Justice and wanting to hurt someone are never the same

It’s so easy to hurt someone when they hurt you. Have you noticed that? If someone makes you angry, automatically you want to make them feel anger. If someone hurts your feelings, your automatic response is to hurt them in return.

That’s human nature. And what’s more that’s how the world tells us we’re supposed to live. In the words of the inimitable Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Joss Whedon’s Firefly: “If someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ’em right back!”

That’s how we’re wired. And, honestly, it just makes sense. You have to stand up for yourself. You can’t let people think they can push you around. Can you?

accuseToday’s verse is 1 Peter 3:9.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

When another person takes something from you or hurts you in some way, what are you supposed to do? Culturally speaking, this varies from country to country, mostly depending on what sort of laws are in place to protect private citizens. The United States is very blessed to have the law enforcement officers who genuinely want to protect others and who work every day to uphold the law. America may not be what she used to be, but we’re still the most fortunate country in the world. Our laws are still designed to protect people for the most part.

But what about in a Third World country where there is no law? What about in a country with a vicious regime dedicated to genocide or religious persecution? What about a country whose laws exist to benefit the rulers rather than the common people?

I do believe there is a line to be drawn. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with standing up for yourself or your beliefs. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with protecting what is rightfully yours. Where that line needs to be drawn is motivation.

It’s not wrong to want justice when you’re wronged. It’s not wrong to protect your family or the people you love when they are being threatened. But before you go to respond to someone who has hurt you, stop and think for a minute and take a good long look at your heart.

Do you want to hurt them back because you’re hurting? Most likely, that’s what’s motivating you. When we are hurt, we want to hurt others. That’s our nature. But if you’re a Christ-follower, you have a second nature to draw on–your redeemed nature through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s one thing to want justice. It’s something else to want to hurt someone just because they hurt you or someone you love. Justice is fair and even, a requirement for law and order. Wanting to hurt someone because they hurt you is more like revenge. And the two are never the same.

Besides, ultimately, justice isn’t even our responsibility. It’s God’s. God has promised justice to His children. It’s all over the Bible, but somehow we still forget.

If someone has hurt you, it’s a horrible thing. Maybe it’s physical. Maybe it’s mental or emotional. Maybe you were publicly embarrassed. Maybe you wrote a blog post that sent the internet into a vicious uproar. Maybe people said all sorts of mean, hateful things to you. What’s the best thing to do in response?

The Bible says bless them. That means to say good things about them. Maybe you can’t think of anything good to say about them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t focus on what you learned from the experience.

Yes, they were wrong. Yes, you were a victim. But God’s still in control. He still knows what He’s doing. And if you belong to Him, He won’t let any wrong go unpunished. You just need to let it go and let Him work it out.

What hurt are you holding on to today? It’s not worth your life. It’s not worth your happiness. And it’s definitely not worth distracting you from your relationship with God.

Choose to see the hurts in your life as something you can learn from. Don’t snap back. Don’t take the same low road as your accusers. That won’t accomplish anything.

Instead, choose to see cruelty and general meanness of the world as an opportunity to grow. It will make you stronger, and God has promised to bless you in return.

Shaggy donkey at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

How assumptions can damage your relationships

Say it’s been a month since you talked to someone. And it’s not someone you know extremely well—more of an acquaintance. After that month passes, do you think any differently of that person? Do the whispers start in your brain that maybe they don’t like you and that’s why they haven’t tried to communicate with you?

I’m an introvert. But being an introvert doesn’t make you shy, though most shy people are introverts. I can be shy when I’m in a new situation or when I’m forced to interact with people I respect a lot. When I’m around people I’m comfortable with, I’ll talk your ear off. But I won’t chase you down to tell you a story. I’m one of those weirdos who waits until you come up to me and express interest in me—then I’ll tell you stories ‘til I’m blue in the face.

But if other people don’t make the effort to talk to me, I don’t even think about pursuing them, unless it’s someone within my really tight circle. And then, it’s not instinctual. I have to remind myself to reach out to people I love. It’s not my default.

For people I’m already very close to, I assume they know I love them. For people I’m only acquaintances with, I assume they don’t like me or I annoy them or they just aren’t interested in me or my life or my perspective.

But there’s an old saying about making assumptions, which I won’t repeat here. But I’m willing to bet most people have heard it. And I was reminded yesterday about the dangers of assuming and how it can cause harm to your relationships.

Shaggy donkey at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Shaggy donkey at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 11:3.

He will delight in obeying the Lord.
    He will not judge by appearance
    nor make a decision based on hearsay.

So how do you get through life when you don’t know all the answers? Quite honestly, we just won’t know everything, and sometimes we’ll have to guess. But I believe there’s a difference between guessing and assuming. A guess implies that you’ve done your research, that you’ve done your best with a subject that has no real concrete answer, and you’ve made the best choice you could. An assumption implies that you’re just taking something for granted, whether it’s actually true or not.

No one should ever live life that way.

Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that you’re right. Don’t assume that someone else is wrong. Don’t assume everyone is happy with you. Don’t assume everyone is angry with you.

Now if you’re guessing—if you’re taking the facts and coming to a logical conclusion, that’s different. But assumption means you’re just choosing to believe something without even looking at the facts.

I hadn’t talked to this one person in ages. Ages and ages. And, to be very honest, I was half expecting that this person had decided I wasn’t really worth talking to. And it didn’t bother me too much. We aren’t close friends. So I assumed I just wasn’t important to this person anymore.

Why? No communication. For me, the introvert, I assumed that lack of communication mean this person no longer wanted to communicate with me anymore at all.

Guess what? I assumed wrong.

We ended up in a room together yesterday and had a great conversation with lots of laughing and storytelling and just general good times. I had stored up a list of things to talk about in the off chance I’d run into this person, and I went over them. And we agreed on every single one.

It was just entirely pleasant.

So I spent the rest of the afternoon kicking myself because I know better than to assume anything about relationships. Just because our positions had changed, just because our relationship had changed somewhat, didn’t mean this person didn’t want to talk to me anymore. It just meant the opportunity for us to talk at all had been greatly diminished. But that didn’t mean my opinion or perspective—or even me personally—was any less valuable.

It’s my own foolish insecurities whispering in my ear.

So who is that person in your life who you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Or maybe they haven’t spoken to you? Are you guessing that they aren’t interested in talking to you? Or are you assuming?

If you have definite evidence that they don’t want to be a part of your life, well that’s not an assumption. That’s a pretty fair guess, especially if they’ve made it clear that they want nothing to do with you.

But if you’re just being emotional about it? Be honest. If you’re just taking something personally? Or if you just have made the decision without any evidence? That’s not a good decision. Decisions made that way rarely turn out for the best.

If it’s a relationship you value, reach out to them. If it’s one you aren’t really interested in pursuing, don’t worry about it (why are you even concerned about it?). If you choose to assume something about them that isn’t true, you’re going to cause your friendship to break apart.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t assume. Don’t take anything for granted. Life is too short and friendships are too precious to risk because you’re scared of the truth.

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

Sometimes love is a better teacher than justice

Have you ever been driving and someone behind you is riding your bumper and acting like an absolute idiot? I’m usually okay at controlling what I say, but when it comes to bad drivers, a lot of my inhibitions fly out the window. Bad drivers upset me worse than almost any other person, mainly because in their irresponsibility they not only endanger their own lives but the lives of other people around them.

So after the guy who was riding your bumper needlessly for the last three miles zooms around you and disappears down the road at 90 mph, how do you feel? Relieved? Or vindictive? I hate to admit it, but a major part of me leans more toward the vindictive side. Then, suppose you encounter this driver again a little ways down the road, stuck on the shoulder with a flat tire or an empty gas tank. How do you feel then?

I wish I were a good enough Christian to tell you that I would pull over and have compassion on the poor idiot, but I’m not. Just being honest, I’d probably drive on and feel justified. After all, he’s getting the least of what he deserves. A flat tire or an empty gas tank isn’t a big deal, and it’s the least punishment he deserves for his reckless behavior.

On first blush, that’s probably the reaction everyone would have. That’s probably what any other driver would do. If the weather is okay and a gas station is close at hand, why not? Today’s verse tells us why not and reminds me that we’re not supposed to react like everyone else. As a Christ-follower, we are supposed to love.

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 13:6.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

The word it in this verse is love, but not just regular love. This is agape love, the word for the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love that allows us to love people who hurt us, who use us, who betray us, and it’s how we–as Christ followers–are supposed to live.

The way I see it, this is different from a speeder being pulled over or a drunk driver being arrested. To me, it’s good to see justice done. It’s good to see that people will be held accountable for their actions, but that is something that a law enforcement officer has to do. It’s not my job to determine crime and punishment for people just like me. Rather, it’s my job to love others no matter what they’ve done to me.

It’s easy for me to rejoice when someone else receives what I think is owed them. It’s not as easy to love that person in spite of how they hurt me or how they offended me or how they inconvenienced me.

Yes, my gut instinct is to leave a bad driver on the side of the road. Maybe he’ll think about his carelessness as he’s waiting for someone to come along and help him. But as Christ followers we’re not supposed to live by gut instinct. We’re supposed to live as Christ lived. We’re supposed to do things the way Christ would have done them. And what would Christ do in this situation? He’d stop and help the person in His path, no matter whether He thought they deserved their life lesson or not. Why? Because that’s love. And love is a far better teacher than vindictive self-righteousness any day.

So who is that person who drives you crazy? What are the circumstances that make you angry? And when do you want to sit back and watch as someone gets their just desserts? Try thinking about it from a different perspective. Try thinking about that person with the love that comes from God. Do they look any different to you now?

God is in charge of justice and revenge. God is in charge of doling out punishment. That’s not our arena, unless you’re a law enforcement officer or a member of the courts who are charged with upholding the law in our society. I don’t fit into one of those categories. I’m just an average Christ follower with a shamefully powerful tendency toward road rage. My job is to love people no matter what they’ve done to me.

You never know how God is going to use you. Sometimes love can teach lessons better than justice. Who knows? Maybe that person you stop to help would listen to you much sooner than they would listen to an authority. Maybe your one act of love helps save that person’s life as well as the lives of other drivers around him.

Snow on the chicken wire at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Do we have to deserve mercy?

Is it wise to show mercy to someone who refuses to learn? Is it a good idea to give mercy to someone who is just going to turn around and hurt others, someone who never had any intention of changing? No, we don’t know people’s hearts, and we can’t read people’s minds, and we should never judge. And we are commanded to love everyone. But are love and mercy the same?

 

Snow on the chicken wire at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the chicken wire at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 7:5-7.

But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever.

We often refer to God as being merciful because of the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for us. But even God’s mercy only extends so far, especially when the ones who are asking for it don’t hold up their end of the bargain. But what do these verses actually mean? Do we have to deserve mercy? Because if we have to deserve mercy, I think that would defeat the point. We deserve damnation. We deserve to be punished because of the way we live. That’s where mercy comes in.

But think about it this way: What’s the point of showing mercy to someone who has no intention of using it? Mercy is something that is given to you to use, but we have a choice in how to use it. We can either use it to help other people, or we can forget about it. We can conveniently misplace it. It can be like the Christmas present you got that you don’t think you need, that gets stuffed in a closet somewhere. But how are we to know who will use mercy and won’t? How can we tell?

Maybe I’m wrong, but this is the way I see it: We don’t know.

I can’t tell you what you are thinking in your heart. I can’t know the thoughts you have. Sometimes I have a pretty clear idea, but even the people I think are an open book can turn around and become someone completely different at the drop of a hat. And it turns out I didn’t know them at all.

Sometimes believers get full, I think. We get so full of the good things that God has done in our lives, and that’s awesome. Because if you are living the way God has told you to live, God blesses you. That’s the way it works. And the closer you get to God, the more He changes you to be like Him, the more blessings you receive. And there are times when I just stand and marvel at the life that God has given me, because I don’t deserve any of it. But I have the life I have because I chose to follow God even when it didn’t make sense. That was my choice. But it’s easy to get caught up in that and forget how merciful God really is.

Because you see, God does know our hearts. He knows my heart, and He knows your heart. He knows what we’re all thinking right now and what we’ll be thinking tomorrow and ten years from now. And because God knows whether or not we will take advantage of His mercy, He has every right to withhold it until we come to our senses and live the way He’s told us to live. But that’s God. He has that prerogative and right, and He is justified.

But I’m not God. I’m nobody. I’m just a little beggar who made a choice.

Maybe this is a poor example, but I finally got to see Les Misérables the other day. And this morning, at reading this verse, the only thing I can think of is one of the beginning scenes when Jean Valjean is taken in by that priest. Frightened and broken, Jean Valjean steals all that silver from the church and runs away, but he’s captured and dragged back by the police, but he claims that the priest gave him the silver. The police put him before the priest and ask if it’s true. The priest has every right to be angry; he’d showed kindness to a man who had nothing, and in return that man had stolen from him. But the priest doesn’t condemn him. He verifies to the police that he had indeed given the silver to Jean Valjean, and then he turns around and gives him the two silver candlesticks off the table.

Mercy. Mercy in spite of the fact that he deserved condemnation.

I can’t see people’s hearts. So I really don’t know people. But because God has been merciful to me and because God’s mercy is a part of my life, I want to live a life that shows mercy to others.  I can’t determine whether or not someone will take advantage of the mercy I’ve shown them. Granted, if I show them mercy and then they turn around and bash me over the head or stab me in the back, then I’ll know. And then there are other steps to take, but until you take a chance with people, you’ll never know for sure. And while one might crush your hopes and dreams, another might turn out to be the biggest blessing you’ve ever had.

So don’t be afraid to show mercy to people, especially if they don’t deserve it.

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

The habit of justice

It’s easy to roll with the crowd. Making decisions because the majority approves is easy. Going with the flow and talking like everyone else and never rocking the boat is easy. But when you start making choices that contradict the popular majority’s ideas, that’s when you stand out.

When you step back and refuse to do what everyone else does on a matter of principle, that’s when people start looking at you differently. That’s when you get blacklisted and made fun of and even verbally abused now, in our “tolerant” 21st Century culture.

Doing what’s right isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to us. We naturally want to be accepted by the crowd, but the crowd rarely does what is right.

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 106:1-3.

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
Who can ever praise him enough?
There is joy for those who deal justly with others
and always do what is right.

Whether you’re talking about your physical health or your mental health, everyone needs good habits. Habits don’t just appear in your life overnight, though. Habits are something you have to build, and building them can be time consuming and challenging.

Eating balanced meals (eating at all) is a healthy habit. Exercising is a healthy habit. Drinking enough water is a healthy habit. And none of those habits are instinctual, at least not for me. I have to do these things over and over until they become a habit in my life.

And the same is true for choosing whether or not to do the right thing. Doing the right thing rarely comes naturally to us. We are fallen, broken people, and our instinctive reaction is to look out for number one. And that’s when the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and reminds us that we belong to Christ now, and we should act like it.

But listening to the Holy Spirit is a habit. Just like reading the Bible. Just like choosing to do the right thing even when the rest of your crowd refuses.

You have to do the right thing over and over and over again. You have to choose to do the right thing constantly, and eventually you’ll get to the place where choosing to do the right thing is natural for you. It will become a habit.

But why is it important? Why can’t we just do whatever we want? God will love us anyway, won’t He?

Here are today’s verses in The Message:

Hallelujah! Thank God! And why? Because he’s good, because his love lasts. But who on earth can do it—declaim God’s mighty acts, broadcast all his praises? You’re one happy man when you do what’s right, one happy woman when you form the habit of justice.

Why is building the habit of doing the right thing important? Aside from the fact that it’s what God has called us to do because we are His representatives on earth, doing the right thing will bring you joy.

Ever wonder why people are so sour? There are a lot of reasons I’m sure, but how many people are weighed down by unhealthy habits, like going along with the crowd? How many people make bad decisions just because it’s the popular thing to do?

If you’re a Christian and you make a bad choice because it’s the “in thing” to do, the guilt is indescribable. Not because God is angry but because He is sad. And because you knew better.

Anyone brave enough to admit they know what I’m talking about? I’ve been there before. I’ve gone along with crowd because it was popular, and I’ve even made decisions that the Bible says are wrong because I didn’t want to push back. But the guilt that followed that decision was worse than any shunning those “friends” could have levied.

Make a habit of doing the right thing. Make a habit of making wise choices. Make a habit of rightness. And you’ll have joy.

Revenge!

I am a super overly protective friend. I also tend to be an overprotective sister and daughter. I just don’t do well at handling people who either hurt the people I love or say things about them that are hurtful. And many times, in seeking to protect the people I love, I have caused more problems than I have solved, generally because I go about it the wrong way.

Revenge is one of the most romanticized concepts in our culture. Taking vengeance for someone you love. Payback against the unfeeling machine of commercialism or the corporate world. It’s in almost every movie, exalted high on a pedastal that it should be the ultimate goal in any relationship, to hurt the ones who hurt you or to hurt the people who have hurt people you love.

It’s my first instinct to jump up and defend my loved ones immediately, regardless of what they have done or said that might have been hurtful. And when someone hurts someone I love, it’s my first response to jump in and hurt that person back. I mean, after all, there are a lot of ways to take revenge on people in today’s world. You don’t actually have to hurt anyone physically. There’s a marvelous little thing called Facebook with which you can verbally tear down someone’s reputation, especially if you have a gift with words.

But every time I am tempted to go after someone for hurting somebody I love, I usually get this nagging feeling in the back of my brain. Because it’s not my place.

And this is the verse God always uses to cool my overprotective temper off: 

Hebrews 10:30-31

30For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” 31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Okay.

I’m sorry, but this is a terrifying verse.

It’s one thing to fear retribution from another person. But to be on the receiving end of retribution directly from God? Think about that.

What could I do to a person who has hurt me or someone I love? I could say mean things about them. I could lead a campaign to convince others to believe lies about them. I could hurt them physically. I could end his or her life. (I’m totally speaking metaphorically, you realize. The thought of me doing anything harmful to some other person is kind of laughable actually, no matter what they’ve done, seeing that I can’t even point fingers at people who deserve it most of the time.)

 But what could God do to someone? Gosh. I don’t even want to think about it.

Now I know someone would say that God is a God of love and He would never take revenge on anyone. Well, that’s true. God is absolute love. But the thing about Someone Who is absolute is that we who are not absolute can’t understand Someone Who is. God is also absolute wrath.

And, honestly, I don’t think that God has taken revenge yet. He will. We just won’t be here to see it.

But there’s a specific part of this verse I want to focus on.

“The Lord will judge His own people.”

Again. Terrifying. This isn’t talking to people who don’t believe. His people is us, those of us who believe in Christ and follow Him. Now is this verse saying that God will judge us and punish us and send us to hell?

No. If you believe in Christ, there is nothing you can do that will cause God to turn His back on you. But even God’s children do things that are wrong and need to be punished. And it’s up to God to judge for Himself.

The Amplified Version says, “The Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.”

For those of us who are believers, God is watching us. God is paying attention to how we live our lives and how we treat others, and if we step out of line, you can know that He will judge how you are living and set you straight. Not in an eternal damnation sort of way, of course. We are already saved from that. But He may let you go through some things in your life to help you get your head on straight.

And for anyone who has been mistreated by a fellow Christian, you can believe that the God who is just is watching and won’t let His children get away with behavior that is unsuitable.

In either case, though, it isn’t our job to set things right. It’s not my job to jump in between God and one of His children to try to settle a problem in my own meager way. It’s not my job to jump between God and someone who needs to be chastized for their behavior. That’s neither my responsibility nor my right. How can I correct someone else when I’m just as guilty as they are?

In most circumstances, when someone hurts me or hurts someone I love, it is my job to sit back and pray and forgive that person and let God take care of it.

The rest of the story

I think a lot of Christians pick and choose what they want to read/believe out of the Bible. But if the Bible really is the Word of God, we should believe all of it. And if it isn’t, we should believe none of it. There’s no middle ground with Scripture. If even one part of it isn’t true, the whole thing goes down the drain.

There are so many people I know who read the Bible and only remember the verses they like, skimming over the verses (and the books) they don’t like. I was the same way when I was younger. You would have never caught me reading Habakkuk or any of the other Minor Prophet Books of the Old Testament; and you sure wouldn’t have seen me anywhere near Deuteronomy or Leviticus. They didn’t seem to make any sense.

But one day I guess I just got to thinking that avoiding those books was like picking and choosing what I believed about the Bible. And that’s not right. The Bible is whole and real and full and never lies, and the more you get to know it, the better you will get to know God and who He is and what He wants for your life.

And I will tell you that getting a modern translation (like the New Living Translation or the Message) helped immensely. The laws written in some of these books are peculiar enough to read without having to sort through 400-year-old English.

And while I love getting a daily Bible verse, sometimes I need to get deeper into a chapter or even a Book to understand the meaning of it. It’s never a good idea to pick a verse out of the Bible and think you can understand what it means without understanding its context.

The verse this morning is a good example:

Deuteronomy 7:9

9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

Yes! That’s an awesome verse about God’s faithfulness. And I can tell you right now I need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness. I’m kind of in a valley right now. I’m learning how to deal with the stuff going on in my life and to maintain my positive, joyful outlook on things. But most of the time I still feel like the time we went camping in Colorado and ended up in a valley, and we had to wait until nearly 10:00 am before we could see the sun over the tops of the mountains. I know God is out there and I know He’s working, but I can’t see Him yet. So remembering that God is faithful to me (and to everyone else) and loves me unfailingly is a great thing to remember.

But . . . is that ALL this verse is saying? Why is it there? What spurred the writer (Moses) to write this down? Well, obviously God told him to write it down, but what is the purpose for it?

This is one of those verses that I like to see and understand the context for the verse. Deuteronomy is especially important to make sure you have the right context for anything you take out.

So . . . . this is the whole paragraph:

Deuteronomy 7:7-11

 7 “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.

To really understand, you’d need to read the whole chapter (it’s a good read, actually; Deuteronomy is honestly a fun book), but God is warning the people of Israel not to marry the pagan people they are conquering on their journey to the Promised Land. God told them that He was going to deliver seven nations that were bigger and stronger than they were to the people of Israel, and He commanded them to destroy those nations entirely and not to intermarry with them. Because by intermarrying with them, the people who didn’t follow God would turn Israel’s heart away from God. (Sound familiar?)

This paragraph goes into why God is helping them. God didn’t save the people of Israel because they were so much better than everyone else. He saved the people of Israel because of the promise He made to Abraham, the Father of the Jewish Nation. Then, comes our single verse that we read above. However, it’s followed by a word that can mean something really great or something really scary: but.

God loves you, but . . .

Read Deuteronomy 7:9 and you get the idea that God is a God of faithful enduring love and nothing you can do would ever separate you from His love. And that’s true. Nothing will ever separate us from God’s love.

But

The verse next verse reminds us that, even though God loves us, He won’t hesitate “to punish and destroy those who reject Him.”

Why? He’s God. He is Sovereign. He has the right to punish and destroy whatever He wants because He made it all. We’re all blessed that He hasn’t punished and destroyed all of us simply for breathing, after everything that we’ve done to wreck the world He entrusted to us.

That’s something Christians like to forget about God. We want everyone to see that God is Love. And He is. God is synonymous with Love. But (there’s that word again) He is also a God of wrath. He is a God of justice. He is a God of perfection. And anyone who isn’t perfect (or that isn’t covered by the blood of His Perfect Son) can’t have anything to do with Him. And that person can’t say they are without excuse. Romans tells us that even nature itself screams that it was created by God. And those of us living in 21st Century America are inundated with the truth of Scripture; it’s just our pride that keeps us from accepting it.

God is indeed God.

He is faithful. He is loving. He is enduring. He will never give up on you or me. But He is constant and unshakable and He will not be anything less than He is, and that is a quality we all appreciate while it’s positive in our favor. Unshakably faithful. Unshakably loving. But what about Unshakable Perfection? Unshakable Justice? Unshakable Wrath? We don’t much care for that side of Him because when it’s aimed at us, we don’t feel like we deserve it.

See what I mean?

The Bible is an amazing Book, and we should never take it for granted. Don’t just take a verse someone gives you and assume they know what they’re talking about. Don’t just take a single verse out of Scripture and assume you can get everything you need to know from it. Read it. Read the whole chapter. Read the whole Book. It’s your responsibility to work out what you believe and why.

It’s worth it.

No ifs, ands, or buts.