Have you ever listened to a sermon or audio interview, and been more impacted by a “throwaway statement” by the speaker than his main point? You know what I mean by a “throwaway statement”– something that is said as almost an aside– maybe even something he didn’t plan to say. It can be a statement made in passing, or as a short digression before returning back on topic.
That’s what happened to me as I listened to the most recent 9Marks interview with Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert regarding their new book, What is the Mission of the Church? I found the whole thing interesting and thought-provoking; you can listen to it here.
But what really made me stop, rewind, and listen again was a throwaway statement made by Kevin DeYoung. The Interviewer, Pastor Mark Dever, asked DeYoung (related to DeYoung’s blog posts on the topic), “Why is it important for pastors to teach on the wrath of God?” Here’s DeYoung’s answer:
So much of the Biblical storyline does not make sense without the wrath of God… Not only do we need it because divine mercy doesn’t shine as brightly unless it’s against the backdrop of divine wrath, but we can’t make sense of the cross…
Also, I think, people overlook the ways in which divine wrath is really a motivation in the New Testament for our ethics, either to avoid the wrath of God (we get that), but also think of Romans 12, where Paul says, “Forgive one another, leave room for the God’s wrath.”… One of the reasons you can forego the justice you deserve in you life is because God’s justice will be meted out, and every sin against you or your people is paid for on the cross, or will be paid for in hell.
That’s freeing, and if you don’t have that sort of God, you lose one of the main motivations to live this sort of gracious life.
It’s extremely easy for us to fall into the same responses to injustices done against us as the world does. But we don’t have to respond as the world does (as Josh reminded us so well from Romans 6 this past week)!
We can view the injustice be keeping the final court date on our mental calendar. There will be a day when it will all be made right, so we don’t have to pursue revenge, we don’t have to give someone the silent treatment, we don’t have to sever relationships to punish a former friend. Letting grudges go is hard, but it’s godly.
Forgive your brother or sister in Christ. If at all possible, make it right; reconcile as Matthew 18 commands. And even if your grudge is against an unbeliever, remember: your Father in heaven is also the Heavenly Judge, and in that day no account will go unsettled. Pray that God will give you a gracious heart that shows that, although you had tens of thousands of reasons (that is, sins) that should never have been forgiven, they were–they were laid on Jesus. Pray that the unbeliever who has wronged you will have his or her sins nailed to the cross next to yours. Forgive one another, and love your enemies!