But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath upon us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? . . . And why not do evil that good may come?-as some people slanderously charge us with saying (Romans 3:5-8).
"Some people" sound awfully contemporary. They're quick to ask, "Where is God?" when some gross horror or injustice happens. A tsunami, a famine, a child murdered, a family immolated in a van on the highway-all serve as fodder for judgment on God. But if God judges a lifestyle choice, well! "I could never serve a God like that." We can tolerate anything except intolerance. Never mind that the logical gap is wide enough to drive a van stuffed with philosophical relativists through-for if we can tolerate anything, why is intolerance the only thing that's intolerable?
Who's to say? That's easy: any moral arbiter with a sense of outrage and a Twitter account. Thus we see Chick-fil-A restaurants boycotted because of the management's support of traditional marriage, the law firm engaged by Congress to defend the Defense of Marriage Act pressured to drop the case, a Christian couple in the UK forbidden to adopt because of their intolerant beliefs-examples abound. Today's burning ethical issue is same-sex marriage and the vileness of those who would deny a basic right to gays. But not too long ago it was abortion and the vileness of those who insisted on imposing their values on women in distress. General opinion is turning against abortion on demand, and given enough time it will turn on same-sex marriage also. Which only goes to show that as long as we insist on having no judge, nothing is ultimately judge-able. Not even the outrage of the day.
And certainly not ourselves; instead, we blandly pronounce ourselves "innocent" of crimes to which we are not tempted. Few of us are disposed to slaughter a family while driving drunk, or beat up an old woman, or rape a 9-year-old girl. Yet when we condemn such things, we speak as people under the law, "since through the law comes the knowledge of sin"-any sin, no matter how great or small. He who condemns Hitler is condemning him under the law. She who condemns Lady Gaga or Sarah Palin-or anyone opposed to a particular moral sensibility-is condemning them under the law, however unorthodox her interpretation of the law may be.
But we will not judge ourselves. We want a judge for the world, but not for us.
"Some people" are saying, in effect, that God is unrighteous for presuming to lay down the law. But since most would not care to put it so blatantly, they say that God's people-those who take His name and study His word-are unrighteous for presuming to speak for Him.
But that doesn't keep them from the same presumption. A popular book called Conversations with God has gone through several printings and Chicken Soup-style variations: Kids' Conversations, Teens' Conversations, Conversations the Movie, and so on. In it, "God" tells the world what he thinks about judging: "There is no such thing as right or wrong and that is what I have been trying to tell everyone, do not judge people. People have chosen to judge one another and this is wrong, because the rule is 'judge not lest ye be judged.'"
Even a laid-back relativist god can't resist making a rule now and then.
Might it be that one reason God doesn't judge the present world (i.e., zap egregious offenders) is that we do not admit His right to judge us? Satan's prediction (Genesis 3:5) comes true: We are as gods, but we're millions of tiny rival gods locked in perpetual combat. The "conversations" we're having are with ourselves and other like minds, as frivolous as flowers of the field, and destined to wither in the blast of the one righteous Judge.
Email Janie B. Cheaney