God Doesn't Judge the Nations Anymore

Justice wasn't the only reason God brought judgment.

Since last Friday's Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, over 26 million Facebook users have rainbowed their profile pictures using an app called Celebrate Pride. This is ironic because according to Billy Graham's son, Franklin, the rainbow is a sign of God's judgment:
The rainbow was a sign to Noah that God would not use the flood again to judge the world. But one day God is going to judge sin--all sin.
Graham goes on to say that the pride rainbows should be a sobering reminder that God's judgment is coming. In fact, he seems to believe that the controversial ruling is paving the way for this very thing:
The President is leading this nation on a sinful course, and God will judge him and us as a nation if we don't repent.
In an interview with Fox News, he clarifies further:
When we read in the Scriptures, we see how God judged Israel time and time again. When they would turn their back on him and begin to worship other gods, foreign gods, and God would bring judgement on Israel. I believe God could bring judgement on America.
While Franklin's view of God's judgment remains in the eschatological/apocalyptic camp, his older sister, Anne, has a more imminent perspective:
In the days of Noah, they were eating, drinking, getting married. There is nothing wrong with any of that. All of those are normal everyday activities. But in Noah's day they did it all apart from God. There was no acknowledgment of God... That is why God sends us wake-up calls. That's why he allows the terrorists to strike or a tornado to rip through our city, because for whatever reason, we don't seem to give him our attention until we are desperate.
Both Graham kids clearly know their Bibles, but I think their thoughts on God's judgment (which are fairly representative of evangelicals) suffer from a number of inconsistencies.

First, they both don't seem to have read the story of Noah very carefully. Franklin contends that the rainbow is a reminder of God's judgment whereas the Genesis account gives it a different purpose:
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
It wasn't a reminder of previous judgment but a promise that judgment like this would never come again. To a people that had likely never experienced rain before, this was a very comforting sign.

Anne's misinterpretation begins by quoting Jesus, not Genesis. During his Olivet Discourse, Jesus compares his return to a variety of sudden events, one of which was the flood. His words about eating and drinking weren't a condemnation of their lack of attention but merely a description of how unexpected the flood was to them. Furthermore, Genesis makes God's reason for the flood pretty clear:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
Unless I missed the news story where the world had become "full of violence," I don't think we're anywhere close to the time of Noah.

The second inconsistency comes from a misunderstanding of this nation's relationship with God. Franklin uses God's judgment of Israel as an example, but this assumes that God deals with us in the same way that he dealt with them.

Nowhere during this country's founding did God say to us, "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God." But he did to Israel. Neither the White House nor the Capitol Building house the presence of God, but he did dwell in the tabernacle and temple before leaving that nation.

Israel was a theocracy and God was supposed to be their king. The United States is not. God's presence didn't go incognito until it found another worthy nation; God instead chose to fill the earth with his Spirit. God's temple has transformed from a building to a body--our bodies. Thus, it's inappropriate to say that God will judge this nation as he did Israel because the United States is not a chosen nation like Israel.

Thirdly, Anne presumes to know the mind of God and the reasons for evil. But Jesus' own words disagree:
Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Sometimes it's caused by evil, but sometimes God causes it for his own glory. And sometimes I think evil is just the groaning of a creation lamenting its condition. Which means that evil is not the sign of God's judgment.

To the contrary, I believe that God's engagement with humanity drastically changed when he built the church.

Before Christ, God's witness on earth was through the nation of Israel. And part of that witness included using them to judge other nations. Through the administration of his law, humanity would see their need for him and come to know him. And because his spirit on earth was contained to one place, his witness had to be spread through judgment.

But now that God's spirit indwells the members of his church, his witness has a global reach. That's why we were commanded to preach and make disciples of all nations. God no longer needs to use judgment because his witness is accomplished through us. And just like Jesus didn't come to judge the world, the church has no justification in calling for it either.

Furthermore, God rarely judges without announcing it. Even to nations like Assyria, God almost always sent a prophet to declare God's displeasure with them. But now that his law is written on our hearts, we no longer need to be told or warned through his judgment on others. As the church, we model this to others and continue leaving them without excuse.

When God's judgment does come, we will all be judged by what we've done because we all know better. But this will happen after we've lived our lives, not during. Of course, God still disciplines his children, but he's reserved his final judgment of the world for a specific time in the future.

Therefore, since God doesn't spread his witness through a single nation anymore, he doesn't judge the rest of them for what they already know. At least, not yet. So if the Supreme Court's ruling was sinful, the worst we'll experience will be natural consequences, not the direct hand of judgment from God.

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