God Exhibits Loving-Kindness in Enforcing Justice
ONE of God’s prophets, given a vision of divine execution of judgment against corrupt, vicious oppressors and worshipers of idols, petitioned God: “During the agitation, to show mercy may you remember.” (Hab. 3:2) Another prophet, observing in prophetic vision God’s destruction of wickedness among God’s own professed people Israel, cried out: “Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Are you bringing to ruin all the remaining ones of Israel while you are pouring out your rage upon Jerusalem?”—Ezek. 9:8.
Both of these prophets made these expressions because they knew Jehovah to be a God of love and mercy, just as God’s friend Abraham had earlier addressed Jehovah in speaking of the judgment about to come upon Sodom: “It is unthinkable of you that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one so that it has to occur with the righteous man as it does with the wicked! It is unthinkable of you.” Yes, Abraham knew that to destroy the righteous was completely contrary to Jehovah’s principles.—Gen. 18:25.
Abraham was given the answer, as was Ezekiel, that God would be selective in his judgment, and that those not deserving of destruction would be spared. Such proved to be the outcome.
These occasions give us an insight into the personality of God. He declared to Moses: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.” (Ex. 34:6, 7) In his majesty and dignity as supreme Sovereign, Jehovah must maintain law and order in the universe. He cannot condone lawbreaking. Yet he provides mercy and deliverance for those who want to do what is right.
Jesus Christ counseled his disciples: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:44, 45) God gives to all full opportunity to show what their hearts really desire. He lets all breathe the same air, eat the same food, observe his beautiful creation and choose the way they want to take.
EACH RESPONSIBLE FOR COURSE HE CHOOSES
It is only right and just that, being allowed to choose right or wrong, each individual should ‘eat the fruitage of his way.’ (Prov. 1:31) No one can rightly accuse God of injustice when a person comes into calamity because of his own willful wrongdoing. God gives kind warning so that a person may avoid disaster. He says to the young person: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes.” Yes, the young person is free to do this; God will not prevent him. “But,” God adds, “know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment. So remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh; for youth and the prime of life are vanity.”—Eccl. 11:9, 10.
God is not going to force anyone to serve him. But if a person takes a course of bad, or goes along with a system of things that is corrupt, he himself is sharing in badness. Or if he remains affiliated with an organization, religious, political or commercial, that is reproaching God and thereby is making its members tacit sharers in dishonesty or immorality, then he should expect to account to God for his course.
This does not mean that there is no forgiveness for one who has been such a person, but who comes to recognize his own imperfection, his wrong acts or wrong course. He can turn from it and receive forgiveness on the basis of God’s provision of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. The penalty for sin is not unjustly ignored or bypassed by God, but on the basis of his own Son’s perfect human life as a sacrifice for sins the requirements of justice are fully met. The apostle Peter said: “[Christ] himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness.” By this provision of the ransom God can “be righteous even when declaring righteous the man that has faith in Jesus.”—1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 3:26.
WARNING, AND PATIENCE
So God is loving toward his creation, and wishes the best for them. He is slow to anger, slow to execute justice toward those who practice wrong, with the hope that they might repent. (2 Pet. 3:9) God exercises remarkable patience with persons who choose not to serve him. To some who claimed to serve God but who practiced wrong things the apostle Paul appealed, writing: “Do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and long-suffering, because you do not know that the kindly quality of God is trying to lead you to repentance?”—Rom. 2:4.
But wickedness cannot be allowed to flourish indefinitely. It must be eliminated in behalf of peace and order in the universe, for the relief and happiness of those who want to live peaceably with their fellowman. Therefore the wicked must be removed. “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous one; and the one dealing treacherously takes the place of the upright ones,” says the inspired writer, at Proverbs 21:18.
Stated otherwise, the price of peaceful happy living for the right-minded persons of earth is the removal of those who will not live honestly and peaceably and who work harm toward their neighbor. It is as Jehovah’s prophet said: “Though the wicked one should be shown favor, he simply will not learn righteousness. In the land of straightforwardness he will act unjustly and will not see the eminence of Jehovah.”—Isa. 26:10.
When God finally takes action he is impartial in enforcing his just laws. His anger is under control and he executes only those deserving death. (Prov. 2:21, 22) His war is not like the wars of the nations, that kill both good and bad indiscriminately. We can be sure that God, “the Judge of all the earth,” will do what is right, and that, when he destroys anyone, such person actually does not want righteousness. (Gen. 18:25; Prov. 21:10) He does not have any place for it in his heart.
A LOVING FATHER
What other kind of God would anyone want as his God? We appreciate fathers who discipline their children for their good, yet who love them and provide all necessary good things for them. The apostle says to fellow Christians:
“We used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us, and we used to give them respect. Shall we not much more subject ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live? For they for a few days used to discipline us according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our profit that we may partake of his holiness. True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Heb. 12:9-11.
Accordingly, it behooves us to come to God as to a loving Father, learn of him, be corrected by him, conform our ways to his written Word. He is preparing persons today for life in a righteous new order that will encompass the earth for the happiness and well-being of all. You, like everyone else, can take advantage of the opportunity now.