"A man might flatter, or bribe, or coax a tyrant; but there is no refuge from the love of God; that love will, for very love, insist upon the uttermost farthing."
Here is the quote in its fuller context.
"To regard any suffering with satisfaction, save it be sympathetically with its curative quality, comes of evil, is inhuman because undivine, is a thing God is incapable of. His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes. Because God is so altogether alien to wrong, because it is to him a heart-pain and trouble that one of his little ones should do the evil thing, there is, I believe, no extreme of suffering to which, for the sake of destroying the evil thing in them, he would not subject them. A man might flatter, or bribe, or coax a tyrant; but there is no refuge from the love of God; that love will, for very love, insist upon the uttermost farthing." (George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons ).1
If you have sinned against someone, but they are always doing their very best for you, you would have to conclude that they love you and are not holding anything against you. You would have to conclude that they have forgiven you.
God is always doing his very best for each of us. He has forgiven everyone of us. (And is completely committed to our long term happiness.) But that does not mean we've all escaped punishment. If punishment is the best thing God can give you, punishment is what he will give. Whenever he punishes, he punishes for our good. His punishment is never excessive (though it may seem that way at the time), but always necessary. Once a person repents, punishment is no longer needed. (See what Robin Parry has to say on this subject in the 63 episode of David Artman’s podcast—specifically from the 57th minute (57:35 to the 1:01:10. See here.)
"For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone." (Lamentations 3:31-33)
The words, “God will make you repent” are more frightening for a wicked person than the words, “You will go to Hell.”2 Such a person does not care about their neighbour nor do they want to. They do not forgive nor are they willing to. They do not trust God, and because they don’t believe he is good, they resist his discipline.
But the more we know how much God loves us the more we will welcome his punishment. And the more we welcome it, the less he gives it because it is no longer necessary. God's will will be done. He will cure us of our sickness.
"His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes."
If you are living in sin, you have good reason to fear. God's wrath burns because of his love. He hates sin because it destroys sinners whom he loves. There is “no extreme of suffering to which, for the sake of destroying the evil thing in them, he would not subject them.”
The purpose of God's justice is to make things right. It is redemptive by nature.
God will gently instruct, when instruction will work, but when instruction is no use, he will punish. Can a slave be made to learn obedience through punishment? What about a slave to sin? One way or another, God's will will be done (see here).
This is hard for some people to get their head around, because they confuse acceptance with approval. They are not the same thing. God accepts you unconditionally; and because he does, he will punish you if you continue to ignore him and hurt others. You’re part of his gang (so to speak).
God will not let sin have you. There is no escaping his jealous love.
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
Those who walk righteously
and speak what is right,
who reject gain from extortion
and keep their hands from accepting bribes,
who stop their ears against plots of murder
and shut their eyes against contemplating evil— (Isaiah 33:14-15, NIV)
There is no escaping the one who is consuming fire (see here). Grace Saves All.
Some Christians believe that the pain suffered in Hell is purely emotional. If this is true, Hell is still an awful place; because emotional pain can be far worse than physical pain. I believe the pain suffered in Hell is emotional and physical. Why? Because this is what Jesus seemed to teach about Hell.
It is true that God is a gentleman, but the Bible does not describe him as such. It describes him as a loving Father who punishes the children he loves. He will not leave them wallow in their sins. He hates sin and will destroy it. God will ultimately achieve all that he desires to achieve; and he desires to save all people from their sins. (See Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin. Free audio book and The Hope of the Gospel by George MacDonald.)
As tough as this all may sound, God knows exactly what he’s doing.
"Blows and wounds cleanse away evil,
and beatings purge the inmost being" (Prov 20:30).
It’s also worth noting that while the Bible does talk about people receiving many blows in Hell (others few. See Luke 12:47, 48 ), and it does talk of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28), it does not say that there is nothing but weeping and gnashing of teeth in Hell. Given the character of God, there is good reason to believe that there will be obvious acts of kindness shown in Hell when such acts can help bring about repentance. (For an in-depth look at the necessity of Hell, see Grace Saves All: The Necessity of Christian Universalism by David Artman, The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott, and David Bentley Hart's book That All Shall Be Saved.)
Now it's also important to know that just because a person is suffering on this earth, it does not mean God is punishing them. (In the Old Testament God specifically said when he was punishing a person, or a people; but today, it's impossible to know if a person is being punished by God, or if they are simply suffering because of the sins of others.)
1. Those who are C.S. Lewis fans might be interested to know that George MacDonald was Lewis' favourite author (see here.) The quote above is taken from the chapter "Justice."
2. Or God will bring you to the point where you will repent.