At the height of the Great Awakening in 1741, Jonathan Edwards received an invitation to preach in a church in Enfield, Massachusetts. Edwards was the major creator of the Awakening, a religious movement to get as many people to turn to God as possible. His sermon that day was Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It had such an impact that it has been reworked and re-preached thousands of times since that hot July day.
He did not use the text in Malachi, but he could have. Malachi was preaching to the recently returned people of Israel, all of whom had come of age in Babylon. They arrived in their homeland but did not see the presence of God, did not hear His words, did not understand His love for them, did not seek Him.
It is easy for us to approach the nonbeliever in the style of Jonathan Edwards, that is, beating them over the head with images of hell-fire and brimstone. The great drawback to following Edwards is that fear becomes the basis of living as a Christian. Jesus did not preach fear.
Jesus did preach of hard times coming for his followers. Some would say that he was describing specifically what the Apostles could look forward to, but others believe the words apply to all Christians in all times. Either way, the end times will be difficult.
Still, after describing the suffering to come, Jesus said, But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. NIV This statement echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:39: The man who has found his own life will lose it, but the man who has lost it for my sake will find it. Phillips
Paul ties this message together by warning against lazy Christians. Followers of Jesus do what he did. We are busy spreading the Good News, not the bad news. We feed the poor, comfort those in distress, show mercy as God has shown us mercy, and work to bring justice into the world for everyone.
If I am not doing (I don’t have to do everything, you need to do some things too), then shun me. But never think that what you do has anything to do with getting into Heaven.
Be righteous and do good.