How do you balance God’s need to judge sin with his love? This can be a tough one to work through, even for long-time God followers. On one hand, we read about a God of love in the scriptures. On the other, we read about a God who’s an enemy of those who refuse to make peace with Him.
With our limited understanding, we can be tempted to go down several wrong roads if we aren’t careful. Where could such an unresolved spiritual struggle take us? Here are a few common places we tend to visit that are worth avoiding and how to get out of these ‘ditches’ if you find yourself there.
First, we notice the way to God is narrow and that few ultimately turn to Him for healing and salvation. Then, we become so fixated on his need to judge sin that we obsess over it. This can leave God’s followers and those close to turning to Him disillusioned and discouraged. They may focus so much on God’s judgment that it clouds out his love.
Love is powerful enough to save us from the eternal hell our sin deserves and radically change our everyday lives. The fear of judgment can do no such thing. In fact, it often does just the opposite. Too much focus on God’s divine judgment makes us lose hope in his love and can result in turning increasingly further from his path.
Don’t get me wrong. We need to have a healthy fear and understanding of what our sin deserves. We also have to feel the weight of our chains before we can comprehend how freeing the salvation of Jesus is. But we can’t ever forget that the most potent power available in the universe is God’s love.
As the Scriptures say, it’s his kindness that leads us to repentance. It is his bafflingly scandalous love of wretched sinners that empowers us to turn from our previous ways. More than anything, the transformation happens because He loves individual sinners with an unrivaled love.
God doesn’t just love a big swath of people with a generic sort of mediocre love. Instead, it’s uniquely personal. He fully loves you in a way that’s different from how He loves any of his other children. The same is true for all of his children.
Sure, there’s no favoritism among his spiritual kids. But to say He doesn’t tailor his love toward each child in a completely unique way would be to err badly. In light of that, don’t let God’s need to judge sin discourage you.
Most of all, focus on his love and let it lead you to a place of peace and hope. Yes, judgment is part of God’s character, but even that aspect can give you hope. Without it, God couldn’t maintain his unblemished righteousness. And if He couldn’t maintain that, what hope would we have that He’d keep his word about saving us from our sins or loving us? But, thank God, we can and do have that hope!
Another common struggle we face when we can’t reconcile God’s judgment and love is wavering faith. Because we’re conflicted in our spirit about the matter, we have a hard time letting the unknowns go. Instead of giving the things we can’t understand over to God, we hold onto them.
The danger is that we become like the double-minded man spoken of in the Scriptures. We struggle to consistently exercise faith and so become like a wave of the sea constantly tossed about this way and that.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
The solution, as this Scripture passage shares, is to ask God for wisdom to understand things we’re perplexed by. At the same time, we’re told not to doubt. And what if we don’t get the response we’re looking for? It may just be that we’ve reached the limit our brains can comprehend. C.S. Lewis shared that many of the questions we ask God out of our ignorance are likely unanswerable:
“Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that.”
Have you ever looked at a single grain of sand? If so, you had to strain your eyes to see it at all. That tiny grain could be compared to all that we’ll ever learn in this life despite our greatest efforts.
Now, imagine all the sand grains on a vast beach. There are billions upon billions of them. There’s no way you could come close to ever counting them all. Imagine that each of those sand grains contain additional knowledge we don’t have access to in this life. Each sand grain contains the equivalent knowledge that can be achieved by a lifetime of the most laborious study here on Earth.
So, there are countless sand grains out there each symbolizing a lifetime of learning. But we’re still working on only one sand grain. We haven’t even achieved that much learning yet. That being the case, how can we possibly fully reconcile the deepest aspects of God? The answer is we can’t. Faith is our only hope.
Knowledge is valuable, but it makes a terrible substitute for faith. All of life’s learning will get you a sand grain worth of knowledge at best. But faith will take you past all the struggles that are impossible to reconcile with the human mind. It’ll take you straight past the infinite number of sand grains of knowledge and straight to the throne room of God Himself.
By faith, although you can’t reconcile everything perfectly such as how God’s judgment and love balance out, you still have enough evidence to take the next step. This is why Jesus said if anyone wants to see the Kingdom of heaven, they’ll have to humble themselves like a child.
In a world that says you need to have all the facts to decide what to believe, you’ll look ‘stupid’ by trusting God at his word. But that’s OK. God will see your humility and honor it. There’s no other logical way to saving faith in God (or in reconciling the toughest stuff).
Remember all those billions of sand grains each holding a lifetime of knowledge we don’t have access to? We may look like adults on the outside, but we’re just faking it on the inside. We know just enough to be dangerous.
Our next step is faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to have a saving relationship with God. It’s also impossible to please Him. Don’t let the pursuit of knowledge destroy your faith. Knowledge is very limited, but the possibilities with faith are infinite.
Knowledge too often turns people from faith in God. That’s quite sad considering God allows us to pursue knowledge to help us get to the point of knowing Him better. More than anything else, God created the ability to understand and learn so we could realize our need for a relationship with Him.
Throwing God’s Judgment in the Trash
What’s another roadblock we face when trying to balance God’s judgment and his love? We can be tempted to take any scriptural support for judgment or punishment for sins and throw them in the trash. Then, we focus on all the positive sections of Scripture while completely ignoring God’s need to judge sin.
The problem with this stance is that it deceives people into thinking the consequences of sin aren’t real or severe. It also cheapens the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If sin really wasn’t that big of a deal, only a cruel Heavenly Father would’ve sent Jesus to Earth to suffer such an agonizing death on the cross on behalf of our sins.
Willfully denying something we’re uncomfortable with can come back to bite us in the end. Imagine a person with treatable cancer, for instance. What happens if the idea of having cancer is so uncomfortable that medical intervention is never sought? Eventually, that cancer will spread throughout the body and destroy it.
The same goes for ignoring the spiritual cancer of sin. We can attempt to deny that it exists and neglect our responsibility to seek out a completely adequate solution provided by God. But, if we don’t take the necessary steps for salvation, eventually, the terrible effects of sin will eternally separate us from God.
What to Do When Balancing God’s Judgment and Love Becomes Perplexing
First, we must remember it’s not our job to reconcile the two—it’s God’s. The hope of this article is to bring you about as close to understanding the balance as our limited minds can grasp. Still, this article has still been written by a limited mind and for other limited minds.
God isn’t against us reasoning through areas of life and coming to solid conclusions. He created our brains to do just that. Having said that, God knows better than anyone that, as created beings, our brains are extremely limited. In the grand scheme of things, we can understand very little.
God isn’t some sort of all-knowing and all-powerful masochistic being. He hasn’t created the idea of us needing to have faith to torture us. Faith is just the natural need of any created being with intellect, emotion and will. We’ll never understand it all. Therefore, faith in a good God who cannot lie is our only life-giving choice. Anything short of that will plunge us into a hopeless existence that leads to ever-increasing misery.
When we come up to the end of our reasoning abilities, we’re only left with two options: faith or unbelief. Oh, we may waver for a while between the two. But, eventually, those are the only two options available.
In light of that, let’s reason together as much as we can. And when we no longer can, let’s entrust the rest to a perfectly loving God who’s more than capable of handling the details.
Yes, this topic can be troubling. Yes, it can be upsetting if we’re not careful. And that’s why after inspecting the matter, we must give the matter back to God. Our faith, happiness and sanity depend on it.
Just as your cat or dog can’t create a grocery list, get into a vehicle, drive to a store and shop, so we aren’t capable of understanding the deepest things of God. It’s futile to put that sort of pressure on ourselves. Only God can handle the weight of those responsibilities. He doesn’t expect us to carry them nor should we try.
The Starting Point: The Problem is Ours, Not God’s
Daily, the sin in our hearts deceives us. Satan regularly whispers in our minds that it’s God’s fault and not ours. As a result, we can get hung up on things like why God would hold his creation responsible when He made us knowing that we’d eventually fall into sin.
We can also be enticed by the idea that it’s impossible for us not to sin. It’s literally the air we breathe. We regularly think and act in sinful ways. And so, we may wonder how God can hold us responsible for something we can’t change or fix.
In light of this, the first step to better balancing God’s need to judge sin with his love is to realize nothing is God’s fault. From eternity past to eternity future not a single evil thought has ever darkened the mind of God. Only perfect light and goodness have existed in his heart.
In contrast, our ruined and sin-filled hearts are a far cry from the perfection, righteousness and holiness of God. All of our reasoning is tainted by sin. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that our view of God is often badly misled too.
Satan will try to convince you that God is the tyrant of the story. In reality, Satan is just gaslighting you. He’s simply taking the focus off the real tyrant—himself. To have any hope of balancing God’s need to judge sin with his love, you’ll first have to reject Satan’s lies about God.
God is the undisputed hero in the story of humanity. Satan is the undisputed villain in the story of humanity. And we’re caught somewhere in the middle of the two. God is perfect light while the devil is complete and utter darkness. And all humanity will ultimately and forever choose one or the other: unfading light or impenetrable darkness.
Your earthly father isn’t your truest father as strange as that may sound. Your truest father is your spiritual father. And the Bible only gives us two options of who that could be. We’ll either choose the father of lies (Satan). Or, we’ll choose God who can’t lie.
The first step to correctly balancing God’s judgment with his love is to make peace with Him by accepting the gift of salvation provided through Jesus Christ. When we come to salvation, Jesus becomes our sin payment substitute and all of our guilt is taken away. We no longer have to pay for all the sins we committed in this life.
The death that our sinless Jesus experienced on the cross becomes our sin substitute. He takes the beating instead of us. And as a result, we’re spared the eternal judgment we deserve. We’re also provided a way to an eternal and blissful heaven instead.
Beyond salvation, lies a lifetime of spiritual maturity. There’ll be many steps forward and back throughout our earthly walk with God after making peace with Him. Sometimes, even after great spiritual maturity is reached, we still may struggle to balance out the idea of God’s judgment and love in our minds. But as a general rule, this will become easier the closer we grow to God.
As we mature, we won’t so easily fall for the lies of the devil. Instead, we’ll better recognize that humanity has become a villain because of falling into the temptation of the devil to rebel against God through sin. We’ll also realize that God has to hold us accountable for the evils we commit against Him and others. He can’t let us off the hook for even one sin we commit in our lifetime. To do so would spoil his sinless perfection.
Free Will and Salvation
How can man’s free will and God’s sovereignty be reconciled? It’s another one of the many aspects of God’s dealings with people we can’t fully understand. And the views believers have on it varies. What we can say, however, is that people have some measure of free will despite God’s sovereignty. We’re held accountable for our actions.
We’re exhorted throughout the Scriptures to live in a certain way. Jesus, John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul and many others very specifically told us how to live and what to avoid. Why would they do that if we didn’t have free will? The answer is they wouldn’t have. There would’ve been no need. Since we wouldn’t have had any free choice in the matter, it would’ve been ridiculous to encourage life change in that case.
But that’s not how God made us. He made us with the ability to follow our own desires and will. The problem is every person on earth chooses darkness over light every time. During Jesus’s earthly ministry He commented on this fact. And this theme is woven all throughout the Scriptures.
"And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)
Yes, we were given free will by God. No, it didn’t make us better. In fact, as soon as we received our own will, we ran as far in the opposite direction of our perfectly kind and benevolent Creator as we could. We didn’t seek what He wanted for our lives even though it was better than our wildest dreams. Instead, we actively hated the ways of God and carved out an empty and futile earthly existence. And we achieved nothing but eternal punishment in the next life for our rebellion.
In light of our rejection of God, He would’ve been perfectly just to end our lives right there and bring us to justice. But God did far more. He allowed most of us to live for many more years on the Earth He ultimately owns although we shook our fists in his face. His love was too strong to bring us to immediate condemnation. But, thank God, there’s far more to this story.
In Jesus Christ, God’s Love and Justice Find a Perfect Balance
More than anything else, whenever you struggle to balance God’s love and justice, meditate on the person of Jesus Christ. He was sent to us in our direst time of need, and He’s our only hope for us to make peace with God.
The perfect balance of God’s love and justice isn’t found in some ‘fancy theological argument’. Instead, it’s found in a Person of the Godhead and his name is Jesus Christ (Although we can’t fully comprehend it).
We only gravitated towards darkness all the time. This is something theologians refer to as total depravity. Spiritually speaking, we were dead in our sins and there was no part of us that could seek God on our own strength or free will.
But God wanted more for us than to be renegade squatters on his back forty. He longed for us to be made right with Him. However, there was one major barrier to that happening. Our sins had to be judged in their entirety for God to maintain his goodness. Justice had to prevail in a perfect court of law (a type of court system we can only dream of).
There was no way God could say, “Don’t worry about that sin—It’s no big deal,” because it was a big deal. An infinitely great offense to an infinite God. But, at the same time, God loved us even when we hated Him.
Just because we were enemies of God didn’t mean God ever stopped loving us. The thing is, He knew his righteousness demanded that there would come a time when we’d have to be held accountable for our offenses to Him. But, at the same time, God didn’t want to leave us without an option out of our impending eternal misery.
And so, God sent Jesus into the world to be the go-between person for ruined mankind and an offended holy God we’d soon have to give an account to. Jesus was fully God and man. Because He was God, He could live a perfectly sinless life. Because Jesus was also fully human, He could die as a substitute for the punishment we deserved.
God is at once a righteous judge of sinners and the justifier of wrongdoers who previously had no hope. When we come to Jesus, there are no ‘one-star conversions’. All who turn to God are adopted into his family and become heirs of his kingdom. Yes, that kingdom may seem less real than life here on Earth, but the opposite is true. Earth is the shadowy place. Heaven is the model of perfection in every way.
This life is like thick fog or like driving with a mud-caked windshield. Being in heaven with God, his children and his angels will provide perfect clarity. Compared to this Earth, the New Earth will be ‘realer than real’.
Leaving the Kingdom of Darkness…For Good
Jesus called the unbelieving Jewish people of his day children of the devil. This is the plight of us all before we turn to Jesus Christ in faith to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Until we give our lives over to God, we can take no part in the eternal paradise of God. Our sin condemns us and there’s no escape.
That is until we give up trying to pay a sin debt we never could handle. When we cry out to Jesus to save us from our sins and turn to Him in repentance, we leave the domain of a hateful and abusive spiritual father. Best of all, we replace the prince of darkness with the Prince of Peace as our Dad.
Although we all start out in the kingdom of darkness, that’s not where we have to stay. Regardless of what you’ve done, you can be forgiven by God and have Jesus’ perfect sacrifice applied to your sin debt. His blood can cleanse even the worst of sinners. Even so, we all fall terribly short of God’s perfect standard.
Today can be the day you leave the kingdom of darkness for good. Yes, even after you become God’s child, you’ll still live in a world full of sin. But the days of your struggle will be numbered. You’ll find that what you thought was ‘living’ was nothing in comparison to the life to come.
God doesn’t say to us, "Turn or burn," as some suppose. Rather, He warns us of what will happen if we keep going our own way. And best yet, He provides a much better way. Yes, God would’ve been just to let us go our own way and to suffer the consequences, but his love demanded more.
Wrapping It Up
In closing, when you struggle to balance God’s need to judge sin with his love, don’t let it perplex you to the point of unbelief. Rather, by faith, let your doubts draw you even closer to God. You’ll never fully understand the deep mysteries of God. But the more you experience closeness with Him and his love, the less that’ll matter.