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Jon Kennedy's recent book, The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, from Adams Media, F&W Publications, is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and can be ordered here. It is also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in Kindle and Nook ebook editions.

 


Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Mere Christianity: God's justice


Jon Kennedy  

JONAL ENTRY 1252 | September 28 2012

I am far from finished with organizing the hundreds of still photos and video clips I took last summer, much less having used most of them here, but I got a question this week that requires a break in the proceedings . . . not to mention that discussing theology gets my mind into high gear and brings the greatest satisfaction.

The question was about Ezekiel 35, which begins with this report by the prophet:

The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir; prophesy against it and say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you and make you a desolate waste. I will turn your towns into ruins and you will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the Lord...'" (NIV).

How in the world, my questioner asked, can we believe in a God like this? Where is God's justice?

After tossing and turning this over and over for a night (never doubting that there are plenty of answers to the question but trying to isolate the best), my short answer is that God has never asked us to believe that He is concerned about our notions of justice. He is more likely to reply to the question posed above, as Paul says He does in Romans, with "Who are you, O man, to question the God who created you?" (9:20). Justice within Israel or among the people of God by any other name—fair treatment of our peers and our dependents and repaying our debts and fulfilling our obligations—are things God expects His people to give to each other, but he never promises justice from Him. In fact, we should be grateful that He does not give us what we "deserve," which is one workaday definition of justice (but probably the most universal one is "whatever's fair").

Because from our first parents on, God has been straightforward in telling His reason-endowed creatures what we deserve are not more gifts but death and destruction. This is because He is absolutely holy and holiness cannot tolerate unholiness. That which he told Ezekiel He planned for Mount Seir is what we all deserve, and He has told us as much repeatedly from the beginning. We are sinners, reprobate, and just as Israel in the Old Testament was prone to turn against God, we Christians do the same thing every day. Every hour. From one fleeting thought to the next, but we tell ourselves we don't mean it so it doesn't count. But it counts to God . . . that's why He gave us an Old Testament that's bloody in tooth and claw.

In fact, in the beginning of His public ministry, one of the first promises Jesus proclaimed to his followers was not "fairness" or "favor," but persecution.

"...you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. . . . "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another" (Matthew 10:17-23, NIV).

Is that fair? But Jesus showed us in his parable of the laborers hired late in the day (Matthew 20: 1:16) that He does not follow human guidelines on fairness. And we know from history that all of the original apostles (all but John the beloved, but even including Paul) died martyrs' deaths, and John died as a prisoner. In Acts 9 we read that Paul, formerly known as Saul and infamous for his persecutions of the church, finally saw the light and converted to one of the most ardent followers of Jesus. But the Lord told Ananias on the day of Paul's conversion that, "This man [Paul] is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." And you thought God was a God of justice? Some probably would call Him a sadist.

No, God is about things much better than justice, and so is His Word. . . . Over against the bad news of "justice," He sent His Son to proclaim good news. Good news is not about legalities (justice) but about the Father's mercy and grace. But that's for next time.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


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