So last weekend our little family was driving past Don Pablo’s (a restaurant close to home) and we saw this guy. Holding up a sign that said “Turn or burn. Believe in Jesus” You know, the usual.
Now a couple of observations about this guy.
I know what he’s thinking. I’ve done this kind of thing before. He probably genuinely cares about people, and really loves the Lord. He knows that the Scriptures speak of judgment and wants as many people to be spared from said judgment as possible.
I mean think about doing this…all day long. It’s one thing to be shy about going up to people and telling them something like “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It’s an entirely different thing to walk up to someone and say, “God is really, really angry with you.”
Now to be honest, I don’t like this method at all. I think it’s wrong at best, and depending on the person, it can be arrogant and hateful.
But it does tap into a theme that runs throughout Scripture. The theme of judgment.
Now I know that the wrath of God isn’t “in vogue” with my generation. We have seen people misspeak for God, and portray a God that was just generally mad at everything. But just because something isn’t popular doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
However, it may be different than this guy thinks.
The Scriptures refer to the time of God’s judgment repeatedly as the Day of the Lord. And it was a day that people actually looked forward to. It’s not that these people all assume that they were perfect or beyond judgment, but they did assume that this Creator God was good.
And it was comforting to know that there was someone who was keeping score.
There is a passage in Romans 13 where Paul tells the church there to give honor and respect to the governing authorities, and rightfully so. God doesn’t want the world descending into chaos.
But I want you to think about that text for a second. Paul is writing Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome, where the slogan of the day was that Caesar was Lord. And while Paul does say we should give Caesar taxes, revenue, respect and honor. He stops short of the very thing they were being commanded to give. Worship.
Ceasar wanted people to worship him as the Divine son of God, sent to bring the Pax Ramona to the entire world.
And the reason that was important was because if Caesar was Lord there was no checks and balances to keep him accountable. He answered to no one. Re-read Romans 13 again in light of this and see if it doesn’t shed some new light on it.
Caesar, is a power that God has ordained. Obama is a power that God has ordained, Kim-Jong-il is a power ordained from God.
But they aren’t God.
Romans 13 isn’t a cart blanche commandment to obey all government orders if you are a Christian. They were respectfully not doing that at the time, and I’m glad that men like Dr. King saw past that reading of it in their day. It is a demotion from the position that Caesar’s just naturally want to take. But that is a position, Paul tells us, that is reserved for God.
And so judgment isn’t first and foremost something that is meant to just scare people. It’s a reminder to the powers that run this world that they answer to somebody. And that there will be a day that all powers are fully brought under the feet of Jesus. It’s also a reminder to leaders, church leaders included, maybe especially church leaders, that we answer to someone larger than popular opinion or church committee’s.
Now that’s not to say that judgment doesn’t have an individual level to it. The Scriptures say that everyone will face God. But the hell that was on the guy’s sign is also a word to the powers that be that they have a higher power that will hold them accountable.
That’s why Paul ends Romans 13 the way he does. By reminding the Christians he’s writing about why they live the way they do.
Because the night is almost over, and the Day is drawing near.
Because the One who sees what is going on will hold all accountable for what they did.
Because the Day of the Lord is dawning, then respect authority, even when they act-disrepectfully, but never transgress the one command of the God who sits on the eternal throne.
The command to love. That will be the language all of creation is fluent with on that Day.
Put that on a sign.