Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 11th, 2010

Barbara Dilly

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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Old Testament lessons frequently talk about God’s wrath and judgment.  I am often confronted by fellow Christians who come from non-denominational sects who seem highly preoccupied by these texts.  They argue that God’s wrath needs to be a central concern in our life lest we be cast out and struck down into eternal damnation for our sins.  It is God’s wrath, they argue, not God’s love, that is what we should recognize is the basis of God’s mighty power and glory.  It is fear that God wants from us, they say, not just love.  From this perspective, even God’s love for us is conditional.  We need to earn it.   In contrast, I look at the Old Testament lesson for today from the perspective of God’s saving power and see where God judges the sin, not humanity.   But it is hard to make that point to people who believe the literal words that say old men, youths, maidens, women and children were struck down because of the abominations that were practiced.   They can point to plenty of verses in the Old Testament where God’s wrath was awesome in deed.

As I reflect on today’s lessons, I think about my fundamentalist brothers and sisters and how they reflect on the Psalms as well.  When I read that the glory of the Lord is higher than the skies, I think about the power of the Lord as love.  They think about the power of the Lord as judgment.   If we take the verses out of context and think about them from the perspective of fear and awe, I can see how they can make a case for a distant God who looks down on us with judgment.     
I can also see how they can see judgment in the Gospel lesson for today. In fact, it looks like Jesus is giving his disciples the power to pass judgment on a brother, and that judgment will hold in heaven.   That passage gives some Christians the justification to deal harshly with each other.  I know plenty of them.  As I reflect on the lessons for today, I think of these groups of people and find it difficult to condemn them because they are doing what they think is right and what they believe the Bible tells them to do.   But I have been taught a different way to respect God and to praise the Lord.  I think mainstream Christians are all pretty much alike in sharing a deeper understanding of God’s love for humanity.  We have been taught that God wants us to respect his power and to praise his glory, out of love, not fear of judgment.  We believe that God wants us to hold each other accountable for our sins against each other out of love for each other.   Even the Amish, who are quite literal in their interpretation of the Bible, focus more on God’s love and love of one’s fellow man as a way of guiding their community interaction.

From this perspective of the power of God’s love, we ought to have the courage to confront those who sin against us and to expect that as members of the church community we will be held accountable for our sins against each other.  We don’t need to ignore sin just because we don’t condemn the sinner.  But we should expect to be as loving toward each other in these confrontations as Christ is to us.  Jesus tells the disciples that the church community is a powerful extension of heaven when so few as even two or three gather in his name.   But it seems to me that we need to remember that Jesus is really in the midst of us when we gather in his name.  That would call us to be very careful when we tell each other about our faults.   There’s a pretty good chance that we just might win them over.  That’s because the Lord is all powerful!
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