Forgiveness and Punishment

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

“O Lord our God… you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds” (Psalm 99:8).  The relationship between God’s forgiveness and God’s punishment is a mystery not to be solved with formulas of cause and effect.  Those who set forgiveness over against punishment will confuse forgiveness with the tolerance of sin.  Loving parents also discipline their children.  But if you look at parental discipline as simply the evidence of an unforgiving attitude, then you do not understand what the purpose of such discipline is.  God’s forgiveness and God’s punishment have the same purpose, namely reconciliation with God.  Therefore, the apparent contradiction (which really is the healthy tension of a mystery that culminates in how God is revealed in Christ):  sinners do not deserve forgiveness, and sinners are not doomed to punishment.  Because we are sinners all the time, we will be disciplined and punished.  But because God is always a forgiving God, we can rely on God’s graceful presence and interventions in the midst of our punishment.  God’s mercy is always a gift.  The gift is always received under circumstances of punishment.  God will be God in our lives today for the sake of keeping us close to him as his beloved children.

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