Psalm 1:1-2, 3-4, 6
As I struggled with these readings, I remembered being forced to read the Puritan sermon ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” as a high school sophomore. Then an incident from my son’s sophomore year at Creighton Prep helped put the justice of God embodied in these readings in perspective.
My son was a good kid but he and his best friend got caught violating the school’s alcohol policy. The dean of discipline informed them of their penalties including a month’s suspension from the cross country team. The dean, their coach and teachers let the boys know how much they cared for them and that they expected better from them. It was the exact dose of tough love that the boys needed; it helped keep them safe for the next three years.
Our era shrinks from absolute standards and brutal penalties like cutting hands off, as Jesus suggests. But Jesus’ message is clear and much like the one my son encountered in the wise justice administered at Prep.
God has rules and He will enforce them for our own good. His justice assumes that we will avoid sin if we know the penalties for violations. Sometimes we need a dose of tough love like today’s readings to stay on the straight and narrow.
We part from the Puritans and others who invoke unreasonable fear of God in good people by stressing the love inherent in God’s justice. Just like the dean of discipline at Prep kept my son safe from temptation because he enforced consequences, so it is with God. God WANTS to protect us from our harmful impulses to sin. He WANTS to grant us salvation. Jesus emphatically tells us what we must and must not do and why.
Because He loves us.
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