How can God fairly judge those who do not get a chance to hear about Jesus?
Is God's judgement in the Old Testament unfair and excessive?
Many of us have grown up being taught that God is good and God loves everyone. Problems begin to arise when we read Bible stories where God is angry, vengeful and kills people.
Take the story of Noah’s ark (Genesis 6-8). The story is usually told emphasising how God saved Noah and his descendants. This same story is also about thousands of people drowning: men, women, even little children. Can you follow a God like that?
What about the story of the exodus where God sends an Angel of death to kill every first born in Egypt (Exodus 11-12)? Would a loving God really do that?
Then there’s the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where God rains down fire and burning sulphur from heaven to completely destroy everyone in those cities (Genesis 19). God did that?
What we can learn from these events, is that within these acts of judgement, God has the ability to show mercy even while he is judging evil deeds. The thoughts of the world are totally and consistently evil (Genesis 6:5) and yet God notices that Noah was blameless. God does not punish Noah unfairly just because everyone else is defying God. Before God destroys Sodom he rescues Lot because God saw that he was righteous (2 Peter 2:7-8). Lot is not punished unfairly because of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.
What if God did nothing about the evil in the world? What if he ignored sin because he didn’t want to deal with it? If you were an Israelite who had been enslaved in Egypt would you want God to do nothing? If you were a mother who had her son thrown into the Nile River by order of Pharaoh, would you be asking God to act? Should the sins of the Egyptians go unpunished?
The people of Sodom were wicked. The Bible says: “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49). Sodom feasted while the poor suffered. If you were the poor outside the door of Sodom would you want God to ignore these sins?
These stories in the Bible tell us that God hates sin and injustice. God heard the cries of the Israelites when they were being mistreated in Egypt (Exodus 3:7). He heard the great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-21). He tells the Israelites that if they exploit a widow or an orphan then he will hear the cries of those they oppress just like God heard their cries when they were in Egypt (Exodus 22:23).
Still sometimes it seems to us that God isn’t good and we wouldn’t do things the way God would. But before you put on your judge's wig and start deciding whether God’s actions are good or bad, consider if you are qualified to judge God. We haven’t been righteous for a single week and yet we are ready drag God into court and put him on trial. Before we ask whether we would have made the same judgements God made, perhaps we should also ask ourselves whether we are prepared to give our only son to die for the wrongdoing of all humanity. God did that.