Links Daily Devotional

More Kind or More Severe?

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Romans 11:22, ESV)

Yesterday we considered the picture we find in the ancient nation of Israel. It is, as we said, a representation of “our own lives writ large.”

There is more to explore in this matter. I told some golfers recently that there must be a hundred different kinds of shots in the game—the roping hook, the towering fade, the pitch and run, the lag, the lob, the punch, the putt that takes the break out and the one that leaves it in. Yet we’ve only just begun.

Look what he would do to gain their attention, to secure their affections. He would send his own Son.No one can expect to learn all these shots except through practice and over time. There’s a reason your newbie buddy keeps hitting all his shots up into the trees—he has no idea how to stay under them.

We might say that both theology (the study of God) and praxis (the active engagement of our faith) are the same in this way. We know and understand far more today than we did five years ago and far less than we will know and understand five years from now.

So let’s look further into the matter of God’s severity—and of his kindness.

Perhaps the hardest thing to wrap our minds around is the idea that God can demonstrate both. What may be helpful, however, is to consider the ways that love must sometimes be demonstrated in harsh ways. For instance, a parent must dole out discipline for a broken curfew. This is an act of love so far as it delivers the child from the dangers of the night and at the same time teaches them the need to honor authority. In the moment, it is not “kind,” not from the child’s perspective nor maybe the parent’s. But there is undeniable kindness in the principle of training toward excellence and righteousness.

God is both severe and kind in this way. He is willing to do the hardest thing in order to deliver the greatest reward. If, as Solomon wrote in his ode to romance, “love is strong as death” (Song of Solomon 8:6), Jesus was the greatest example of such love by his sacrifice on the cross for sinful people.

In the context of Paul’s words to the Romans, highlighted in our central passage today, the apostle was referring to the Jewish people who had closed their eyes to the messiahship of Jesus and thus to salvation in him. These unbelievers were subject to the severity of God. But this did not mean his kindness was unavailable to them. It most certainly was! And the severity of God was intended to open their eyes. Look what he would do to gain their attention, to secure their affections. He would send his own Son, he who “made himself nothing…, humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8, NIV). All the punishments and deaths of those who had gone before, all the chastisements of those yet living and their deaths to come—these were met in the one death of Christ. There is no death like it, not in its severity or its kindness.

Jeff Hopper
March 14, 2017
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