Sunday, 2 October 2011

Impunity, Invulnerability, Inertia

‘Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.’ (Ezekiel 16:49)

To some extent, liberal writers are correct to challenge the reductive conservative view that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for homosexuality. It’s far too easy to brand same-sex relations as the focus of God’s vengeance, while conniving at heterosexual adultery, casual sex, gluttony, overconsumption of alcohol, spousal mistreatment and the callous indifference towards those deprived of rights and means. This mistakenly assumes that the latter are substantially less culpable and more excusable sins. It’s clear that the sexual proclivities described in the Genesis account were the culmination of a nexus of immoral activity that incurred divine wrath. However, we need to identify the key factors which led to Sodom’s downfall. As the quoted scripture attests, the fatal trait was their pride that gave rise to impunity, a false sense of invulnerability and an inertia born of wilful ignorance. I shall touch on these themes in later posts.

St.Peter views the biblical record as a reminder that the pain of God’s wrath is only stayed by his time-limited offer of mercy: ‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness’ he says (2 Pet. 3:9). God is decisive. He does not dither. As history shows, He sends swift calamity, once probation is closed. The amnesty that is offered to the hitherto impenitent is under the fixed terms of His own generous prerogative of mercy. In the parable of the vine, Christ says: ‘If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ (Luke 13:9) So much for ‘love wins’!

God is not fooled by our empty self-promoting moral gestures, nor our pious-sounding religious affiliations. He will not endure the perpetual humiliation of those who wish to banish Him either subtly or brazenly from their mind-set. So, once His attempts at reconciliation have been fully spurned and His overtures of providence have been completely exhausted, judgement falls without hesitation upon the remorseless like the hail of scorching, toxic destruction that ended His display of forbearance towards the cities of the plain.

‘He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.’ (2 Pet. 2:10) Their abrupt exposure to fatal harm is a pattern of the annihilation that will end the current era of rebellious, impenitent and godless humanity.

St. Paul also attests to this: ‘For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power’ (2 Thess. 1:6 – 9)

Note that there is no hint of peaceful co-existence between the godly and the rebellious: ‘What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?’ (2 Cor. 6:15) Part of human defiance towards God is expressed as a mortal hostility towards those who remind the proud of an inescapable final date with their retributive destiny. Consider Paul who, awaiting his cohorts in Athens, is described by Luke as being: ‘greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.’ (Acts 17:16). Peter also described the allegiance of righteous Lot to God in this way: ‘distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard’ (2 Pet. 2:7,8)

If you are on God’s side, the lawlessness of this era will greatly trouble your soul. As with Lot, those, who side with God and justly refuse to compromise with society’s defiant escalating mass defection from Him, are promised the respite of divine intervention: ‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.’ (Mark 13:27)

St. Paul concurs with this, in a later direct prophecy from Christ: ‘According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.’ (1 Thess. 4:15 – 18)

There is an end to this war against Satan and human defiance. The power of God is invincible. Resistance, as they say, is futile.


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