For various reasons and in different ways, Christian communities can become complacent. Churches can grow weary of “always reforming.” It starts with the assumption that we’re God’s favorites, that we’ve got it right, that we’re especially God-honoring when so many others have drifted from the truth.
We forget that this sort of self-assurance is quite common throughout the history of God’s people. It leads to arrogance and it blinds us to our own corruptions. We become lazy about festering prejudices and tolerate internal practices of injustice.
What’s frightening is that God is so committed to his mission to reclaim his world, that he will visit his people with judgment if they grow arrogant, smug, and self-assured.
Regarding the return of the God of Israel to his people in Jesus, N. T. Wright says this:
But this return, as Malachi had warned, would not be comfortable: “Who can endure the day of his coming?” (3:2). Jesus came to pronounce, in sorrow, ultimate doom on the city and Temple that had corrupted and perverted its vocation to be the light of the world. Perhaps the most terrifying thing in the whole gospel story is the realization that Jesus’s solemn warnings about the judgment that was to come upon Jerusalem and the Temple within a generation were drawn from biblical prophecies not simply of the destruction of Jerusalem, but of the destruction of Babylon. Somehow, Jerusalem had lost its way so drastically; somehow the leaders of the Jewish people had gotten things so wrong in their collusion with Rome and in their corruption, oppression, and greed; somehow the Jewish people, Jesus’s own people, had gotten things so wrong in their determination to bring God’s victory to the world through military violence and armed rebellion—that the only word the last of the prophets can now speak is the word of judgment: “Not one stone will be left standing upon another. All of them will be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2).
Simply Jesus, pp. 176-177.
7 thoughts on “N. T. Wright on God’s Judgment of His People”
There are so many things here that can speak to the church today!
It sounds an awful lot like the church today, especially now during the their collusion with the republican party over choosing “God’s” candidate. I wonder what those of us who are not particating in this are blind to, though. Perhaps we play another part in colluding with the evil around us. Quite a depressing thought, really.
I hear you, Linda. It’s easy to look out at the wider church and see the varieties of corruptions. At the same time, it’s easy for all sorts of churches to look out and see other churches that are more corrupt than themselves and see justification for self-assurance that “at least we aren’t like that.” Every community needs to be sensitive to adjusting its practices in light of perhaps being shown that they aren’t being just, exercising mercy, or being the agents of God’s love.
If we took this one reality by itself, that would indeed be depressing. But for churches that confess their sin and seek renewal, there is only divine grace, forgiveness, and restoration. It’s the complacently self-assured communities that should take heed.
Perhaps churches should begin to do thorough teachings of the Beautitudes. Thank heavens that Jesus wanted his disciples to learn how He wanted them (futuristically you and me) to live and be the example after his death. How they conducted their lives as they taught was absolutely necessary. It is such a huge thing to be Holy and to be as holy as God is Holy is impossible but that is how He wants us to live. It is so, huge that none of us can even begin to comply. Thank heavens again, that God knew this before hand and Jesus was willing to die for our sins, weaknesses and inabilities as humans to grow as we should. But, he did promise to send a teacher, one who would woo us, lead us, comfort us and encourage us. Yes, many churches are failing to bring the truth but that is another reason to be praying for the pastors across the world. To pray for strengthening of their marriages, their role as father and relationships with their children and then with the flock they lead. We, as the church body need to support our leaders with our prayers and our time in His Word. We must be strong individually and not totally rely on what the postor brings to his congregation. The church is the individuals who come together as a family—a flock that belong to Jesus. The days are fleeting and it is not a time to be timid but to be praying, growing in His Word and actively telling everyone how much He loves them and to make certain people know God is real, real, real.
Thanks for this, Sherry. Constant rehearsals and revisits of the Beatitudes and prayer is a great start!
God disciplines his people presently both directly (through life’s exigencies) and indirectly (through church discipline) – so that we are not destroyed eternally (our spirits saved in the Day of the Lord).
Yet, if we disciplined ourselves, we would not need to be disciplined by the Lord.
Just been posting on these very matters – partly because of blogs which suggest that the gospel of grace is simply forgiveness. It is this, of course, but it is so much more.