Wednesday, 14 September 2011

God is good and angry

For a number of reasons I have been contemplating the wrath of God. It is of course a difficult subject, yet I cannot see how we can read the Bible faithfully and avoid it. When I was a young Christian exploring the faith I really struggled to get my head around the fact that our God of love is also the God of righteous anger and vengeance.

On Sunday we looked at Abraham's prayer for the righteous in Sodom (Genesis 18). The righteous were not faultless people. They were failed people who had trusted in God and received his grace (Genesis 15:6, cf. Romans 4). Abraham's desire is that the Judge of the Earth would do what is just. I am left with a few convictions.

The first reason we struggle when it comes to the concept of God's righteous anger is because we fail to realise how holy he is and see things from his viewpoint. We fail to see how he must not tolerate sin and that sin cries out for judgement.

The second reason we struggle when it comes to the anger of God is that we fail to see how awful a thing human rebellion is. While we excuse sin God sees sin as utterly inexcusable. While we refrain from calling things wicked God knows how utterly all human rebellion wicked is.

The third reason we struggle when it comes to the anger of God is that our experience of anger is generally anything but righteous. When we see people being angry (or we are angry ourselves) this anger is generally impatient, selfish and uncontrolled. God's anger is not like this at all.

The fourth reason we struggle with the anger of God is that we know that it is personal. While we may have experienced the rescue from condemnation that comes through the cross we are all aware of loved ones who refuse that grace. It grieves us to think that they remain condemned and that they will receive the awful verdict on the Day of Judgement. The only thing I can say about this is that such grief is commendable. We see it expressed by the apostle Paul (e.g. Romans 9:2), by Jesus (Matthew 23:37-39) and by God (Ezekiel 33:11). As Don Carson writes, 'Any Christian who teaches these things [regarding the anger of God] without tears is betraying Jesus.' Indeed the reality of God's judgement should spur us on to share the good news that Christ died to save sinful people like us.

The final conviction I want to share here about the anger of God is that one day we will see things as God sees them. One day we will see the full holiness of God, and I believe that it will be more splendid and awesome than we have ever realised. One day we will see sin from God's perspective, and I believe that we will see that it is more odious than we had grasped. One day we will realise how truly magnificent the rescue from guilt, that comes from Christ's death on the cross, really is. One day we will marvel at the mercy of God who sent his Son for sinful people. On that day we will see that while salvation is all of God, damnation is all of man (humankind). On that day we will see that God's judgement is just, there will be no place for an appeal court. On the day we will be sure that the judge of the earth has done what is just.

No comments: