Reading Talbott’s section on George MacDonald, I feel like, a few more light bulbs went off and I was able to understand, in a deep way, MacDonald’s thoughts on sin, as explained in the bible, and why God cares to rescue us from it. And how it is that God forgives us and yet still disciplines us, even threatens wrath if we willfully continue sinning.
Here’s what I came up with…
If God freely forgives us, his love keeps no record of wrongs, he forgave us while we were still hostile to him, George MacDonald asks,…then why still the wrath/discipline? He suggests that it’s not that God hasn’t forgiven us of our past - he has and he did (the beauty of the cross is that he did it while we were hostile/his enemies), but the reason we must come to him, or are in danger of wrath as if we aren’t forgiven, is because he’s concerned with our present condition (what’s going on today/where we are headed/how that sin will affect us now), that we not persist in unrepentance, but turn to Him for a changed heart, one in which he writes his Love all over it!
A real life example of this is that sometimes we have to have tough love for the people we care about because it’s in their best interest. For example, I knew a married woman that was abused. Her husband treated her badly. Her friend told her she needed to write up a record of all that he had done to her. She expressed to me that she felt like she shouldn’t because love keeps no record of wrongs. What she realized is that she had already forgiven him for what he had done in the past (terrible things, as they were, because despite all that he had done she genuinely loves him/cares about his welfare), but the reason that she was writing it down, to remember, was because it was not ok for him to continue, in the present, abusing her and he needed to be held accountable. It was out of love that she held him accountable for his actions, that were hurting her, her children, and ultimately himself.
God is the same. He can’t neglect to address what is hurting us - our separation from him, a result of our sin.He must remove that obstacle, that gets in the way of our seeking Him. He is faithful to give us what we need in order to ensure that we come to grips with what opposition to Him brings, death.He allows us to experience the consequences. And, like a parent, he has the right balance of discipline and love so that we don’t stay in opposition to Him, but come humbly realizing we were wrong, that we do need Him in our lives. Just like the prodigal son.
I can remember when I was first learning that God’s wrath might be for more than retribution, I was reading in the OT that God poured out wrath on his people. I smiled because I realized, as if for the first time, that it was because he loved them and did not want them to persist in dangerous behaviors. But that smile was nothing like the one that came after it when I read that, then, he turned around and poured out his wrath on their enemies. A lightbulb went off…He loves them too!!! What he did for his own people, he did for their enemies!!! No wonder it’s been God’s plan all along to save the Gentiles too. He never didn’t love them, even as he had chosen others to reflect his love to the nations. I’m reminded of Romans 12 that God has a plan to have mercy on all. He knows what he’s doing. We can’t complain because we know he’s good.
Hosea 5:14,15 exemplifies the way in which God works - a way that is still so foreign to most believers…
How can so many overlook that God knows exactly what he is doing and it’s for a purpose?
John 8:10-12, in light of George MacDonald’s insight that God cares about our present, comes to life as Jesus doesn’t condemn the woman because he loves her, has already forgiven her of her past. He tells her instead, “Go and sin no more”…which always use to confuse me. By golly I think MacDonald is onto something here…Jesus is concerned with her present life, not her past. What do you all think?