READ: Deuteronomy 22-24, Psalm 60, Luke 16, 1 Corinthians 16

ANATHEMA

If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” 1 Corinthians 16:22

Somewhere along the way Jesus has acquired fuzzy status. A misconception crept into the church – and was embraced by the world – which regulated Jesus to a likeable, people-pleasing, everyone’s kind uncle type figure. An honest reading of Scripture shows Jesus to be very different, very divisive, very dangerous, very difficult to get along with – on our own terms.

In Psalm 60 God chooses some to be helmets (Ephraim), some to be lawgivers (Judah), and some to be bedpans (Moab). A thrown shoe is the highest insult in the Middle East, and God casts His shoe over an entire civilization: Edom. In Luke 16:15 Jesus tells us “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Jesus clearly points out that hell is real and hot – three times describing the “torment” of Hades (Luke 16:23, 24, 28). Deuteronomy 22:5 reveals that God considers gender blending an abomination. Deuteronomy 23:1-4 shocks us by pointing out an inclusive God barred the emasculated, illegitimate, and foreigner from His holy place. Our good and gracious God throws the words abomination and anathema (accursed) around pretty freely.

Jesus divides, provokes, insults, challenges, criticizes, rebukes, judges, condemns, destroys, and acts in a thousand other ways that are not inclusive, kind, soft, gentle, or accommodating. Of all the harsh and shocking actions of Jesus, one of the most arresting is this assertion: If you don’t love Jesus, you are anathema (accursed). The God who can turn curses into blessings (Deut. 23:5) can certainly take our blessings away and turn them into curses – and it seems He does so when we don’t love Him.

The troubling (or awe-inducing) aspects of God diminish neither His goodness or His greatness. Because God is unapproachable, wrapped in impenetrable light, the incarnation is stronger (not weaker) and pure (not sullied). Because God is just, exclusive, holy, righteous, with impossible standards, His embrace and forgiveness is deeper, wider, fuller, and more marvelous, not less. Because God is love, His hatred for sin is just and righteous, not hypocritical or twisted.

Because we are cursed (doomed, tortured, tormented, condemned) when we don’t love Jesus, when we do it is all the more sweet, rewarding, and fulfilling. Curses and blessings complement each other in the sense that they make each other stronger. Strange as it is, because there is a promised curse on those who do not love Jesus, this means there is an equally fierce opposite: Those that do love Jesus are (and will be) magnificently blessed. Let’s stay on the Godward side of anathema.

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