent should allow a child to grow up to behave however he wants and thereby destroy his ability to interact with others in a genuinely loving and self-sacrificial way. On the other hand, right-side believers would have us believe that love has nothing to do with the commands that God gave us and that the Law is an arbitrary set of standards with no basis in God’s love. The way to bridge the chasm is to appreciate the reason that God gave us the gift of sex and the nature of God’s righteous law.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:40)
Now, of course, when God judges a nation the discipline is more permanent then a mere physical spanking. Millions of people are likely to die in the coming divine rebuke and many Christians simply cannot accept that God would allow this to happen. They need to understand that God is attempting to prepare human beings for life in eternity and that the judgment of millions down here will be used to teach all of humanity the need for God’s guidance and direction. When we understand that everything that God does is part of His plan to teach human beings to live with one another in eternal joy (see my post, The After Action Report), then we can understand how God’s judgment is required by his love.
The answer to the question asked in the second paragraph above concerning why my brother and sister have not seen the coming judgment of God, consider that the knowledge of God’s judgment is in the right-hand side of the church that consists mostly of mourners. On the other side of the body, you have the fastest growing part of the church because the kindness of God is what leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) Focused on the love of God, my brother and sister do not see the imminence of God’s judgment.