Judgment and Mercy

10 Pentecost, July 28

First reading and psalm: Hosea 1:2-10 • Ps. 85

Alternate: Gen. 18:20-32 • Ps. 138 • Col. 2:6-15, (16-19) • Luke 11:1-13

Abraham, presented as the voice of reason, invites God to think. “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:23) What if there are 50 or 45 or 40 or 30 or 20 or 10 who are righteous? “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it,” God says of the sinning cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (18:32). The hand of the Lord is stayed for a time. Still, how very grave their sin! Finally, “the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Gen.19:24). Preachers who never mention judgment do not imbibe the Bible. Judgment stands, in the face of which we can only hope: “You have forgiven the iniquity of your people and blotted out their sins” (Ps. 85:2).

Discomfort with judgment is the sting of truth. God sees. We hide under the comic cover of fig leaves. The God of all-seeing truth is not, however, without loving-kindness. For God shows his power chiefly in showing mercy, giving our ancient parents “breeches” for protection (Gen. 3:21, Geneva Bible).

The story of Hosea and Hosea’s God is enacted upon a wide and universal stage, a vivid mystery play of the nation under judgment and mercy. The prophet is called to take “a wife of whoredom,” called more kindly “Gomer daughter of Diblaim” (Hos. 1:2-3). The children, born of whoredom, bear the names Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah, and Lo-ammi, meaning “I will punish the house of Jehu,” “I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel,” and “You are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hos. 1:9). The prophet, illustrating God’s love, takes Gomer as his wife; then, in judgment against her sin, leaves her; and, finally, returns to her in abiding love. “It shall be said to them, ‘You are children of the living God’” (Hos. 1:10). Judgment is ordered to repentance and salvation.

Do Christians know, is it well understood these days, is it stated with absolute clarity that this world is under judgment? Let me be clear, Alexander Schmemann being my helper: “Christianity does not condemn the world!” (For the Life of the World, p. 11). We want to address needs and program the world and the Church to perfection, and so let us say again that Christianity does not condemn the world. It doesn’t need to. “The world has condemned itself when on Calvary it condemned the One who was its true life” (idem., and John 1:10). In this sense, the world is whoredom and infidelity, fire and the smell of sulfur. We are clean cut off. God’s mercy is not the work of another higher god, but the purpose and end of divine judgment. God is making all things new. How?

God calls us to leave a fallen world in the grip of the father of lies — projects, goals, ambition, politics, parents, children, lands — the whole intractable mixture of good and evil, beauties and brutalities. Unable to sift the wheat from the chaff, we go with gusto toward death and nothingness. Thus God calls us to his Son, where we find “the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation,” and learn that “through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things” (Col. 1:15-20). We “come to fullness in him” (Col. 2:10). Finding fullness, we continue ever to “live in him,” for there is no place else to live.

Look It Up
Read John 6:68. You could leave, but where would you go?

Think About It
Staying in Christ is the key to loving everywhere, everything, and everyone.


Online Archives