From Our Heavenly Father: Sermons on the Lord's Prayer, by Helmut Thielicke, translated by John W. Doberstein (Harper & Row, ©1960).

Excerpt from: Thy Kingdom Come

Mankind began its journey in fellowship with God in paradise, which is, so to speak, the prototype of the Kingdom of God. But immediately man's stubborn self-will asserted itself, and the departure from the Father's house ensued. What began as the protest of the individual, as individual sin, continued as collective sin in the building of the tower of Babel and took on the sweeping, tumultuous proportions of an avalanche. And if we are inclined for a moment to minimize this movement and assume that this is just a matter of human-all-too-human moral lapses, the history of idolatry in the Old Testament teaches us very explicitly that man in his self-seeking defiance has given himself over to the dominion of alien lords and tyrants, to whom he can surrender of his own free will but whose domineering, demonic grip he cannot shake off once he has crossed the boundary "beyond God." So this descending line leads us inevitable to the mystery of divine judgment. For God's judgment does not consist in his destroying the offenders with a thunderbolt from heaven; it consists rather in his leaving them to their own wretchedness and compelling them to pursue their chosen road to the end, and go through every phase of its terrible curse.

"God gives them up" (Romans 1:24) — he leaves them to themselves — this is his fearful judgment. There is nothing more terrible than the man who is left to himself. For all the instincts and energies which were previously directed toward God are now turned in upon himself, and he himself becomes the victim of his own self-seeking, his megalomania, the lie in his own life.

I believe that this characterization of God's judgment also provides the key to unlock the mystery of our apocalyptic world situation and also the mystery of the terrible visitation upon our own city.

In these fearful, fateful weeks many people appear to have become alienated from their faith in God; they begin to ask how he can "permit" such things to happen. It would be better, however, if they were alienated from their faith in men. It would be better if they were disabused of their fanciful faith in progress and stopped talking so emotionally and sentimentally about the "nobility of man" or the superiority of the civilized races. But since by nature it is obviously very hard for all of us to face this disenchantment, God gives us up to the foolishness of this drunken human delusion and watches us, reeling and staggering beneath the drug of idolatry, to see where it will lead us. Step by step God goes through the account with us, tracing the error to the end until even the blindest must see the bankruptcy he is facing. God leaves the rebellious and to his own consequences. This is the fearful form his judgment takes. And nobody can stop the deadly progress of this fate; he must drink the drugged cup to its last dregs. Then perhaps he will learn again, and then really learn, what is good and what is evil. But then he will know it in a new way, totally different from the way he knew it in the primeval moment when he reached for the forbidden fruit.