Love vs. Justice
For he chose the way of the cross, where mercy triumphs over justice because of love.
(God the “Father” speaking of Jesus in The Shack, pg. 164)
In our modern, feminized version of Christianity, many find the thought of God exercising judgment upon men distasteful (even immoral). Or some, like best-selling author William Young, pit God’s love against His justice. But is it true that a good god would never punish people, or that God would forgo justice in the name of love?
When God created man, he created him “good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness”; however, after succumbing to the temptation of the devil, our first parents rebelled against our creator. Because of this disobedience, “our nature became so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.” Furthermore, because of our corrupt nature, “we are wholly unapt to any good and prone to all evil.” This means that we are not only born with Adam’s guilt (because he represented us all before God), but we also “daily increase our guilt” through our own sins.
Although God is merciful He is also just, and will not allow our sins (i.e., not conforming to, or acting against, His law) to go unpunished. How can mortal man escape this just judgment? How can we sinful mortals repay a debt owed stemming from crimes committed against an infinitely holy God? How can we “escape this punishment and be again received into favor?” Answer: Satisfaction must be made “either by ourselves or by another.”
But, because we “daily increase our guilt,” we ourselves cannot make such satisfaction. Furthermore, no “mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin.” It seems hopeless. The only way to bridge the chasm separating us and God is to have a mediator and redeemer “who is a true and sinless man, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is at the same time true God.” But who is such a mediator and redeemer? “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is freely given us for complete redemption and righteousness.”
(All quotes taken from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q and A 6 – 18.)
God as Judge
As seen above, mankind has rebelled, and continues to rebel, against his God and has earned the Creator’s wrath. God, however, has made a way of escape—faith in Jesus Christ. By rejecting that way of escape, men will stand before the Just Judge of the Universe and give an account. Their punishment will fit their crimes; since these men can never repay the dept owed, they will bare God’s wrath for eternity. This is just. It also matches their desire—they wanted nothing to do with God, and they’ll get their wish, forever.
It would be unjust for God to simply say, “Hey, no problem. I’m a loving God. Here’s your Get Out of Jail Free card.” For example, if Mr. Young was robbed and assaulted, and went to the police to swear out a complaint, would he be satisfied if they said, “We caught the guy, but let him go because we’re a loving police station”? Do you think Mr. Young would respond, “Great! I’m so glad that mercy triumphed over justice because of love.” On the contrary, I bet he would rail against such an injustice.
The truth is, if you sacrifice justice for love, you have likewise sacrificed love—for love demands justice. Thankfully, this is a false dilemma—one does not have to be sacrificed for the other. God is both loving and just—and we see both God’s love and His justice in the doing and dying of Christ.