Is God Indifferent or Indulgent?

I was in a store very recently where my ear drums were assaulted by the powerful screaming of a child. The decibel level was quite high and went on for quite a while. The parent apparently was unable to muffle the piercing cries of their offspring. It can be a fascinating spectacle to observe a parent dealing with a misbehaving child. Sometimes the parent will make a clear declaration on what must or must not be done, but the child seems not to pay attention and continues doing what he or she wants.  The parental threat (and there can be many of those) is not followed up by the parent, and the child continues on the same behavioral path. In the end, parental standards have been successfully challenged by the child. When the encounter draws to a close, it often seems that the parent might be frustrated but not overly upset that their standards and commands had been ignored. And we conclude that the child has learned that the parent is not all that serious about these matters. Perhaps the parent is too indulgent or “loving;” or is too distracted to really deal with the situation. Whatever the reason, the parent has lost that round.

And for many of us, this same thing has troubled us about God.  He has set down many clear standards of behavior in the “Ten Commandments”, and an untold number of other places. All of His creatures are to live by His righteous standards. But many don’t seem to pay attention and He doesn’t appear to do much about it.  As a result, the misbehaving person seems to assume that God is somewhat indifferent about what He has commanded. He is either indifferent or indulgent and doesn’t take His own standards seriously. 

For example, daily we hear the lies of politicians, journalists, celebrities, and that telephone salesman, and we are wearied by it. Lying, which God says He hates, has become the way of life these days. Deception and lying have permeated our culture, but God seems indifferent to it all. And we get frustrated.

After the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade, the abortionists have elevated their game. We are shocked by their irrational hatred for the unborn and their desire to kill them. And their “elevated game” appears to be heading for the destroying of babies for a month or so after they are born. Bills are being crafted in state legislatures where this is being proposed. Of course, the baby will be kept “comfortable” while these ghouls decide the fate of these most innocent of humans. And yet, God appears disinterested in all of this.

It probably is not news to any of us that God’s righteous standards regarding human sexuality have nearly been totally removed from our way of life. Sexual license and perversity have consumed our culture. If we read Leviticus 18, we see God warning Israel about the terrible depravities of the Canaanite nations. Their sexual perversities knew no bounds. And the United States is awfully close to a full-blown expression of Leviticus 18.  

And even listening to many “religious” people, we are impressed that their view of God and His standards are so badly distorted that they (in the words of the prophet Isaiah) “call evil good, and good evil; and substitute darkness for light and light for darkness…” Another prophet Malachi, looking at the people of his day, noted that these were saying “everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,” and “where is the God of justice?” Today, God indeed seems to be so very tolerant and to fit nicely into tolerant America!

The folks that the ancient prophets were talking about look a lot like Americans. In our nation, people with these attitudes appear to be everywhere. What God has said doesn’t really matter to them. God has spoken clearly about the sanctity of human life; about the sacredness of marriage; about the clear guidelines for morality and immorality; about the necessity of avoiding lying and deception; about being fair in business dealings; about being diligent in one’s work; about avoiding using His name in a vain way; about being kind to others; and much more.  And with these commands and precepts, God states that these things cannot be violated with impunity.  And this, of course, is the problem.  These are being violated regularly by so many, and God seems not to be paying attention; or worse, He sees it all and indulgently does nothing about it.  Thus, we see this viewpoint developing today as it did with the people in the days of Isaiah and Malachi. But, as most of us are aware, that viewpoint is terribly flawed, failing to observe two major points.

First, judgment delayed is not judgment denied. King Solomon ends his powerful and relevant book of Ecclesiastes by declaring that “God will bring every act to judgment, everything that is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”  When the people of Malachi’s day asked “where is the God of justice”, he immediately responded by stating that He is coming and it could be at any moment, and when He does come no one can handle that day of His judgment.  Even the most arrogant will find that they cannot stand before Him for 5 seconds. Malachi gets specific and states that those who violated God’s standard of morality; those who deceived; those whose business practices were unfair; those who fraternized with the occult world; and those who did not reverence Him would be severely judged.  So, first God does take His commands and standards very seriously with the result that all in His creation will give an account for the way they have responded to His revealed standards. We believers must never forget that damnation is eternal. Once an unbelieving rebel enters the Lake of Fire, there is no turning back. There is no way out. They are there forever suffering separation from their Creator and enduring much. No one will party there, and the nightmare will never end. Such is the fate of one who sins against the eternal God. So, as we think of a politician, entertainer, or leader that we particularly dislike, remember where they are headed if they don’t accept God’s gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Secondly, those who think God has become somewhat careless about enforcing His righteous standards usually fail to understand an essential aspect of God’s nature.  He explained to Moses, on Mt. Sinai (Exo. 34), that He Himself was slow to anger, exceedingly gracious and very compassionate towards the frailty of men. God usually does not judge men immediately (though He has sometimes), but rather works with them through His Word, through the conscience of people and through godly people. So when people seem to thumb their noses at God and get away with all sorts of evil, it is because, the One who loves to save, is using time to reach them in order to bring them to Himself.  However, as God explained to Moses that day, if a person will not respond and stop their transgressions, then I “will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”  

So, as we live our lives this month, and sometimes get frustrated with what is happening in our American culture, we must remember these two essential points. Also, I need to “elevate” my game and become more proactive. By that I mean I must keep myself spiritually clean by confession so that I might be able to hear the Lord’s directions for living with excellence. Covid and other things have brought our culture to a level of despair that I never remember seeing before. People are angry, suicidal, and consumed with a feeling of hopelessness. People need Jesus. But there is hope for the individual. And we just happen to be the designated ones to live those attractive Christ-like lives in front of this culture, as well as speaking reasonably and intelligently about our faith. I need to elevate my game. How about you?