The previous post about the Sandusky trial is a perfect backdrop for a discussion about the wrath of God. All that we have been discussing in the previous posts is on display in the drama of this courtroom.
We see the depth of pain caused by evil.
We grieve the shattered lives of the victims.
We experience deep anger at this devastation.
We are frustrated with the years of ongoing abuse when justice was afar off.
We are relieved at the exposure of the despicable violence.
We watch the enemy’s power crumble.
We witness the depth of his depravity.
We feel the palpable demand for justice.
We sense the satisfaction that justice has prevailed.
We know that God loves righteousness and justice. Our innate sense of His divine attributes is demonstrated in the public response to the verdict of this trial. We want evil to be exposed; we need for God to protect and to side with the oppressed, the poor, the powerless, the victim.
In a healthy society, retributive justice is necessary. We expect criminal acts will be punished. The threat of punishment maintains order. We want criminals removed from our midst in order to prevent them from doing further harm.
Yet legal justice cannot undo the pain of the victims.
It cannot heal the brokenness of the perpetrator.
As discussed in previous posts, we do not have a legal, judicial, contractual gospel. At the heart of Christianity, justice is not retributive, it is restorative and redemptive.
If this is true, do we expect grace for these monsters – for Sandusky, for Hitler, for our personal enemies? How could this be? That would mean that the guilty one is forgiven, the undeserving one is set free.
In situations as vile as the Sandusky abuse, it is not uncommon for Christians to desire the worst punishment imaginable. Hell is for people like this, right?
I understand that sentiment, really I do. But it isn’t Christianity. If grace is not true for the worst of men, then it is not true for the best of men. Reckless grace is central to the Christian faith. The forgiveness and mercy that I desire for myself must also be available for my enemy.
Ultimately, we want and need a deity who will passionately oppose evil. We have an expectation and trust that evil will be conquered and that goodness will prevail. Whatever we understand about the love of God, we know that He can and will defeat evil. We understand that in His justice, all will be made right, as it should be.
Typically we are afraid of the idea of God’s judgment. We must remember that His judgment is not punishing; we will not be sentenced according to our merit. We will experience judgment at the loving hands of Our Father. For those of us who already trust Him, perhaps this is not hard to imagine. Whatever evil, toxic, or unhealthy things that remain in our being will be exposed to the purifying fire of His love. Perhaps this will be painful, but it is what we want and need the most. It is the completion of our healing.
The beauty of the wrath of God is that evil throughout the cosmos will ultimately be destroyed, from among us and within us. As those who follow Christ and adhere to the Christian faith, we cannot equate this with everyone getting what they deserve. Yet we trust that in the end all will be set right.
The beauty of the wrath of God is an emphatic righteous verdict against evil. It is the rescue of the oppressed from the power of the enemy. It is the restoration of creation and humanity to the goodness that was intended.