“For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:3, 4).
It is a mistake to consider God’s love without considering His justice. In fact, of all the attributes of God, His just nature is likely the most overlooked. This is because when justice is on the table, so must we consider punishment, and that is a subject nobody is comfortable discussing. But in order to grasp the fullness of God’s love, in order to solidify our hope in His promises, and in order to increase our faith, we must understand that His name is also Justice. It’s not difficult to recognize justice in the court system. It is easy to see that in order for the system to work, there has to be a punishment for crime. Nobody would disagree that if a blatant murderer were to be let go unpunished, then justice would not have been served. In the same way, if God did not administer punishment for sinful actions, then justice would not have been served. But perhaps one of the obstacles that stands in our way of truly understanding justice is our distorted view of love. It is a common misperception that love causes no harm or discomfort. There are many who would agree that a “loving” person would always try to keep others from experiencing pain. In other words, punishment is not something a “loving” person provides. This is simply false no matter how you “feel” about it. A loving person sometimes will cause or allow pain for a greater good, usually in the realm of teaching. After all, how would a child know to respect electricity if a parent didn’t discipline him for trying to stick his finger in a socket? That parent still loves the child but disciplines him to teach him something valuable. In fact, the very word “discipline” is related to the word “disciple,” which is one who is taught. Even the word of God says that a parent who does not discipline his/her child simply does not love that child (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 29:15). A loving person can punish those he/she loves, and justice demands that some type of punishment must be endured for unlawful actions. This is not complicated to understand. The complications start when trying to determine the degree and length of punishment, and frankly that’s what makes most people uncomfortable with the subject of Hell. Most people cannot understand how a loving God can inflict a punishment as severe and permanent as Hell. It’s almost a contradicting and always a conflicting thought process. But if we understand the concept that crime must be punished then it’s simply a matter of who gets to decide how severe and how long the punishment should be. So in consideration of punishment in the afterlife, who is in the best position to determine how punishment should be administered? Would it not be the righteous Judge who knew every detail of the crime? Would it not be the Judge who knew the very thoughts and intentions of the criminal? Would it not be the One where mercy originated? Would it not be the One who is free from selfishness, greed, prejudice, or any other hindrance of righteous judgment? Would it not be the One who understands what love is, better than the combination of all the imaginations that have ever existed? It is easy to see that God is the only qualified Judge. He knows all the facts of the case (Proverbs 15:3). He knows the very intentions and secret thoughts of all hearts (Psalm 44:21). Only God is in a position to determine the punishment for sin. We can rely on God to be the ultimate dispenser of justice. And just like we would never complain about the eternal and extreme nature of our reward in heaven, we should never complain about the eternal and severe nature on the other side of justice. Our God is a loving God, but He is also a just God. “Let Him weigh me with accurate scales, and let God know my integrity” (Job 31:6).