Q&R: Are we seeing God’s vengeance now? Brad Jersak
Thanks for your question. I think the key term in your question is SEEMS.
Where do we actually see God taking vengeance today?
I can’t think of any examples where I see God literally and directly taking vengeance, if we mean by that actively intervening to cause harm through violent retaliation (which is the definition of vengeance). In fact, if God IS doing that, God SEEMS quite incompetent at directing that vengeance with any accuracy or equity. E.g., innocent children are being killed in wars around the world; epidemics are killing the old and most vulnerable, and natural disasters fail to discriminate between the righteous and the wicked, etc.
But when the world is on fire, so to speak, it CAN certainly seem like God is pouring out wrath in the same way that the sun seems to rise every morning (from a human perspective) when, in reality, it’s actually our world that is turning. Just so, the God who is never-ending love continually offers grace to humankind and a path (the Jesus Way) toward human flourishing. When we turn from the Light of grace and leave the Jesus Way of Love, we collectively create a “shadow” in which all manner of disasters can and do happen. The shadow of human disobedience causes harm to ourselves, to others, to the innocent, and to the world. We don’t often even know who causes the carnage, but Jesus declared repeatedly that it is not from our loving heavenly Father.
Still, when the world turns from God and bad things begin to happen, it can seem as if those tragedies are God’s vengeance. But James’ little epistle says that “every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, and in him is no shadow of turning.” What looks to us like divine vengeance are the consequences of our own turning. And because God is love, God does not force or coerce our turning. Sometimes the consequences themselves generate repentance. But for God’s part, what we have is a divine invitation to come home. God even came to call us in person (in Christ) and continues to do so (in the Holy Spirit), urging us by love to freely return.
This is precisely instead of and the opposite of taking vengeance, regardless of how it seems. The prodigal son(s) parable is a good example. Both the younger hedonist and the older legalist freely and foolishly left the household to ‘slave away’ in their respective fields. Eventually, they both suffer for it. But was that God’s vengeance? No. There is only an open-armed invitation to both to return home. This is how Jesus sees the human race and the welcome he never stops extending as his gospel.
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