Consequences or Kindness?
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Romans 11:22
In a group discussion recently, we addressed the use of certain medications by those addicts in our care. The room was divided on the issue. On one side were those who feel that the addict needs to learn to live with insomnia and anxiety without reaching for a pill. Indeed, one of the addict’s problems is that whenever he feels any negative emotion or experience, he turns to a chemical and thus has never learned to deal with his emotions and trials. The one side felt strongly that we should avoid contributing to this problem by providing medications for sleep and anxiety. These guys need to be given the opportunity to learn to cope if they’re going to stay sober. No medications.
The other side sympathized that those who are new to recovery are going through withdrawal and are under tremendous stress as they try to put their broken lives back together. Insomnia and anxiety are natural in this state but can become major distractions to the one trying to find recovery. If someone drank alcohol to treat his anxiety before, then doesn’t it behoove us to do what we can to address that anxiety now that he’s sober, to help prevent relapse? These guys need our help to deal with their stressors if we want them to experience recovery.
It occurred to me that neither side was completely wrong and neither side was completely right. The addict at one time may need tough, painful consequences, while at other times, he may need kindness and love. We tend to err one way or the other, based on our personality and preferences. We either embrace justice and consequences, ignoring love and mercy, or we choose kindness and love, allowing destructive behavior to go unchecked.
In today’s passage though, Paul describes God as a perfect balance of both. In his dealing with mankind, God appropriately applies his kindness and his severity to us, according to our response to him. God is justice, wrath, and truth. He’s also love, kindness, and mercy. His stern face and his loving face are two sides to the same coin, and he cannot be himself without both sides. He is love and he is truth.
Love without truth is absolute chaos. Truth without love is cold, tyrannical legalism. We’re not God, but to become who he made us to be, and to help those around us, we must seek both his truth and his love.