Monday, 1 October 2018

If God is so Loving Why is There a Penalty for Sin?

God of love

In the age of moral relativism, meaning everyone creates a truth that works for themselves, absolute truths have become a thing of the past. We are motoring, as a culture, towards a society that believes what is right for you and for me may be different, but nevertheless, we can both somehow be right. As perplexing as this notion is, it has no doubt muddied the lens through which we view God. If we are all to be tolerant of each others viewpoints, and live “inclusively”, as the catch word of the day points out, then shouldn’t the God who declares himself to be the source of love be more forgiving?

We desperately want to tell others about this God who loves us unconditionally, but when it comes to a judging God, it feels better to omit the parts where the Bible points out clearly that Hell is real (2 Thess 1:9, Rev 21:8) , sin is real (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8), and our separation from God is real (Isaiah 59:2, James 1:15, Matt 25:46). It doesn’t seem to sit well in the age of “tolerance”. If God is all loving and all powerful, then surely he should be able to just forgive and move on. 

We see all too often right now, when individual morals clash,  there is an insertion of the Supreme Court, a court that has created societal absolutes (albeit even these truths are beginning to change, so “absolutes” here is a term used loosely). The issue at hand is presented before the courts and a verdict is made as to who is right according to law. Punishment is given and justice is served. 

Unlike our country where laws are made by men and laws are changed by men, God is the maker of the unchanging Absolute Law. By laws, we could substitute for the word “commands” so we do not get hung up legalistically about abiding by every New and Old Testament Law. (They can ultimately all be summed up as love God, love your neighbour- Matt 22:36-40). 

When God created the world, he made perfect laws (commands) that he presented to us, based on his own flawless character. By nature, God is good and perfect, it is an impossibility for him to be anything else. Think about that for a moment. God not only will not lie or cheat, he is actually unable to react outside his holy nature. If it seems a stretch for our brain to comprehend, that’s because it is. We only know of the nature of people, people change their minds, and both act and react erratically. Not so with God. That is what makes him so perfect.

The laws God gave to us flow from his goodness and righteousness. They are not arbitrary, like the the rules our parents may have given us. They are not the rules that are followed with a, “because I said so, that’s why.” (hands up for those of us parents who have used this line! Guilty!) God’s laws are precise laws, to allow for goodness in our lives. They are followed with, “because I love you, and do not want to see you hurt.” There is reasoning behind God’s law, and the reasoning is love and protection. It is through his commands to us through his law that we know he is loving. Because God’s commands flow from his loving nature we can and should trust them and abide by them. 

The other aspect of God’s love is that he created us to have free will. It would have been unloving for him to make us automatically love him and be obedient to him. He would have made us slaves if we did not have the choice in this matter. Unfortunately, because we have free will, we have and often do make choices contradictory to God’s loving commands. This creates separation from us to God. He is holy, and perfect, and good. Our choice to sin (behave outside the laws of God) causes separation between us and God. Not because he is vengeful and full of wrath, but because we cannot live unholy lives and be in the presence of such a holy God, we cannot live beyond the boundaries he set in place to be near to him. 

Imagine, if you will, a moment in a court case when a murderer is on trial. The family of the murdered loved one is watching the case unfold as the judge proceeds with the verdict. In spite of all the evidence making it clear this person was the killer, the judge simply says, “I forgive you”, then walks out of the room. Justice would not have been served, outrage would ensue. 

God is no different. Because he sets the law (the perfect laws!) then he must judge (with perfect judgment!) those who break the law, anything less would be unjust. We could all agree than injustice does not equate to love. We could even go as far as to say that injustice would be an indication of corruption. Since we know that God both is not and can not be corrupt, than it would be against his very nature to be unjust. Only that which is vindicated (justified) can be present with God.

This is where the stunning part of God’s love comes into play. The Bible states the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and by death we mean separation from God eternally. If we follow through that very same verse that speaks of death, we find this: “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) Opposite to separation from God (death), we find life. By life we mean not only eternity with God, but also nearness of his life to ours starting right now. 

God set the law based on what is good and right. We acted out of the law by sinning, and the consequence of sin is death. Not death in the sense of ceasing to live, but death in the sense of eternally separated from God. The payment for breaking God’s law was separation. But then, God stepped down from his throne where he rules as Judge and payed our price. He sent Jesus, God in flesh, to die once and for all and satisfied the payment of our law-breaking actions. Upon acceptance of this gift of life, we receive our justification from God, not by anything we could have done, but by his amazing grace.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

On one hand, God needs to judge the world or he would be unjust and thus unloving. On the other hand, knowing this, we can see just how much his heart was moved by compassion for humanity to help us in our inability to live up to his expectations for his commands. It is through God’s judgement that his gift of grace and abundance of love is seen in a most humbling way. 


photo credit: Ian Froome @ Unsplash


  1. Thank you for sharing. I love how you wrote this in such a loving, gentle way. It gets the message across in a way that is non confrontational. Refreshing!

    1. Thank you! God’s judgment is a challenging topic! I’m thankful it was received in a way that made sense.

  2. You presented this so eloquently and with such clarity. I've heard God compared to a father, wanting to protect us and discipline us, as a good parent should. Fantastic read!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It's a challenging topic that has potential to misconstrue God's nature. You are absolutely correct that God is like a father. Even the Bible is littered with verses about fathers training, correcting, and disciplining their children.