By Kristen Marble at kristenmarble.com
Who among us hasn’t uttered the words, “I love you, but I don’t like your actions?” Parenting seems to bring that statement out a lot. You adore the child God has entrusted to you, yet sometimes cringe at their choices, decisions and actions. It’s easy to turn the gaze inward, and question yourself, thinking, “What did I do wrong? Where did I lead them astray?” And yet we know that children have free will. We raise them, hoping and praying they follow the ways we’ve shown them, but also recognizing they will exercise their freedom – some in good, some in not-so-good ways.
I am imagine God’s reaction to us is often similar. “I love you, but I don’t like your actions.” Except usually God uses much stronger words. If you spend any time reading the prophets in the Old Testament – like Jeremiah in this week’s readings – you might remember God’s harsh words to his wayward people. He calls them adulterers, liars, fools and utterly useless. No matter how often God tries to woo them back into his embrace and His ways, they fall away, choosing instead to persist in their own follies.
There are moments throughout the history of God and his people when God stepped in to swiftly and resolutely respond to repeated, grievous sin. Sometimes that punishment came through other people and nations. In Jeremiah 5, God declares, “I am bringing a distant nation against you—an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors.” God warns that the invading nation will devour harvests, food, sons, daughters, flocks, herds, vines, fig trees and cities. Nothing and no one is immune from the impending destruction and punishment.
Verses like these that might cause a casual reader to conclude the “God of the OT” is angry and vengeful. Except, that would be missing all the warnings, heartache, pain and pleading that God routinely expresses about his people’s wayward hearts. That misses the grace and love He extends when they do return. He desires faithfulness and repentance. He calls us to passionately pursue people and causes he cares about. We are to promote the case of the fatherless and defend the just cause of the poor. Then he will restore and forgive.
The New Testament picks up the same refrain. In 2 Peter, we read about the Day of the Lord – a great and mighty day when the great and mighty Lord will make all things right. Those whose actions and lives reject the ways of the Lord face judgment, punishment and condemnation. And for those in Christ, the Day of the Lord will be a joyous occasion when our prayers, “Your Kingdom come” will be finally answered.
On that day, God desires that all would be found faithful and pursuing justice. That none would face judgment. And so God waits, delaying that fateful Day. He waits until as many as will would come to know. We read, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
Where do you find yourself today? Does God look upon you saying, “I love you, but I detest your actions? I abhor your behavior?” Or are you living a life that reflects His character and values? Do you eagerly anticipate the Day of the Lord, or does something within you fear that Day, knowing you would be found guilty and wayward?
The Lord is not slow. He is patient. He desires that you would turn from your wicked ways, acknowledge Him, and pursue His ways. It can start today. God desires to extend you the same grace and forgiveness he has all people throughout history. He grieves your distance and choices. He has a better way.
The choice is up to you…