Philosophy Magazine

Why Can’t God Just Follow His Own Commands?

By Stuart_gray @stuartg__uk

Why Can’t God Just Follow His Own Commands?

Many people I talk to, have a picture of Jesus that is a pretty good one. He’s known for telling us to love people. Right?

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you…” Matthew 5:43-44, The Message.

We certainly like that idea…although we probably scratch our heads at the “loving our enemies” part. Huh? Why?

Christians teach that mankind’s rebellion against God broke our relationship with him. God loves people. So, to restore our relationship with him, Jesus had to die. We must love our enemies, because that’s what God is like. He wants us to do what he does.

BUT – there’s a problem.

This thing about Jesus having to die…why does ANYONE need to get punished here? This seems pretty hypocritical of God. Couldn’t God just decide to follow his own command? Didn’t he say “love one’s enemies?” Can’t he love us and forget about the “Jesus dying” bit?  If we are supposed to love everyone, shouldn’t God be following his own commands?

Mike drop!

“If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.”[1]

Let me pick the mike back up again. I don’t think so, and here’s why. The story of Christ’s death does not lead to the conclusion that God’s being inconsistent or hypocritical. Why?

1 – God’s character is laid down as an example for people. We should aim to act as he did.

be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1)

2 – BUT – at the same time, we are NOT supposed to imitate ALL aspects of God’s character.

For example, it’s a bad idea to expect people to worship you. Now – we may want people to worship us. But at the end of the day, only God deserves to be worshipped, and people don’t. We can love, respect and aspire to be like people. But we shouldn’t actually worship them. Bad things happen when we do.

I am God, your God … [have] no other gods, only me.” (Deut 5:6 – 7, The Message)

This isn’t God being controlling, rather he’s observing an important distinction between him and us. He’s worthy to be worshipped and people aren’t. So – I mustn’t think I am God.

Similarly, God’s allowed to take retribution against people for their sinful actions, and I am not.[2] Jesus said we are not supposed to take revenge on people, we are to love our enemies. But he didn’t say that because “retribution is inherently wrong, but because it rests with God.”[3]

In the same way that I’m not God…so I must not receive worship, I’m not God…so I don’t take revenge. God receives worship and God takes revenge, meaning God ultimately and justly punishes wrongdoing.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.” (Romans 12:19)

This means that:

1 – Individual Christians should not take revenge when someone commits evil against them.

2 – But the evil action of the person responsible is still evil and WILL be punished. And that is always God’s job, not ours.

“It is wrong for us to punish sins committed against us, but it is not wrong for God to punish sins committed against him … his justice demands it.”[4]

So the real question that remains is – have we ever done anything wrong that we regret? And if so, do we want to be punished for our wrong doing? Or will we let Jesus take that punishment for us instead?

[1] Steve Chalk and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 233.

[2] I’m talking about personal revenge here, not the God given responsibility for human governments to keep the peace and to punish wrongdoers in society.

[3] Steve Jefferey, Mike Ovey and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, (Nottingham: IVP, 2007), 235.

[4] Jefferey, 235.

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