Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sinners in the Hands of an [Loving] God

At the beginning of the Great Awakening in the American colonies, a minister, John Edwards, delivered a sermon that initiated and set the tone for this movement. His sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" caught his congregation by the throat and initiated a period of deep spiritual self-analysis, collective analysis, and renewal.

Here's the interesting part: the spirit of the times pre-Awakening was remarkably similar to our modern times. Many of the social and economical ills were as prevalent then as they are now. (Yes, some ills, such as the pro-choice and pro-homosexuality movements, were not even considered as ideas worth following. Other concepts, like the philosophy and religious apathy developing from the Enlightenment movement were almost cut copy from modern articles and concepts).

What's different, though, is Edwards' approach. Where the modern church takes the route of least offense and melodious offerings, Edwards went straight for the jugular. He spoke about God's wrath.

Yes. He went there. Today, if a pastor of a major church were to speak about punishment and wrath, about damnation and the futility of human endeavours towards salvation, he would be under so much fire from his church, the media, and those outside the church that he might wish he was in hell just so he could escape from the heat.

There's just something uncomfortable about hearing about such matters. For you guys, it ranks up there with watching the [male] protagonist of a movie taking a cheap shot to the crown jewels. Ladies, I'm sorry, but I can think of nothing that, to you, would resonate with such clarity.

Here's the question: why doe we avoid talking about God's wrath and punishment?

It's like talking about the judicial system in the US as a friendly body of men who keep the citizens from being murdered, stolen from, etc. It's true, yes, but it's such a roundabout way of saying what they do. They sentence people to punishment for murdering, stealing, etc.

Similarly, God punishes us for sinning and oh, does God hate sin. It's part of who He is, holy. He CANNOT abide sin. This isn't a mediocre upset stomach or gag reflex. This isn't a mild distaste. This is a deep loathing. God abhors our sinful state and, if that isn't remedied, He would gladly send us to eternal punishment to remove the stench of sin from His presence.

Now, in light of that "unpleasantry", is the mercy and love of God truly shown for the magnanimity that it is. The fact that God would sacrifice his Son to be the perfect punishment-bearer for our sin becomes that much more astounding.

So, how about some fire and brimstone?