[Note: This entry is part five of a series .]
At the end of the previous section of this examination into the heart knowledge God desires and expects from believers, we asked the question of what consequences or repercussions result from the lack of that heart knowledge. Since love is such an important matter that it is discussed widely throughout scripture, in the utmost seriousness, its absence ought to be a matter of considerable seriousness as well. Given that love is how believers are to be recognized by the world, and given that showing this love, even in demanding ways, is expected of believers, we ought to expect that the absence of love carries with it certain consequences. That is precisely what we find to be the case, to which we will now turn.
The absence of love and outgoing concern was a matter that greatly troubled the prophets of ancient Israel. The last words of the Hebrew Scriptures, as they are ordered in most English-language bibles, express this concern very starkly, in Malachi 4:4-6: ““Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” There are many ways that this particular passage is interpreted, for it is clear that John the Baptist fulfilled at least one occurrence of this prophecy and he clearly sought to bring the hearts of the people in line with God, and also strongly rebuked the corrupt authorities of his time, whose hearts were not turned to the commonfolk of Judah. Not coincidentally, judgment soon came upon the people of Jerusalem and Judea some forty years or so after the time of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. However this passage is interpreted, it demonstrates a need for reciprocal love and concern between fathers and children, whether this is viewed within the context of generational conflict, a wide gulf between authority figures and those they lead, or God and humanity at large.
The prophet Amos was particularly concerned with several aspects of the condemnation that came from a lack of love and concern. What is also notable about Amos is the fact that the judgment for a lack of love and respect tends to fall heavily on Gentile nations, especially at the beginning of the book. Amos 1:9-10, for example, reads: “Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. But I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, which shall devour its palaces.”” Here we see that the Gentile Canaanites of Tyre are promised judgment in the destruction of their places for their betrayal of a covenant between them and Israel established first in the times of David and Solomon and afterward in the time of Omri and Ahab, sealed by a marriage alliance between Ahab and the wicked queen Jezebel. Despite the fact that centuries had gone by since the alliance began, the Bible conceives of treaties of alliance as being eternal (see, for example, the treaty between Israel and the Gibeonites , and so the betrayal of that covenant by Tyre showed a lack of love, and merited divine condemnation.
Even Israel had to pay a serious price for the violation of its treaties, even treaties gained by fraud. As it is written in 2 Samuel 21:1-6: “Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord. And the Lord answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah. Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?” And the Gibeonites said to him, “We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us.” So he said, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” Then they answered the king, “As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel, let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the Lord in Gibeah of Saul, whom the Lord chose.” And the king said, “I will give them.”” Here we see that even though the Gibeonites had originally gained their treaty relationship with Israel out of fraud, once that treaty was agreed to it was in force for eternity. God takes covenants, of which treaties are a kind, extremely seriously, to the point that those who violate treaties and their descendents are subject to the death penalty for their treachery. This ought to be a reminder of us to take our covenants seriously, if any such reminder was necessary, and to act in love towards others with whom we are bound by covenant.
Returning again to Amos 1, this time verses 11 and 12, we see God pronounce a judgment on Edom for its eternal hostility against Israel: “Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever. But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”” Although Esau [Edom] and Jacob [Israel] were brothers, the wrath of Edom from losing its birthright and blessing to Jacob’s trickery became hardened into generational hatred. Edom always chafed at its subordinate position to Israel, and even during the time of Jesus Christ the Iduemans, descendents of the Edomites, still plotted to rule over Judea harshly and overturn the shame and loss suffered by their ancestors. Despite this judgment, Edom did not repent of their hatred of Israel and Judah, for about 150 years later the prophet Obediah had this to say about the judgment on Edom for his lack of brotherly love in verses 10 through 14: ““For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side—in the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem—even you were as one of them. But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother in the day of his captivity; nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; nor should you have spoken proudly in the day of distress. You should not have entered the gate of My people in the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off those among them who escaped; nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained in the day of distress.” Here we see that the failure of Edom to show love and compassion, instead stealing and mocking and gloating about Jerusalem’s destruction, earned Edom a stark promise of condemnation that was fulfilled when Edom fell to its treacherous Arab allies and was driven into exile.
Given that this absence of love and honor brought judgment even upon Gentiles, those without a special covenantal relationship with God, is it any surprise that the absence of love would have such serious effects for those who consider themselves believers. Let us consider what Jesus Christ says in Matthew 25:41-46: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Just as blessings and eternal life come to those who show love to others, whether brethren or enemies or those they consider the least worthy of love and honor, so to those who do not show love and concern for others, no matter how fervently they consider themselves to be God’s people and no matter how earnestly they expect blessings from God, can only expect eternal judgment in the Lake of Fire for their absence of love and concern for others. Having hearts open to expressing compassion and providing what help and encouragement we have the power to give is a dividing line between salvation and condemnation, and something we have to pay close attention to in our lives.
Do we believe that we as contemporary Christians are immune from this judgment? Are we so sure that we have a devoted love and concern for others? Do we live our lives full of sensitivity to the needs and longings of others, and as we are blessed by God with abundance, do we give aid and comfort to those who suffer a lack? Or do we revel in our self-sufficiency and show a hardness of heart towards others? Truly, we must all examine ourselves, but in light of what the Bible says to the Church of God in the pages of scripture, are we really so safe to consider our own conduct as showing the sort of love and respect and outgoing concern that we do not need to be troubled by the promise of judgment to come to others? What is the relationship between love and judgment in what God says to the Church of God in Revelation 2 and 3, to give but one example, and what is its relevance to us today? It is to this set of questions that we will turn next.
 See the previous posts in the series: