Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Trinitarian God Part 4: God's wrath is good

This post is part 4 in my series on the Trinity - don't worry, we're nearly there! I hope it's as helpful to you reading as it is to me writing.

You may be wondering about the title of this post. God's wrath is often an uncomfortable subject - and I think rightly so. It's a terrible thing to be on the receiving end of. The temptation these days is often to play down the notion of God's wrath and play up God's love when we tell people about the Gospel. The problem, of course, is if we leave out wrath people don't know what they need saving from, and we end up with this sense of disconnection between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. This simply comes from misunderstanding God, and misunderstanding the nature of love.

So I've said a lot about God being lovely, beautiful, loving, selfless and you may well be wondering how God's wrath fits into that, is it a contradiction? Sometimes people say 'God is loving, but He's also holy' (I explained in the last post why that's a tautology), or 'God is loving, but He's also just', as if God's wrath is a flip side to God - that you might get Loving God, but you might also get Angry God. But if we apply what we've already learnt - that God is love, we can see that God's wrath is a consequence of His love. If that doesn't make sense, consider again what we've already looked at. God created the universe to spread love and goodness and beauty - so when He sets Adam and Eve up in the Garden of Eden, that's the idea. So when they reject God by disobeying Him, what are they doing? They are rejecting love, goodness and beauty. But it's not just them that are affected, it's everything. Everything is ruined by sin. Sin is best characterised by acts born from selfishness and pride - rebellion against God, and therefore rejection of goodness. Sin is evil and rips the world apart. Sin is not fun and freedom, it's slavery and death.

So God's wrath is the response of love to evil. True love does nothing else. He has created a beautiful universe, and evil has ruined it and harms those who live there. Evil done by us. So God is wrathful against those who are bent on bringing evil into the world He has made - those bent on ruining it and hurting those He loves. Don Carson has pointed out that there are no repentant people in Hell - those in Hell are bent on rebellion, bent on rejecting the love of God - bent on ruining the world. If you want love without wrath, you have no love at all. If that still doesn't make sense, think for a moment about your family (children, parents, girlfriend, spouse etc.) and friends - think how you'd feel if someone threatened them, attacked them, harmed them and was determined to keep doing so - would you say 'I don't mind, that's alright, live with us anyway?' - if you did, I think you could not claim to love your family! God is ready and waiting to forgive all those who ask for it, and to make them good - but those who are determined to reject Him and ruin His world and hurt His Family - they are the ones He displays His wrath against.

God's wrath against Christ displays His love to us. Source here.
The consequence of this is that judgement is actually what we deserve - we are all rebellious and are all ruining the world. We deserve to be discarded like a burnt cake, given up as a bad lot. But because God is loving in such an amazing, spectacular way, He doesn't simply respond to our rebellion with anger - He offers us forgiveness, He offers us restoration, He offers us peace and a way back to Him and invites us into His new world of love and beauty - He offers us a way to be saved, freely, so that we don't have to have the Hell we deserve. Nno works are required, simply acknowledging that we have sinned and have made a mess of His world, and wanting to live a life of love and goodness instead - He has done all the hard work.

So when you think of God's wrath, don't just think in legal terms - as if we have broken some arbitrary laws and offended an emotionally fragile deity. Think of the God who is love, and think of the ways that humanity brings ruin and hurt to this world and to those living in it. Then think of a God who loves enough to protect those He loves from evil.

But don't stop there either, in the next post I'll talk more about the glorious, amazing redemption He offers us  freely. Why? Because He loves us.

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