“harsh” love: thoughts on scripture that’s hard-to-swallow

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My time in the Word has been so fruitful lately. God has really answered my prayers with understanding of His Word that often seems too much like a scholarly article and a workout for my brain. Recently, He has given me insight into verses, and I better understanding of so many aspects of the Bible. There has been a specific discovery that has really spoken to me, and I thought it would be good to share. I pray that this enriches your time in His Word also!

One of the challenges that I have always faced when reading some parts of the Bible is that at times it seems so…. well…. harsh.

I’m sure you’ve felt the same way. We often skip over the parts we don’t like or understand.

But today, we are going to read a few of them: the parts we like and the parts we don’t like.

And I hope after reading this, you can have the boldness and wisdom to understand those verses that never seemed loving or likable before.

“The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness” – Psalm 10:15

“But because of your stubborn and your unrepentant hearts, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” – Romans 2:5

“Then they will call to me, and I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated the knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” – Proverbs 1:31

“For, as I often have told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” – Philippians 3:19-20

Now, some of you might be like “Umm… God is just doing justice here.”

And you are right. He is. He is punishing the wicked for their sins.

But as for me, I think, “Man… what about the wicked? I mean, I was the wicked once. Don’t they get shown love also?”

And the answer is yes.

They are being shown love right then and there; we just can’t seem to grasp that most of the time. Our brains think:

punishment = hatred

destruction = hatred

letting them eat the fruit of their ways = hatred

And we must get out of this mindset; it’s causing us to view God as a “hater” and not our one true lover.

Because He is being loving towards the wicked in this situation.

And this is how:

#1) He is warning them.

God must show justice. He is a just God, and sin deserves punishment.

But God isn’t threatening them—threats come from a place of insecurity and hatred. No, God is warning them. Warning from a place of love, in hopes that they will change their actions.

This is like when you were small and your mom yelled at you “Don’t you touch that oven young lady/man! It will BURN you!”

She loves you too much to let you burn yourself, so she harshly warned you. She knew you wouldn’t listen otherwise.

God is warning the sinful that “the wages of sin is death.” He is telling them, “Hey, listen up! You better watch out. This life is not fruitful! This is not how children of the light live. The life you live leads to destruction! Actually, it’s going to kill you if you don’t turn to Me.”

#2) He punishes them. 

But sometimes you don’t get the message with the “Young lady/man” yelling, even after twenty sessions of scream-warning.

And so your mom lets you touch the stove.

God is does the same thing. After a while, He lets the wicked touch the stove. He is showing them they the way they are choosing is not the way of life. It’s death. Sometimes we must experience our failures just to know that we were wrong in the first place. God recognizes that, and He lets us suffer so that we turn to Him. He lets us “be filled with the fruit of our schemes” in hopes that we will turn from them.

God’s warnings and punishment come from a place of deep love. They come from a place rooted in wisdom and compassion: He is begging the wicked to turn to Him, but their faith is weak, so sometimes they must see for themselves that the fruit of their labor is rotten.

Love comes in so many forms.

So next time you read when God is rebuking the wicked and such, relish in it.

I know, it sounds weird to me too. Relish in punishment or sin? But yes, please do. It shows that we have a God who cares. He cares enough to show us that our way is not the way we really want. We are relishing a God that loves them so much that he lets us them touch stove in hopes that they will see their ways and turn to Him who offers more life than they can imagine.

Know that God knows what He says in the Bible and He means it. If at times things don’t seem to line up with the characteristics of God, realize that you need to ask for wisdom, and He will grant you a new understanding. Look at the context. Talk to a friend about it. Pray about it. Wrestle with it. We will find Him when we seek Him with all of our hearts (Jer. 29:13). Don’t ever stop searching for the love of God in the Bible—it’s in every word, even those that seem so harsh.

So, if you leave this page with anything, just know that He is faithful when we ask for understanding of the Bible and that He is who He says He is. He is love. I asked for understanding, and He has slowly been giving it to me, and piece by piece, I am discovering more of His unconditional love.

In Him,

Mary Madeline


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