Tuesday, November 05, 2013

When God looks away - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"See how God, through His love of goodness, seeks repentance; and by means of the plan He pursues of threatening silently, shows His own love for man. 'I will avert,' He says, 'My face from them, and show what shall happen to them.' For where the face of the Lord looks, there is peace and rejoicing; but where it is averted, there is the introduction of evil." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Sin brings death, not just physical death, but spiritual, emotional, and even relational death. James teaches us that, "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15 NKJV) There is nothing good in sin and nothing good comes from it. However, even in our sin, God desires good for us rather than our destruction. God, speaking of the sinner, says "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.' (Ezekiel  33:11) Fortunately, God has a plan to restore the sinner and sometimes that includes His silence.

Often, we take for grated God's grace in our lives. Whether sinner or saint, God's grace shines upon us in His kindness towards us. Jesus, speaking of His Father, says, "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) While there is a greater grace that He bestows upon those who believe in Him, His grace and favor is upon us all. Sometimes we can mistake His favor for His indifference over our thoughts and actions. Sometimes we confuse His favor with our own ambition and our ability to make things happen. Sometimes, when enjoying God's favor even as we sin, we can turn a deaf ear to God's calling and warning of the death that awaits us as a result of our sins. In times like these, God will avert His eyes, lessening His grace, that we might begin to feel the true consequences of our sin, that we might wake up and correct our lives before it is too late.
"The Lord, accordingly, does not wish to look on evil things; for He is good. But on His looking away, evil arises spontaneously through human unbelief. 'Behold, therefore,' says Paul, 'the goodness and severity of God: on them that fell, severity; but upon thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness,' that is, in faith in Christ." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
It is true that, "the kindness of God leads you to repentance." (Romans 2:4) yet sometimes it is the severity of God that drives us to repentance. God is not weak nor is He timid and neither is He afraid to exercise severity in dealing with us that we might repent and find life. When God gazes upon us, evil is repressed, yet when God looks away, we find out what is truly within us; our unbelief springs up and our sin takes advantage and we see the true state of our soul. It is here that many call out to the Lord to forgive, heal, and save. Sometimes we need to see the depth of our need for God before we are willing to reach out to Him for salvation; we need to see us before we can appreciate Him.
"Now hatred of evil attends the good man, in virtue of His being in nature good. Wherefore I will grant that He punishes the disobedient (for punishment is for the good and advantage of him who is punished, for it is the correction of a refractory subject); but I will not grant that He wishes to take vengeance. Revenge is retribution for evil, imposed for the advantage of him who takes the revenge. He will not desire us to take revenge, who teaches us “to pray for those that despitefully use us.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
The hatred of evil attends to our good and the punishment of our disobedience also benefits us by correcting us and restoring us to the way of righteousness. Punishment is good when it proceeds from a good heart. When God punishes us, He does so for our good, not for His own. As humans, sometimes we delight in the punishment of others as it assuages our lust for revenge and our need for retribution. The goal for punishment is to make us feel better rather than to provoke the offender to a better life. Not so with God. He punishes us without any thought for Himself. His desire in punishment is for our eternal good. He loves us so He punishes us that He might restore us to right relationship with Himself. Even in punishment, God is good.

David Robison

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