Love and Punishment

Numbers 14:18

‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’

It seems that many times God’s love is taught at the expense of warning about punishment from God.  Indeed some even believe that God’s love will cover all offenses and that hell is not even real.  These people teach that there is no future punishment because a loving God is incapable of punishing wickedness.

The scriptures are clear that God is full of love but impending punishment for sin is also clear.  God is willing and able to forgive sin.  This is what love is all about.  Because God wants His children to repent and ask for forgiveness He is slow to anger.  If we got what we deserved immediately after we sinned, none of us would survive.

How does God’s love coincide with punishment then?  There are a couple of ways.  First of all, it is because of God’s love that punishment must exist.  Because God is loving, He can’t turn a blind eye to sin.  Those who love the Lord can’t be treated the same way as those who reject and despise Him.  To overlook the sins of those who reject Him and treat all people alike would be to make loving God pointless and would be unloving to those who choose to follow Him.

More importantly though, God has offered love to all people.  It is not a matter of picking and choosing those whom God favors.  God does not want anyone to perish.  This is love.  He has offered salvation to all.  However, there are many who reject God and reject His love.  Because of this they receive the punishment for sins that God was willing to forgive if they had only asked.

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