For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10, verses 30-31.
Once again I injected myself into a ‘discussion’ with my friend, the atheist. Once again I found him both vulgar and offensive, and he said he found my Christian faith offensive as well. His online thread was about how atheists are deeper intellectuals than most people. I stayed out of the discussion until the point where he began disparaging to believers. At that point, I waded in, and once again, I feel sad about it.
I’m sad both because I never feel like I do a good job at representing Christ as a loving follower. I feel like I let Him down because of my poor words and my proud attitude. And I’m sad for my friend, who (almost violently) rejects the peace and comforts of faith for the sensuality of this world. For any of us who reject Him, the Triune God reserves the right to judge, avenge, and repay His people – including both followers of Jesus and atheists – for the ways we rebel against Him. I’m not comfortable with that fact, but it’s still a fact. It’s actually a comfort.
The ‘dreadful thing’ verse I mentioned yesterday is found here, in verse 31. It is the concluding sentence in a paragraph that talks about God’s holiness. It’s a convicting verse in a convicting chapter of a book about God’s grace. God, whose nature prevents Him from doing anything unholy, is therefore purely holy and, thus, purely just. The only true justice in the universe is therefore found in the presence of God. You can see, then, why it may be a dreadful thing to be found in His hands.
I rarely feel fear anymore, fear here being the terrorizing, angst-ridden emotion of dread. Yet I have genuine dreadful fear of the power of God and what I deserve from Him (absent the saving atonement of Jesus). The discussion with my atheist friend yesterday ventured into the subjects of sin, forgiveness, and truth (specifically about science). Yet every time we have these conversations, I walk away feeling dejected, depressed. It’s because I don’t like playing ‘gotcha’ with God’s word. More and more, it isn’t my place to try to use debating tricks to try to change his mind. Such tricks are unkind and antithetical to the Word. Besides, they doesn’t convince him of anything except that I seem like a hypocritical jerk. Yesterday, I simply told him what the Bible said and encouraged him to check it out on his own, told him that perhaps God was talking to him because he was so passionate about the discussion. He told me to perform unnatural acts on myself and other things.
I know that we have to stand up for what we believe. And I know that we need to use the talents God gives us to encourage others in their faith walks, even when their faith walk is a walk away from God. It’s one of the reasons why I would dread to be in His presence, answering for these things I’ve done. I feel like I’m letting Jesus down. Even so, I know it also isn’t my place to judge whether or not my friend or anyone would be liable to God’s wrath. The better way to live would be to witness, to leave it at that, and perhaps also to do what Abraham did. If you remember, Abraham pleaded for the people of Sodom. When they had clearly, brazenly, unrepentantly transgressed, Abraham still prayed for, pleaded for them. We should do the same.
And so I do. I pray for my atheist friend. According to his own words, this, too, is offensive. Yet I do it all the same. The same God who is over all of us – including him – is also constantly loving us, working for us, living to beckon us back to Him. Jesus died for atheists too, and He gives my denying friend life, provision, and all things. While our holy, just God has the power to smite, it isn’t in His nature to desire to do so. Instead, it’s in His nature to be merciful, caring, guiding, loving. I hope my friend can come to see this.
For further reading: Deuteronomy 32:35-36, Romans 12:19, Psalm 135:14, 2 Corinthians 5:11, Isaiah 19:16, Matthew 16:16.
Lord, forgive my inadequacies and my sins in how I mess up being a good witness for You. Teach me Your better ways that I may speak well of You.