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Have you ever found stories in the bible that bothered you? Ones that were difficult to make sense of? I know I have. Whether it was the man struck dead for steadying the Arc (2 Sam. 6:7), God commanding armies to slay children (1 Sam. 15:3), or God commanding the Israelites to stone to death a man who was found merely gathering wood on the sabbath day (Num. 15:32-36). These such stories make me grieve and often leave me wondering, how can a God who is so loving deal so brutally with a person who's violation seems so minimal.


Disclaimer: God is a personable God and not a cosmic vending machine so we're not looking at Him like He's a formula in which we have Him all figured out. His reasons for addressing sin harshly span into His other attributes such His holiness for one. While we'll touch on those, I intend to address the title question and how can we reconcile God who's the embodiment of love (1 John 4:8, 16) and God who responds so harshly to sin.


Well, let me start by saying the problem isn't God. It's me. More specifically, my eyes and my point of view. From my fallen state I see things from my perspective and from familiarity with the elementary principles of the world I question the ways of God Whom is outside this world (Isa. 55:8-9). So with this I've prayed for wisdom (Jam. 1:5) and what I've learned made me cry tears of joy.


Why do you hate when bad things happen to that which you love? That which you really love, like your children, you go to extra lengths to protect, to cultivate, to cherish (Eph. 5:29, Jer. 31:3, Isa. 40:11, John 3:16, 2 Cor. 11:2).


The question shouldn't be "how can a God who is loving react so negatively toward sinners", but rather "how can God, because He is so loving, react any way but with utmost hatred toward sin."


"Sure Ryan, I hate when my mother spoils our kids but I'm not about to call the cops on her and have her sent to jail, or worse, have her put to death for it".


From out view point we feel some sins are worthy of capital punishment (death) but most aren't. We'll send the rapist and murderers to the electric chair, maybe, but for crossing the street where it's not designated to; would we stone to death a jaywalker? Yet God warned Adam and Even, if you eat from the tree which I commanded you not to, in that day you will surely die (Gen. 2:17). Some might argue even that the electric chair is more humane than being stoned to death. On that note, I've often wondered how those tossing the stones could bring themselves to do it. A couple days ago I was digging holes to plant some fruit trees and when I saw a worm I was careful with my shovel to not hurt it but to transport it within the clump of dirt it resided (I know I know, I'm a softy). So yes I struggle to make sense of these seemingly overreactions to sin but that's because my perspective is limited.


You know something I love, working in my orchard. I'm new at it and I thank God for the provisions to be able to have a bit of land that I can plant trees. It's not easy work though. Not only do I have to prepare the soil, dig holes, add dirt, plant the trees, water the trees, debug the trees, and tend to them, but I also have to deal with those that are a physical threat to my freshly planted trees. Unfortunately, I learn this the hard way. We bought a new house (our first one) about 3 years ago and at my old house I didn't have enough room for a fire pit let alone to plant trees. So I really appreciate being able to do this. You know what else I love, plums! So guess what the first tree I planted was? A plum tree, then another plum tree right next to it. I even took time to square them upright, well the 2nd one, the first one I didn't and now it leans which bugs me because I like things just right. I check on my trees almost daily. Well one day I went away on vacation and hired a house sitter to watch the house and tend to our plants. Unfortunately for him, before he awoke, the plum trees were decimated. Not only were they stripped of all their plums that were almost ripe but they were stripped of all their leaves and branches too... On one tree it was every branch, I had a stump..looked like a twig in the ground. Well long story short, I found around 5 in the morning, one deer slaughtered both plum trees. Just one deer.. Now normally I can't hurt a worm, but this time, this time I wanted to kill the deer.


Now how can the same person who can't bear to hurt a worm now want to kill a deer? Did the deer intend me evil? Nope. But I was furious that something I cared after was hurt. Should I expect the deer to be respectful? Nope. They are deer. Does that change the fact I hate something hurting that which I care for, that it somehow doesn't upset me when the one doing it doesn't know better? Nope, because that which I care for is still being hurt. Everyone wants to stop something from hurting that which they love, even if the offender doesn't know it's an offense (Num. 15:27, Luke 12:48). Here's my conundrum. I also love the deer. We lived in the city before, now out in the country we've gotten to enjoy much wildlife! Horses, sheep, llama's at the neighbors, deer, rabbits, mountain beavers, and more in our own yard. So what do I do. I don't want my trees destroyed but I don't want to kill the deer. So I draw a line. Not like I would with my neighbor if he were the culprit behind it, no I draw a line the deer should understand. I put up a fence. This way I can have an orchard and still welcome the deer into my yard.


[I think the one 2nd from the left might be pregnant!]


This is all fine for deer. But what about man? We see time and time again that God doesn't want to punish the righteous with the wicked (Matt. 13:29, Gen. 18:27-33, 2 Pet. 3:9), so God could take away everyone's freedom so they couldn't sin but He would also be taking away the freedom of those righteous to do good (Gal. 5:1, 1 Cor. 10:23). So you draw lines, you set rules. You passionately set rules. You so desire for the righteous to do righteousness and for the wicked to turn from their ways to do righteousness that you enforce those rules fiercely. Not with the intention to be wrathful, just the opposite, with the intention to encourage good as to help them avoid your wrath. I put up the fence so the deer could be spared. If I was just out to get the deer there are plenty of opportunities to shoot them (they come through often) but that is not my hearts desire, nor is it God's toward men.


11 Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ - Ezekiel 33:11


Until I understood God hating sin so much because He loved so much I struggled to reconcile a God whom took notice every time a bird fell to the ground (Matt. 10:29), a God who so clothes the lilies which are here today and gone tomorrow (Matt. 6:30), a God who has every hair on our head numbered (Matt. 10:30) with a God who so harshly would punish for sin. I read verses like that above on how God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather they repent and live; and then on the other hand a God who had this man stoned to death because such a man was found gathering wood on the sabbath day. I'm confident that in the heart of God wasn't pleasure in this man's death (as Eze. 33:11, Eze. 18:23 tell us) but rather one that wants righteousness and a way of being righteous with God preserved (Jer. 9:24). Have you ever said the phrase "don't make me kill you!"? I have. I've said it to bugs who bugged me and to the deer before I put up a fence. Now imagine if I saw that deer chewing at my fence? Pulling at the fabric that held it together or seeing it repeatedly jumping against it until the fence gave way. What do I do then? That's a crazy notion with deer but is it so crazy with man? Until I understood more of God's love for righteousness among the people I often struggled to reconcile the God of the old testament with that of the new. So I prayed.


The more you love something the more you hate when bad things happen to it. The more you cherish something the more you hate that which would ruin it so you take measures to protect it. If it's trees, you put up a fence, if it's people you set up rules.


But what happens when one thing you cherish destroys another thing you cherish? Or what happens when the thing you cherish is destroying itself? It's one thing to shoot a burglar entering the house to protect your family, but what happens when that burglar is your prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)? How does God punish the sin but not destroy the sinner with it? How does God protect the sinner whom He loves (Rom. 5:8) and yet condemn the sin which is destroying them (Rom. 8:3, Matt. 1:21b)?


The answer to my prayer for wisdom on this started with, "Do you think Jesus was crucified for what merely deserved a slap on the wrist?" God hates sin more than you can imagine yet God loves us more than you can imagine (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8). The rules were created because God loves us, the penalty was put in place because God loves us, and Jesus paying that penalty in full was because God loves us, and His love doesn't stop there (Rom. 8:32). OK God, you hate sin, but you also hate us enduring the punishment of our sin. So I explored from here forward knowing the heart of God was not one who would compromise righteousness but still rather we would not endure the punishment and consequence of our own sin. Amazingly, because of His great love (Eph. 2:4, Rom. 5:8), God would rather crush Jesus than not see His offspring (Isa. 53:10). Jesus would rather endure the cross than see us endure it (Heb. 12:2).


Until we understand the gravity of the situation we are in, that God is Holy and we are not, we cannot appreciate properly the grace we receive which was made available to us through Christ's finished work on the cross. After all, who grabs a life ring unless they first understand the boat they are on is sinking?


We are saturated in our sinful world. In God's ideal world the wolf and the lamb graze together, the lion will eat straw like the ox, (and some day that will be a reality, Isa. 65:25). When we see someone committing minor sins we measure it "minor" according to our experience which is saturated with sin and that combined with our finite knowledge makes it not seem so bad. When God sees sin, He measures it according to Himself whom cannot look upon sin. God requires perfection (Matt. 5:48), God requires us to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16), therefore there is no "minor sin". You are either perfect or you are disqualified.


10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. - James 2:10


Why does God hate sin so much? Is it because He's so uppity? No! God is gentle and humble of heart (Matt. 11:29). So why does God hate sin so, even the "minor" ones? It's because of the ramifications of it, and who knows better than Him with all wisdom and love. I would argue God's hatred of sin is actually because God is so loving, even the embodiment of love (1 John 4:8, 16) and wants what is best for us and therefore wants us to be untainted, undefiled, without rust, rot, or blemish, a holy people. The entire law and prophets was given on the foundation of love.


36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 22:36-40 (emphasis mine).


In other words, the sending of the Law and the Prophets at it's core purpose was according to the character of God (1 John 4:8, 16) and meant to encourage love and result in life (Matt. 22:40, Rom. 7:10). This is why law is good (Rom. 7:12). Even Jesus, when speaking to the scribes and Pharisees held them accountable for missing the weightier provisions of the law such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23).


Justice is an interesting thing.


24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. - Jeremiah 9:24


We easily believe in God who would delight in exercising lovingkindness on the earth but one who would exercise justice? What do we make of that. Righteousness? Sure. Lovingkindness? Of course. So what do we make of justice?


Justice isn't merely punishment for evil but it's more encompassing than that. Justice is preserving what's right and when need be, righting a wrong. From God's perspective justice is bringing mankind into alignment with His character which is perfectly just. Even as men with sinful natures we feel a sense of justice due when someone wrongs another. How many times I've seen people applaud when a troublemaker is caught, when a parent disciplines their unruly child. Countless videos on YouTube are titled "instant justice" and viewed by millions who find satisfaction that such wrong-doers are getting exactly what they deserve.


Can I tell you something sobering? You're a wrong-doer and you deserve Hell (James 2:10). Hell is where people go who do not qualify to be with God in heaven. It says in scripture that God hates all who do inequity (Psa. 5:5). In God's perfect world there is nobody who acts unloving toward each other, there is none selfish, none rude, none given to anger, jealousy, and envy, none who lie, none arrogant, none who brag; in God's perfect world there is no sin nor the effects that sin has on us and on the world (Rom. 8:19-23) and that includes death.


Why does God hate sin so much? Because sin hurts those whom He loves in ways so great that we being saturated in it cannot see as clearly as Him who is not tainted by it at all. God hates sin because sin operates contrary to His nature, God hates sin because sin hurts us. Yes God harshly deals with sin, but God also clearly sees how it affects us (Deut. 20:18).


In current times there is not only Covid-19 running rampant but there are people doing atrocious things in the name of their cause. One thing I've found interesting is that beyond the physical violence, and greater acts of destruction, they are pulling down our statues. Now compared to the greater crimes the tearing down of statues seems trivial. Some they are pulling down are figures that stood for what they are claiming is their cause, but the mindset they are in is not one of reason. In regards to the statue I found a video of a young lady from Venezuela exhorting us in an online video that we don't let them tear down our statues, that we don't take such things sitting down. Why? Because in her words, "that's how it starts". If you know Venezuela's recent history, they went from the richest country in South America to one of war and great poverty, and that in just a short amount of time.


When you don't address rust quick, it spreads quick. When you don't address rot, the rot takes over. A little food coloring pollutes the entire cup of water. A little leaven leavens the entire lump of dough (Gal. 5:9).


So how can we reconcile a God who is merciful with a God who is wrathful? In one word, love. Both mercy and wrath stem from a God who is loving. Does God delight in being wrathful? No (Eze. 18:23, 33:11). It's not that God delights in being wrathful, but rather God hates anything that's not loving, remember that was the very reason, the very motivation the entire law and the prophets rest on (Matt. 22:40). Would I kill the deer if they persisting after my trees? I don't know, perhaps if I'm furious enough, but I'm hoping my fence will keep me from having a reason to be angry and forcing me to make such a decision.


When you research the Mosiac Law, all 613 commandments, some such as the more famous 10 commandments make sense to us and do seem loving such as do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, honor your father and mother and so-on. I would argue that someone would be hard pressed to read the old testament including the Mosiac Law and prophetic writings and not see a God who has a profound care for the poor, the oppressed, the down-trodden, the orphan, and so-on. Some laws and stories seemingly don't make as much sense to us because we view them from our sinful, finite viewpoint. Jesus is assuring us they all stem from a motivation of love. The law wasn't given to be an avenue of death for us but rather those laws were given to result in life (Rom. 7:10, 13). Sin is what killed us (Rom. 7:11, 13).


God's standards are to be as perfect as Him (Matt. 5:48) and since He is love (1 John 4:8,16) that is what is required of us. God wants others to be as good and loving to you as He is to you and He wants you to be as good and loving to others as He is to them. Anything less than that, unless God lowers His standards, is unacceptable, and in His mind, unthinkable (Jer. 19:5, 32:35).


If God lowered His standard then heaven would not be so heavenly. God keeping His standard is not only beneficial in this present age but also in the age to come.


When you see God enacting what seems to be harsh in the old testament it does not mean the absence of love. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom  (Prov. 9:10). The law was intended to result in life and even though sin took opportunity through it to kill us, God still intends for the law to lead us to life (Gal. 3:24), that is to Christ whom is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John. 14:6). Perhaps the world's most popular and well known hymn, Amazing grace, testifies of this relationship "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved".


God, because of His great love can't stand injustice, in fact, God NEVER allows for one iota of injustice (Matt. 5:18), but He also loves you immensely (John 3:16). So God had a conundrum...Gospel incoming.


God on one hand will not lower His standards and therefore justice must be served. On the other, God can't bear the thought of not seeing you in heaven. So what does He do? He sends Jesus, His only begotten Son. Jesus, through His finish work on the cross appeases all aspects of God. God's requirement of a righteous life is met in Christ's life; God's righteous requirement of justice for sin is met by Christ's crucifixion, and God's lovingkindness is freed to do what it always wanted to do, to lavish His grace on us!


Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. - Isa. 30:18


It says in scripture that Jesus, in representing the Father, is "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Heb. 1:3). Jesus said to Philip "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). So let me say this. The next time you are struggling with understanding God as you read some difficult passages, ask yourself if the image of God conjuring up in your mind reflects the Jesus whom you know, the Jesus whom the apostles testified of. Jesus perfectly represents the Father (John 9:10) so if the depiction in your mind doesn't line up with that of Jesus then understand that you do not understand and suspend judgment on difficult passages and pray for wisdom that you may understand them. God doesn't take pleasure in the death of the wicked nor did He send Jesus in order to condemn the world. Many are well familiar with John 3:16 but there is so much wealth in understanding the heart of God in the verses that follow it:


17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. - John 3:17


Hell was not made for man (Matt. 25:41).


I don't plant trees in order to tempt the deer that I may shoot them, neither did God give the law that He may condemn those under it but rather, even when a man is worthy of condemnation, it is not God's heart to condemn that man but rather to save Him at His own expense. My fence costs me money, more than the trees I planted. But it was a provision that allowed my trees to be protected and the deer to continued being welcomed so I happily paid the price. That is my heart and I am evil (Matt. 7:11). How much more God loves you! (Rom. 5:8). How much more you are worth to Him! (Matt. 10:31).


On a side note I planted more trees recently, another row in front of that which you saw above but my order for more fencing was delayed unexpectedly, I got the poles, just not the deer netting. I was a bit uneasy because the deer are always around but the fencing wouldn't arrive for a few more weeks. So what did I do? This may please some of you if you chuckled above at me protecting worms as I dug. Here is a makeshift fence I made out of supplies I had left over from other projects. That should suffice (I hope) until the real stuff arrives.



Thank God we are no longer under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14). Therefore now, amazingly... when we who are under grace sin, Jesus takes (or rather took) the penalty...for all of them. When God says "I don't want to have to kill you", Jesus says I agree Father, I don't want you to have to kill them either, therefore I will take their place and they will take Mine and it pleased both of them (Isa. 53:10, Heb. 12:2).


He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21


I once heard a theologian say that if God gave me His power I would make many changes in the world, but if He also gave me His wisdom I would leave everything exactly like it is.


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Have some feedback, insight, questions, comments, prayer requests, etc? Maybe you just want to share what God is doing in your life (I love praise reports), or maybe you can relate to some of the things here and need an ear. I'd love to hear from you!