Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Double standards?

Why does God not go by the rules He gives us?  Some have accused God of having double standards...

The objection has been raised using different examples of this perceived double standard, e.g. "God tells us not to kill, yet He kills", or, "God says bless your enemies, yet He said to Abraham that He would curse those that cursed him", or, "God tells us to forgive when someone repents, yet He needed His Son to die in order for Him to forgive", or (last one), "God tells us not to judge a person's motives, yet He does it!"

I hope that you can see the foolishness of the objection, but perhaps an illustration or two will help. 

Do parents have to obey all the rules they give their children?  Do parents have to go to bed at the same time their children do?  Are parents not allowed access to the sharp knives or the matches?  I think you can see that parents are not guilty of hypocrisy when they say there are some rules their children have to obey that they don't.

Is it kidnapping when a Judge sends a kidnapper to prison?  Is it stealing when a Judge imposes a fine on a thief?  The law says you aren't allowed to lock people up against their will or take their money, yet that's exactly what the courts do - is that an example of double standards?  Of course not!

The point is that parents and Judges are in positions of authority meaning they have the right to impose rules upon people, and they have the right to do things that others don't have the right to do.  A mother can discipline her children, but a child doesn't have the right to discipline a sibling (unless that authority has been given by the parents).  A Judge can lock up a criminal but I can't - I don't have that authority. 

God is the ultimate authority, He has no superior or peer.  As Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Sovereign and omniscient righteous Judge, there are certain things that He alone has the right to do. 

You perhaps have heard people discuss the issue of euthanasia or human cloning and have heard someone say that anyone who gets into that is "playing God".  In that statement there is the implicit recognition that there are some things only God is allowed to do.  The reason God forbids us doing certain things yet He does them Himself is because there are certain things we don't have the authority to do and there are certain things we don't have the ability to do. 

Consider the list I gave above:
God tells us not to kill, yet He kills
We aren't allowed to take life without justification (i.e. murder), but God always has justification for taking life, because He is sovereign - all life is His, and He doesn't take life maliciously and capriciously, (in very limited circumstances He has conferred this responsibility on others, such as Governments to execute the death penalty). 

Christ says bless your enemies, yet God said to Abraham that He would curse those that cursed him
The Lord Jesus told us to bless our enemies, but that doesn't mean God has to bless His (although He does) - it just means that we are to not repay in kind, and are to leave it to God to settle the accounts (Romans 12 v 19).  This is a repeated theme in Scripture - we aren't to take vengeance on our enemies, not because vengeance is wrong, but because it is God's responsibility not ours, and only He can do it right.  The Lord is the supreme example of this, Peter said of Him, "When He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1Peter 2 v 23).  Notice He left judgment in the hands of God.  In matters of personal animosity we can leave it to God to judge.  (Note that these Scriptures are always in the context of personal matters, they aren't instructing Governments in how to deal with criminals.  For the safety of society criminals have to be punished).

God tells us to forgive when someone repents, yet He needed His Son to die in order for Him to forgive
Why did God require His Son to die?  The answer is because He is the Supreme Judge, He upholds justice and can't let the crimes against Him go unanswered - the penalty must be executed.  That's why His forgiveness can only be granted to those who have availed of the Substitute and received the provision in Christ.  Forgiveness on any other basis would be unjust.  But we don't sit on the Throne of the universe and so it is not in our remit to punish people for the sins they commit - that's God's job (and in some cases, in a different sense, it's the court's job). 

God tells us not to judge a person's motives, yet He does it!
And why would God tell us not to judge a person's motives?  Because that is something we can never be sure of - that's why God says to leave that to Him