Avenging Wrong Deeds

A friend has come to me over the last several months seeking help with a sin that she keeps committing. She knows the destruction and pain this sin is causing her and all those around her but she continues to indulge in it over and over again. Every time she is caught she goes through a period of remorse and self-loathing only to turn around a month later and do it again. The pull of the temptation of this sinful behavior is too strong for her to resist. Mindlessly, she forgets all of the pain it brings.

Here is a startling thought about sin. Most of us grew up thinking that God’s reaction to our sin is punishment. Surely in life when we sin and experience the consequences, we are engaging in some form of self-punishment. Our parents punished us when we did bad things. We were punished at school if we broke the rules.

We know there will be hell to pay if we do a particular thing but we do it anyway, consequences be damned. And when we are living through those consequences we feel God’s anger and wrath. Punishment is God’s response to our wrong deeds.

Or is it?

Psalm 99 (Common English Bible)

The Lord rules—
    the nations shake!
    He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—
    the earth quakes!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them thank your great and awesome name.
    He is holy!

Strong king who loves justice,
    you are the one who established what is fair.
    You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.
Magnify the Lord, our God!
    Bow low at his footstool!
    He is holy!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel too among those who called on his name.
They cried out to the Lord, and he himself answered them—
    he spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.


Lord our God, you answered them.
    To them you were a God who forgives
    but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.

Wait, what? God forgives and avenges wrong deeds?

What does it mean to avenge? To avenge is to step out from behind someone and take up their cause on their behalf. Avenging is an action of inflicting harm on something that caused harm to someone else. So when God is avenging our wrong deeds, his action is against the behavior, not aimed toward us. Thus the punishment we feel is not an indication that he doesn’t love us anymore because we have sinned. Indeed the exact opposite is true. He loves us so much he is angry at anything that separates us from that love…especially our wrong deeds.

Magnify the Lord our God!
    Bow low at his holy mountain
    because the Lord our God is holy!

Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He is the ultimate avenger who will fight against everything that gets between you and him…especially your sin.

Magnify the Lord by Michelle Robertson

Endurance

Who remembers the television show Endurance? It was one of our favorite family programs. It was shown on the Discovery Kids cable network, and was a kind of “teenage Survivor” program. Kids would arrive on an exotic island and strategize and compete in physical and mental challenges for the ultimate prize of a trip to some amazing location like the Galápagos Islands. Through the season of challenges and hardships, a boy/girl team would eventually endure and take it all.

Life surely is a series of challenges and hardships, especially today. God calls us to endure it to obtain the prize that Jesus has already won for us. Take a look at this passage and note the progression of problems>trouble>endurance>character>hope:

Romans 5 (Common English Version)

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Hope never fails us. Paul once reminded us that faith, hope, and love endure. This passage promises us that the love of God has already been poured out in our hearts by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 

The worst thing that anyone could possibly endure is permanent and final separation from God. But this has been already been eliminated by Christ’s dying for us. This is how God showed his love for us! While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Love is the final product of endurance. Faith, hope, love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.

And so in love, we have separated ourselves from one another. In love, we aren’t gathering as a church or in communities so that our fragile members are protected. In love, we have canceled the world so that this hideous virus will end. In love, we submit to this new world order that will surely bear a price of loneliness, isolation, cabin fever, and stir-craziness to an extent we have never experienced before. But we do it, in love.

What to do? Go check on your neighbor (from 6 feet away.) Make a grocery run for an elderly friend (and leave it on their porch.) Call three people today who need to hear your voice. Do an online workout with your dog. Write a letter or send a card everyday until this is over.

READ A BOOK.

This season of endurance will surely produce character. I guarantee we will all look back at these weeks and months and realize we discovered new strengths in each other. And that newfound character will give birth to a new hope. We will realize how strong we are as individuals, families, communities, and as a nation. Life will never be the same because we will have endured something TOGETHER. Hang in there. And guess what? We are one day closer to the end of this thing.

This olive tree in Jerusalem has endured for centuries. Photo by Faye Gardner