United Church of Christ

Judgy Jesus

Jesus said, “Woe to you, towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum! On the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you. You will be brought down to Hades.” - Matthew 11:21-23 (abridged)

There are several common ideas about the Bible that make me uncomfortable. One in particular makes me gag: casting the God of the so-called “Old Testament” as a wrathful, vindictive judge, while portraying a more cuddly God of love and grace in the “New Testament.”

This dichotomy is not only false, it’s also anti-Semitic.

Grace and forgiveness were not invented by the church. Grace is all over Hebrew Scripture as chesed, God’s loving kindness. And there is no shortage of judgy, wrathful God-moments in the New Testament such as the one above. (Have you read the book of Revelation lately?)

In short, don’t fall for the divine, dual-personality theory. God is gracious and wrathful through the Bible. We need both.

Yes, we need God’s wrath as much as God’s grace. We need a God who is not impassive in the face of cruelty and injustice, a God who hears the cries of the oppressed and overturns the tables, as much as we celebrate a God who offers grace when we get it wrong.

Prayer
God help me to be more like you: quick to call out injustice and even quicker to forgive.

Small Group Discussion

ddauthormattlaney2014.pngAbout the Author
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.

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