The wrath of God has always been a touchy subject, but never more so than during these modern times. With culture shifting so rapidly, and the Millennial generation departing from the Church, Christians have been struggling to understand how a kind and loving God could be so vengeful. Some have even taken drastic steps in an attempt to “reform” God’s image. For example, the Presbyterian Committee, while compiling their new hymnal, tried to edit the famous and much-loved song, “In Christ Alone”, swapping out the line "Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied." with “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified." Others have simply avoided the subject, treating it like an embarrassing memory.
But what if we are approaching God’s wrath from entirely the wrong angle? What if, instead of detracting from His character, God’s wrath actually proves His love for humanity? Timothy George believes this to be the case, as seen in his latest article where he writes,
“But God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s wrath is not like our wrath. Indeed, in his brilliant essay, ‘The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God,’ British scholar Tony Lane explains that ‘the love of God implies his wrath. Without his wrath God simply does not love in the sense that the Bible portrays his love.’ God's love is not sentimental; it is holy. It is tender, but not squishy. It involves not only compassion, kindness, and mercy beyond measure (what the New Testament calls grace) but also indignation against injustice and unremitting opposition to all that is evil.”
The mistake of modern believers is that we try to divide God into pieces. We want the part of God that is loving, kind, gentle, like grandfather with his grandchildren. Yet we forget that God is also just, righteous, and above all, holy. As George stated in his article, it is God’s holiness that leads to his wrath, not his hatred. This distinction changes everything.
How else can a holy God possibly interact with a world that is morally bankrupt? Shallow love, sentimental love, could never flourish in such an environment. Only a powerful love, one driven by the anger of injustice and the desire to rescue someone from themselves, could hope to take root. In a recent article, Erik Raymond argues that it is this reckless, almost offensive love that makes the gospel so powerful.
“What is the folly? What is the foolishness? It is the cross. So, if in effort to remove the offense we would unwittingly remove the substance! There are sharp edges to this gospel. There is blood, death, wrath, sin, greed, and anger. You can’t sand that down without losing it all. Paul continued to preach Christ and him crucified (even though he knew it was perceived as folly) precisely because he knew that this same (foolish) gospel was also the saving gospel: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom. 1:16, see also Gal. 2:21)”
God’s love is not squishy. It is not timid or meek. Instead, it is holy. It will not abide in a world of sin, but neither will it abandon us to what we deserve. That is why Christ’s birth and death are so powerful. In his holiness, God became man so that we might be saved.
*This Article First published 8/12/2013
**Ryan Duncan is the Culture Edtior for Crosswalk.com