God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 1 - Ezekiel 18-19: God Does Not Enjoy Punishing Evil

Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 18-19

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God would not punish children for their parents' sin or parents for their children's sin.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God's message:
"Every person will be punished for their mistakes. A person who sets things right will live. A person who makes mistakes will die. Parents and children are neither punished nor rewarded for the other's actions. Guilt will not transfer from generation to generation.
"I don't take pleasure in the death of wicked people! I do not keep a list of good or bad acts. It depends on life now. So stop rebelling against Me!"
Sing Israel's blues: Two prized cubs from a great lioness were drug away by angry villagers. A vine grew great branches that all dried.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Parents do not pass on their sin; children's mistakes are not the responsibility of the parent.

Israel felt God punished them and took them into exile because of their ancestors' sins. They did not want to admit they were the cause of their exile. So God needed to set them straight—sin is not inheritable and guilt does not travel up generations. Each tub must sit on its own bottom, to use my grandmother's old saying.
Although the teaching came much later than Ezekiel, he rather convincingly refutes the idea of original sin, one of the central tenets of Calvinism (some of John Calvin's teachings came from Augustine but bear Calvin's name because he brought them all together). I bring this up—it is only the second time I have brought up a contemporary doctrine (at least I think)—because it is so pervasive in Christianity today. It informs many churches, many mission trips, and much of our evangelism. Once we understand we are not condemned from birth we begin to see our mission differently. Once we see babies born outside the influence of Christianity are not automatically condemned we change our evangelism. It also takes away one of the major issues people have with the teachings of evangelicalism (although I do not call myself "Evangelical", I do have much in common with them). Sin is not inherited from your parents.

God does not delight in punishing anyone.

In what may seem strange coming from the god who has made His Chosen People go into exile and would punish many nations to come, God does not want to kill anyone. He wants to set everyone's relationship right! It may sound strange to us to hear, but to a group of people who feel they have been abandoned by God while watching hundreds of their neighbors die of disease, famine, wild animals, and war it would sound wonderful—maybe even too wonderful. God does not want to kill or punish you. He wants to set your relationship right!
To continue my discussion from the last point, understanding that God does not take pleasure in punishing anyone—even wicked people—takes aim at another tenant of Calvinism: predestination or unconditional election. Many defenders would claim that God does not choose for people to be punished but instead knows they will be punished. That seems like a poor alternative; in fact, I would hazard to say it is a distinction without a difference. Why would God create people who were destined for punishment?

God does not keep a ledger of our good deeds and our bad deeds.

Israel wanted to play "balance the good and bad" because they thought God kept a list of good and bad things. If your bad deeds exceeded your good deeds you were punished. If they didn't, you were blessed. That misses the point of holiness! God does not want us flirting with wrong. God does not want us balancing right and wrong. God wants us to be wholly His and to set all things right.
On the flip side, though, God would not keep a list of our wrongs. If a person changed their life and set things right, God would bless the person—no strings attached. God can forgive anyone that changes their life. There is no amount of sin that would prevent God from forgiving and blessing a person who changed their life. This is why God's message to Israel is,
So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won’t drag you down. Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! (18:30-31, The Message)

How awesome is God's fairness!

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