Wednesday, January 20, 2010

God is Just vs. God is Forgiving

Yesterday was my walk the park day with my friend Donna (she of the snake incident). She's also the friend that I tend to go to the movies with the most, so often, on our walks, we'll talk some more about what we saw the previous weekend. Yesterday was all about the Book of Eli (I can't tell you what we were discussing without giving away large chunks of the plot, sorry).

The discussion that we were having, though, led us elsewhere. Specifically, God's forgiveness.

Her issue is that it does not seem just that a person who lives a horrible life, who rapes and murders, for example, can 'see the light' and wind up going to Heaven, the same place that she, as a person who has led a good life will.

We got sidetracked onto other, related issues (this happens to us a lot, actually). But, to me, if I think about it, I think it makes sense to me because, in my mind, I feel that all sins are equal, to God. Which is not to say that the corporeal punishments should be the same. A murderer, rapist, or pedophile is a far more heinous crime than a person who steals. There need to be punishments, on earth, commensurate with the severity of the crime. But that's here, where everything we do is finite and defined by it's relation to the physical world. But to God, every sin is something that takes you away from Him, something that leads you to death, spiritually. I mean, to go back to the sin as disease metaphor, we don't think of the flu as a 'serious' illness, but people do die from it, from the 'plain old' flu, every year. So we may not think of a sin as a 'serious' sin, but it can still lead us to death. Make sense?

What do ya'll think? How do you reconcile these two aspects of God?


  1. Great topic...hmmmm. This is one of the things my Muslim friends really struggle with. Like Donna, they thought the same things. Except for them it often involved how can a US President say he is a believer yet kill thousands of innocent civilians (Iraq for instance) and still get to be in heaven.

    It's a tough thing to explain.

    I'm always thankful for God's mercy and forgiveness even to people who have done "the big sins." But I know some people are justice driven and the thought of, say, a former President getting to enjoy heaven just grates them because of what happened on his watch.

    I like how you explained things and I believe the same way. I believe sin separated us from God no matter how small or how large it was. One offense against the law meant you were guilty of the whole thing according to the Bible.

    Sooooo, I just see us as all fallen short of God's glorious standard and, in that regard, we all are equal -- needful of a Savior.

    And if we choose to accept the Savior, God restores us to fellowship with Him.

    But if we choose to walk our own paths - no matter how "good" we may be in life - we chose to not have this fellowship with God.

    Eh, maybe I am complicating matters. Anyway, I enjoyed this so much and look forward to reading other replies.

    Did I say it was good to have you back? :) I often enjoy your thinking posts such as these. Thank you!

  2. Very interesting post. I think I see what you mean about how every sin takes us away from God and that it's not necessarily the case that "bigger" ones take us further away.

    I personally would like to believe there is justice. I would like to believe the unfairness of life will all be made fair in the end. I would like to believe we all get what we deserve. I find it hard to let go of belief in an afterlife because it would mean giving up on these things.

    On the other hand, I love the idea that a person can repent and be forgiven. So I have less of a problem with an evil person "seeing the light" and going to heaven, than I do with all people - good and evil - just dying and ceasing to exist after that.

    I've noticed as well that I always want to see people redeemed. Like on films and TV, I always end up feeling sorry for the bad guy and hoping he'll mend his ways. But he has to do it himself! I would like to believe we all mend our ways in the end, either here or in the next life. That's just the way I feel. It really worries me sometimes that the world might not be a place with happy endings.

    Have I contradicted what I said about wanting justice? Maybe. I'm confused!

  3. Susanne,

    'Sooooo, I just see us as all fallen short of God's glorious standard and, in that regard, we all are equal -- needful of a Savior.

    And if we choose to accept the Savior, God restores us to fellowship with Him.'

    That's pretty much it, I think. But part of the problem is that we're limited. So, trying to imagine God's perfect sense of justice, we expect there to be a payment. The person has to *pay* for what they've done. And the concept of there being the possibility of even the worst person on the planet getting rewarded, in the end, and not satisfying *our* sense of justice is slippery and hard to reconcile with how we feel.

  4. Sarah,

    There is something about the redemption of villains in stories, isn't there? I think it comes back to an inability to believe that a person can be *totally* evil and depraved. We want to believe, and see, that there is, even in the darkest of hearts, a spark of human feeling, something that can be appealed to.

    It's a hard thing, balancing our need to see people 'get what they deserve' and God's forgiving nature. But, I figure, if God gave us all what we deserve, none of us would be alive anymore. Every last one of us has disobeyed Him in some fashion. So I think I'm happy that God's sense of Justice and Mercy is perfect, even when mine is not. :)

  5. Hmmm... I think the just/forgiving thing boils down to this: if you truly repent and ask God for it, He'll forgive you. If you don't, then you get your just desserts after you die. Or, some bad juju will come back to bite you in life. I'd elaborate more,, I'm hungry. Fooood!

  6. Heather,

    I think my friends problem is that she feels, even if God forgives, a person still needs to *pay* for their sins. They shouldn't just get off 'scott free' as it were.


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