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The Kindness of “Cruelty”

28 Apr

Hello again!

Yesterday we finished the book of John, and so today we’re moving on to Romans. — This is what God gave me today in His word:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)

Sure what these people did was bad, outright awful even, but does that mean they should be abandoned? What sort of cruel God would ever simply give up His people to the “lusts of their flesh”? Did God perhaps make a mistake when He did that?

What God would do that? One who understood the importance of love. It was the loving thing to do for God to give them up in that particular time. What truly loving parent would reward a child for disobedience? No loving parent would. Only a parent that wants their child to grow up disobedient and selfish would do something like that. So, if it’s the loving thing for a parent to discipline their child for wrong behavior, then is it not the loving thing for God to, for a time, let people experience the results of their wrong behavior?

If a child wants to replace their parents with a wooden image of them (i.e. “make an idol”), that child will quickly discover the error of his ways. Likewise, when people replace God with something else, God will, for a time, withdraw His presence. Does God have the power to put His all-powerful foot down and force everyone to “love” and “serve” Him? Yes, He certainly does. But He doesn’t, as no forced love can be real, and He wants His children to truly love Him.

God has given us an abundant number of gifts: He’s given us life, the ability to pursue happiness, language. Yet there’s one gift that eclipses all of these: God has given us His son. Not only that, but God gave Him to become our sin (see: 2 Corinthians 5:21), and to die a horrible death on a cross in order to save us; the perfect crucified for the imperfect. If someone refuses this gift, God doesn’t force them to accept it. Rather, He withdraws, and allows them to experience the error of their ways for a while. But He doesn’t only do this for those who don’t yet believe.

Paul in the above verses is talking about, “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (see: Romans 1:18), but Christians as-well act in an ungodly and unrighteous manner. – The difference between the unbeliever, and the believer, being that the believer will always come back from these temporary falls. – And so God withdraws from them, for a time, as well. C.S. Lewis called this the law of undulation; people have good and bad times in their Spiritual as well as their physical lives, but will eventually bounce back. They won’t “bounce back” because it’s in their nature to do so, or any folly like that, but because God doesn’t withdraw completely. Even in the worst possible times, God still will continue to give us grace; grace which enables us to come back from the edge. (That being said, it’s still a very bad idea to go to the “edge”).

The point being this: God is not cruel, He is kind; He’ll allow us to experience times of Spiritual drought when we’re away from Him, in order to make the spring of living water that is His grace He gives us all the more precious.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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