READ: Nehemiah 10-11, Psalm 145, Luke 12, 1 John 4


“Everyone who had knowledge and understanding–these joined with the brethren their notables, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law…to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our God.” (Nehemiah 10:28-29)

Scripture has this awe-inspiring holism concerning the character of God. We are not allowed to emphasize one aspect of God’s character to the detriment of a complementary attribute. Scripture does not allow us to arrive at a sum zero effect by mercy canceling out judgment or blessing removing cursing. Scripture pounds out the reality that “the Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all. And His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8-9). This is irrevocably true, just as it is unfalteringly true, that those who do not obey God will fall under His curse, His wrath.

It is true that the servant “who knows his master’s will, and does not prepare himself or do according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47), just as it is true that the servant who does God’s will shall be blessed and rewarded. It is true that the kindness that leads us to repentance is often the kindness of discipline, rebuke, and a beat-down by the circumstances of life that teaches us not to blaspheme. Scripture insists on a full revelation of the nature of God. Jesus came as Savior of the world (1 John 4:14) and by His own admission says, “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled” (Luke 12:49). Jesus came to bring peace to men of goodwill (2:14) and tells us, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all,  but rather division” (12:51, emphasis added). We do God no favors by trying to reconcile these incredible realities. Their truth is heightened by their apposition.

God manifested love by sending His only Son as propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). Propitiation means to appease. God’s love (expressed on the cross) appeases the wrath of God. Jesus becomes our blessed curse who absorbs the anger of God in a supreme act of Love. Both God’s anger and love are real, and they accent (not neutralize) each other. John tells us that if God so loved us (by in love absorbing wrath), “we also ought to love one another” (v. 11).

We should love each other in the same wrath-absorbing manner that God has loved us. When we at great cost absorb the negative result of a loved one’s error, we are loving as Christ loved us. When we throw ourselves in front of the bus (rather than our colleague or friend under it), we are “as He is in the world” (v. 17). By this absorbing wrath for others we know we abide in God (v. 13) and He in us because the Spirit of God is active in us. When we love one another in this costly way, God abides in us (v. 12).

The mark of the follower of Jesus is his or her willingness to absorb unjust suffering for love of the other. To suffer that Muslims would know Jesus. To suffer that colleagues would not be ashamed. To suffer to cover the mistakes of others. This is the love of God. We experience what it means to be cursed for others and so take on the nature of God.

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